The governance of flood risk planning in Guangzhou, China: using the past to study the present

Meng Meng, Marcin Dabrowski

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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Based on the framework of governance adapted from the work of Patsy Healey and drawing on the case of Guangzhou, which is regarded as the most vulnerable city in China to flooding and waterlogging, this paper adds to the literature on urban climate change adaptation. It does so by shedding light on the history of the city’s struggle against the water and examining why the current spatial planning and flood risk management fails to address the growing flood risk linked with climate change. The paper distinguishes two major transformations of the approach to dealing with water in Guangzhou. Historically, the city was built under the influence of Fengshui Philosophy and co-existed with water. Then, the approach shifted towards engineering-based solutions to containing flood risk under the stress of rapid city expansion. After that, in the context of a changing climate, to minimise flood risk the local government is transferring its priorities from the planning of hard engineering solutions (back) towards soft nature-based solutions. However, the deeply rooted top-down planning culture and clear-cut functional separation between different departments of the local government critically affect the implementation of the policy and cooperation between the different agencies to address the present and increasingly urgent cross-cutting climate change adaptation agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistory Urbanism Resilience
Subtitle of host publicationChange and Responsive Planning
EditorsCarola Hein
PublisherTU Delft Open
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-92516-01-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event17th IPHS Conference History-Urbanism-Resilience - Delft, Netherlands
Duration: 17 Jul 201621 Jul 2016

Publication series

NameInternational Planning History Society Proceedings
ISSN (Print)2468-6948
ISSN (Electronic)2468-6956


Conference17th IPHS Conference History-Urbanism-Resilience
Internet address


  • coastal cities
  • flood risk planning
  • climate change adaptation
  • governance challenges
  • on-going process


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