2016 Hanoi workshop: Addressing the challenges of climate vulnerability in urban areas

Opening the Second Annual Meeting and Workshop of Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership programme (UCRSEA) in Hanoi, H.E. David Devine, Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam, highlighted the importance of building resilient urban futures for the countries in the Mekong region. With extensive droughts and record high temperatures across Southeast Asia, the threats of climate change are increasingly apparent. In one of the most rapidly urbanizing regions in the world, Mekong cities face changing risks and vulnerabilities; there is an urgent need to reshape critical urban systems and infrastructure for safe service deliveries.

Over 60 academics, civil society representatives, government officials and post-graduate students from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Canada came together at the event, co-hosted by the Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (CRES) at Vietnam National University, to discuss the implications of regionalization, urbanization and climate change and to address the challenges of climate vulnerability.

The event was held from 24-27 April 2016 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Photos from the annual meeting and workshop are available here.

The UCRSEA project aims to develop innovative research partnerships and contribute to influencing policy change by generating scientific evidence and providing space for informed public dialogue.

UCRSEA’s distinguished International Advisory Board highlighted the importance of the project’s research at the three-day event. Bhichit Rattakul, formal governor of Bangkok, Thailand and Director of Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), highlighted the importance of engaging with the eight selected project cities to translate research on resilience into practical solutions that can be taken up by other cities in the region. Professor Nay Htun (Stony Brook University) warned of the urgency of addressing climate futures, and the risks of a world that is four degrees warmer than pre-industrial times. Dr Bach Than Sinh from the National Institute for Science and Technology Policy and Strategy Studies (NISTPASS) in Vietnam reminded those in attendance of the need to ensure that urban futures are ecological viable and socially just.

A key element of the UCRSEA partnership is support for the training of early career academics and post-graduate students. As part of the annual meeting and workshop, UCRSEA hosted a writeshop at Vietnam National University on April 28th to build up the research proposal writing and design capacity of Vietnamese graduate students.

The annual meeting and workshop included a field trip to Ninh Binh, one of the project’s eight focus cities.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada, UCRSEA is a partnership between the University of Toronto and the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) with a network of key universities, non-governmental organizations and government bodies in the Mekong region and Canada.

2016 UCRSEA Annual Meeting and Workshop

The Partnership will host its second annual meeting and workshop in Hanoi, Vietnam in April 2016.  The event is co-hosted by the Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at Vietnam National University.

This annual meeting and workshop is an opportunity to bring the partnership together to accomplish the project’s overall goal that “communities, cities, and countries in Southeast Asia become more socially, ecologically, and economically resilient to climate change, which contributes to possibilities for green growth, better governance, and greater security and sustainability.”

For more information, click here.

Who governs the “in-between”? Climate change, beneficial flooding, and the everyday resourcefulness of local resource management in peri-urban Myanmar

lamb_talkTuesday, 22 March 2016
12 to 2pm
Room 208 North House, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
1 Devonshire Place

All are welcome!

Vanessa Lamb, UCRSEA Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Asian Institute, University of Toronto

Climate change is having an impact on the severity and timing of river level fluctuations across Asia (Tanner et al 2009, Xu et al 2009, Palmer et al 2008, Dudgeon 2000). Flooding and flood-related disasters in mainland Southeast Asia make news around the world and are generating increasingly severe economic and political disruptions as they impact an urbanizing region. In Myanmar—a so called “water hotspot”—flooding is considered a crisis for state water management and governance, particularly in urban contexts. Moreover, in work on water and resilience, alongside an emphasis on ‘crisis’, we have seen water continually linked to scarcity and ‘disaster’ (Tanner et. al 2015, Mukheibir 2010). What these debates could better elucidate are the ways that everyday people work to address hydro-social practices in a changing climate, and the implications of this work for water management and social outcomes (Driscoll Derickson and MacKinnon 2015, MacKinnon Derickson 2013, ISET-I 2015).

One way that we can better understand the impacts of climate change on water and river fluctuations and take an approach that highlights the work of everyday people is to examine the impacts or changes to beneficial flooding and to its associated agro-ecological practices in mainland Southeast Asia, where the monsoon climate and regular flooding have been adapted by residents into local cultivation practices. In the places where flood-linked agriculture is practiced, the challenges and transformations posed by climate changes interact with both the current processes of urbanization and with historical and traditional technologies that have been developed to ‘harness’ river fluctuations. Riverbank gardening is one such hydro-social practice in Southeast Asia that produces food for/from both rural and urbanizing environments, and requires cultivators to understand and work around a river’s fluctuating water levels, the rise and fall of which shapes local ecologies, climate and the growing season.

This paper/presentation investigates the practices of riverbank gardeners in urbanizing monsoon landscapes as one way to understand changes to beneficial flooding as related to both climate change and the multifaceted processes and impacts of urbanization. I draw on a framework that emphasizes the historical emergence of such practices, their contemporary challenges, and the role of everyday people in their management. Drawing three examples together, I argue that examination of these gardeners’ practices and strategies of ‘resourcefulness’ reveal the work of individuals and institutions governing overlooked in-between spaces—which might otherwise be described as ‘un-governed’ or ‘ungovernable’—in everyday practice. I argue that these spaces are being adaptively managed and governed by local residents, in connection with municipal (and other) authorities.

Vanessa Lamb is postdoctoral researcher with the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia (UCRSEA) project and is an affiliated researcher with the York Centre for Asian Research, York University (Toronto, Canada). She has worked and conducted research in Southeast Asia on natural resource access for the past 10 years. Dr. Lamb completed her dissertation, Ecologies of Rule and Resistance, focused on the politics of ecological knowledge and development of the Salween River at York University’s Department of Geography. She was recently awarded an ASEAN-Canada Junior Fellowship for continued Research on water politics and transboundary environmental governance in Southeast Asia. Dr. Lamb is also the lead PI for a new CGIAR WLE Greater Mekong project on water governance titled: Matching policies, institutions and practices of water governance in the Salween-Thanlwin-Nu River Basin: Towards inclusive, informed, and accountable water governance.

Enclaves of Capital in Myanmar: Urbanization and the Dawei Special Economic Zone

Carli Melo, Master’s Candidate in Planning at the University of Toronto, will present research conducted as part of her summer 2015 internship with the project. She was based at and worked with Mercy Corps in Myanmar.

Her talk will be held on Tuesday, 15 March 2016 at 10am in Room 2125 Sidney Smith Hall at 100 St. George Street. All are welcome.

Learn more about Carli’s experience here.

Battambang Field Report


As part of the UCRSEA project activities, a field site visit to Battambang town was arranged by the Cambodia country team, led and coordinated by Dr. Chanrith Ngin, Mr. Heng Naret from the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) and Mr. Try Thoun (PhD student at Chiang Mai University).  The full report by Furqan Asif (University of Ottawa) can be accessed here.