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China’s ‘Sponge Cities’ and Their Flood Challenges

Content for Mains Enrichment


Source: Reuters

Context: China’s recent devastating floods have raised questions about the effectiveness of its “sponge city” initiative launched in 2015 to reduce urban flood risks.


What is a “sponge city”?

A “sponge city” is an urban initiative that employs nature-based solutions like permeable surfaces, canals, ponds, and wetland restoration to enhance water absorption, drainage, and flood resilience. The goal is to mitigate waterlogging and urban flooding caused by rapid urbanization and impermeable surfaces.


Issues with the “Sponge City”? 

Rapid urbanization and concrete development have compromised natural water absorption, leading to waterlogging and floods. Despite the initiative, many cities remain vulnerable to flooding. Limitations include the inability of sponge city infrastructure to handle extreme rainfall events and the need to catch up with the impacts of climate change in less-developed regions.

Usage: The example can be used in Governance, Disaster Management Questions to show the impact of extreme climate.