© Cynthia van Elk
Water represents man’s most challenging and complex risk. Over 80% of all climate change caused urgencies and calamities are water related.Floods and drought, pollution and water conflicts combine in conceivably disastrous ways with rapid urbanization, a growing demand for food and energy, migration, and climate change. Yet while the water challenges carry with them the risk of disruptive transitions, the omnipresence of the water challenge also offers us the opportunity to use water as leverage for truly comprehensive change by realizing transformative projects, everywhere and at every scale level.
Since the legendary ‘water biennale’ of 2005, THE FLOOD, water has been a blue thread connecting the programming and research programs of successive IABR editions. And right from that beginning, deliberately, a relationship has been established between research, presentation and implementation. In projects in the Netherlands as well as abroad, such as in and with the cities of São Paulo and Istanbul, the IABR used the water challenge as leverage for an integrated approach to sustainable urban development.
To identify and initiate such projects, in 2016 George Brugmans, the president of the IABR, and Henk Ovink, the Dutch Water Envoy, signed a Memorandum of Understanding which was extended for another four years in 2020.
The jointly initiated Water as Leverage agenda is the guideline for two research projects that the IABR set up in 2017, the IABR–Ateliers Drought in the Delta and Dordrecht: Water Safety as Leverage for Sustainable Urban Development.
IABR was also instrumental in the launch of and, together with a broad international alliance of partners, is active in the World Water Atlas instigated by the Water Envoy and the Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities program that he initiated and for which the first three projects were set up in Asia, in and with the cities of Chennai (India), Khulna (Bangladesh) and Semarang (Indonesia).
Together with Energy Transition as Leverage, Water as Leverage is an important thread that runs through the entire DOWN TO EARTH program in 2020 and 2021.