One barrier to effective flood mitigation is integration across scales and modes of planning. Flood resilience bridges different areas of planning, including transportation, parks, economic development, hazard mitigation, emergency management, and comprehensive land use, but these plans are often poorly integrated with one another. Authors Siyu Yu, A.D. Brand, and Philip Berke address this challenge in "Making Room for the River: Applying a Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard to a Network of Plans in Nijmegen, The Netherlands," Journal of the American Planning Association (Vol. 86, No. 4). The authors assess plans for flood resilience in the Dutch city of Nijmegen, which is the location of the flagship Room for the River program in the Netherlands.
Room for the River is a large-scale planning effort that protects river-adjacent cities from floods while enhancing livability and improving environmental conditions. In Nijmegen, river dikes were moved to create a wider floodplain and reduce the threat to the city. The designs also incorporated improvements to parks and green spaces, enhancing both spatial quality and flood safety.
To assess the degree to which local and regional plans are coordinated with the national Room to the River program, the authors apply the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard (PIRS) methodology, which was designed to evaluate community plans with respect to hazard risk, identify when and where those plans are in conflict, and resolve those conflicts across plans. The PIRS approach contends that integrated planning reduces environmental, physical, and social vulnerabilities to hazards.
The authors analyzed 14 national, provincial, and municipal-scale plans that form Nijmegen's network of plans. The aggregated PIRS indicates that the overall approach to flood safety is well integrated in Nijmegen, but significant differences exist between the embanked and unembanked neighborhoods. The authors conclude that the network of plans prioritizes vulnerability reduction in areas with greater physical vulnerability. They also find that "vulnerability reduction is not prioritized in highly socially vulnerable neighborhoods" despite discussions of social equity in the plans. Likewise, the network of plans supports vulnerability reduction in the environmentally vulnerable unembanked neighborhoods but does not prioritize protecting embanked neighborhoods to the same extent.
Policy scores and vulnerability indexes were collected at the neighborhood scale for both embanked and unembanked areas. Correlations show how the aggregate policy scores correlate with the three types of vulnerability.
Using Nijmegen as a case study, the authors demonstrate that the PIRS is flexible and can be tailored to different community needs and administrative scales. Their analysis prompts specific policy questions for Nijmegen and other Room for the River projects, but it also raises questions for resilience planning more broadly. The authors conclude that the results in Nijmegen demonstrate that "a community's network of plans can successfully accommodate both a national need for flood safety and a regional demand for residential development in a harmonious manner." However, in this case study the socially vulnerable areas were largely protected by embankments and it remains to be seen if enough attention would be paid if they had more physical vulnerability to flooding.
The PIRS is a useful diagnostic tool for planners attempting to align municipal and regional efforts with national projects such as the Room for the River program. As more cities incorporate flood resilience into their plans, the scorecard will become increasingly relevant for both local practitioners and researchers.
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Top image: Flood mitigation strategies and resilience plans in the Netherlands incorporate parks and green spaces. Credit: Getty Images/1111IESPDJ
About the Author
Gemma Holt is a Master in Urban Planning and Master in Public Policy candidate at Harvard University.