Integrated Traditional Water Knowledge in Urban Design and Planning Practices for Sustainable Development: Challenges and Opportunities

Author:- Asad, R., Vaughan, J., Ahmed, I
Category:- Book Chapter; Year:- 2023
Discipline:- Architecture Discipline
School:- Science, Engineering & Technology School


In the context of flood research, scholars and practitioners have recognised that Western-knowledge-driven engineering-based flood management techniques are insufficient for successful water use and management in urban design and planning practices, while ideas, practices, and knowledge from local people are essential. Traditional water knowledge (TWK) explains people’s profound understanding of natural processes and the ecological dependencies of water systems and connections with their local water system and the land, beliefs, sense, and practices that are an integral part of their culture. However, the concept of traditional knowledge may differ from scientific knowledge, as it represents a different worldview perspective from a modern Westernised world. Considering Khulna City, Bangladesh, as a case, this paper investigates the salient challenges and opportunities to integrate TWK with present urban design and planning practices. Interviews were conducted with key stakeholders, including relevant government officials, NGO workers, researchers, urban professionals, and local elders. This study finds that TWK can contribute to urban design and planning practices by identifying helpful ecosystem services and site-specific information; by sharing strategies for surface water protection, open-space design, and rainwater harvesting; and encouraging design of spaces for psychological benefit, and ensuring sustainability and building flood resilience in an urban context. Furthermore, this research demonstrates how these elements relate to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, issues with knowledge transmission, the identification of the actual knowledge holders, poor governance, weak urban planning, minimal institutional capacity, and perceived cultural inferiority are significant challenges restricting the integration of TWK, despite its relevance to sustainability. This paper suggests that considering traditional water use and management is necessary to develop flood resilience in an urban context in a sustainable way.

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