Climate change / Sustainability

UK scientists to research benefits of eco-friendly flood scheme

written by Oceanographic Staff

A team of researchers at the University of Stirling will be examining the economic and environmental benefits of natural flood defences.

They will be focusing on the effectiveness of blue and green infrastructure (BGI) at protecting local communities from surface-water flooding and rising water levels. Areas will include vegetated river bands, urban parks and wetlands.

Their research will involve high resolution modelling tools and scenario development, stakeholder workshops, biodiversity surveys and the creation of a framework to measure natural capital.


The project is being funded but NERC’s Newton Fund, which aims to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and social welfare of partner countries. Since its launch in 2014, the UK and Vietnam have each spent £5 million on Newton Fund schemes, focusing on agricultural resilience with regard to climate change and human impact.

“While we already know a lot about predicting and modelling floods, evidence demonstrating the success of blue and green infrastructure is mostly collected from laboratory tests or small-scale urban installations,” said Dr Tobias Börger, the environmental economist leading the project and the University of Stirling team. “There is little known about the natural capital and added economic value that alternative BGI measures for flood defence and mitigation can provide.”

Vietnam’s low-lying coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to increased flood risk due to rapid urbanisation and climate change. Floods were estimated to cause $3.85billion worth of damage between 1999 and 2009 – the equivalent to 1.3% of national GDP – and accounted for 67% of deaths among all disaster types between 1989 and 2010.

“Traditional flood defence and mitigation measures in Vietnam and globally, have favoured hard infrastructure like dykes, concrete barriers and raised structures – all of which are costly to build and maintain, and may have adverse environmental impacts,” added Börger.

The £467,000 project, which will be based in Can Tho in Vietnam, will look to place an economic value on the benefits these schemes would have on the environment. These include improved air quality, the control of water pollutants, increased resilience to noise pollution and heat waves, and even new recreational potential.

Set to be completed in June 2021, the project will also involve academics from Loughborough University’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, Hue University and Can Tho University.

Photograph by Chris Gallagher.

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