Water Window Challenge Winners Announced

Twelve innovative projects will share a US$10 million competition pool to tackle flooding in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The partnership between the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) and Z Zurich Foundation of Zurich Insurance, sees grants of up to US$1m awarded to teams offering innovative solutions to issues affecting flood-prone communities in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and South and Southeast Asia.

Almost 400 initial Challenge entries were whittled down to a final 12 solutions considered to have the greatest potential impact.

Successful teams span the globe, with winners from North America, Europe, South and Southeast Asia, and the Horn of Africa. They will tackle issues on the ground in Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Kenya with solutions ranging from flood-resilient roads to amphibious homes and protective coastal greenbelts.

The Challenge is backed by a US$10 million commitment from the Z Zurich Foundation to ensure a range of locally-informed, technologically savvy flood solutions are given the opportunity they need to succeed – or fail – quickly.

Those which demonstrate real change will be looked at for rapid scaling to benefit as many people as possible in multiple locations.

The solutions put forward come from a wide range of applicant teams, including academics and organizations on the ground who have used their own experience and indigenous knowledge to find solutions to problems they repeatedly face.

David Nash, foundation manager at Z Zurich Foundation, said: “For the last four years, Zurich has embarked on a journey to help communities build resilience through our Flood Resilience Program, combining the insurance sector’s risk management expertise with grassroots community engagement.

“Currently 87% of disaster-related funding is spent on relief and recovery. Our goal is to instead shift funding towards resilience building pre-event. The Water Window Challenge is a prime example of this and works to find innovative solutions to recurring flood problems, allowing communities to eventually thrive in the face of floods.”

Luca Alinovi, executive director of the Global Resilience Partnership, said: “Flooding is the number one natural hazard, accounting for 47% of all weather-related disasters. It causes more damage worldwide than any other natural disaster and causes some of the largest economic, social and humanitarian losses. Over the last 20 years, flooding has affected more than 2.3 billion people, 95% of whom live in Asia. Clearly, this is an issue which is crying out for a different approach.

“Traditional humanitarian relief approaches will be activated after a flood and provide emergency food, housing and infrastructure. Development actors phase in post the initial crisis and try to rebuild local and national infrastructure assets before the next disaster strikes. This cycle of disaster, recovery, repeat does not build long term stability or prosperity.

“GRP believes that a resilience approach, where we not only look to pre-empt shocks and support people to persist through crisis, but actively seek to transform crisis into opportunity, is the only way for long term poverty alleviation.

Through the Challenge, we are able to mobilise communities, the world’s best experts and researchers to innovate, challenge the norm and benefit millions of people.”

Winner summaries

See below for a short summary of each of the Water Window Challenge Winners’ projects:

Development of Amphibious Homes for Marginalized and Vulnerable Populations in Vietnam

The University of Waterloo will pilot the use of low cost amphibious houses, used in flood-prone areas of Louisiana, USA for decades, by adapting the design for the local communities in the Mekong Delta.

Roads to the Rescue

MetaMeta seeks to set in motion the systematic use of roads for flood resilience and begin upscaling this opportunity for wider use in the coastal regions of Bangladesh.

Nepal-India Trans-Boundary Resilience

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) will increase the capacity of communities across the Nepal-India border to boost their resilience and ability to absorb, adapt, and transform in the face of shocks such as annual flooding.

River Basin Cross-border Flood Resilience Support Platform in Vietnam

The Institute for Social and Environmental Transition International (ISET) aims to create a participatory platform for flood risk management in its project across two Vietnamese provinces – Da Nang and Quang Nam.

Floating House – Community-Based Flood Resilience Innovations in Bangladesh

The C3ER (Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research) and BRAC University will test community-led innovations that enhance the resilience of households and communities to flooding before, during and after floods across Bangladesh.

Trans-boundary Flood Risk Mitigation through Governance and Innovative Information Technology

Mercy Corps provides an information-based model for trans-boundary collaboration and investment to create flood resilience across watersheds in Indonesia.

Building the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities against floods in Sri Lanka

Seacology aims to build resilience through a project focused on the conservation of mangroves among vulnerable communities in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.

Community Flood Resilience Programme (CFRP)

The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) aims to provide solutions to help refugee communities in Kakuma, north-western Kenya deal with the shocks and stresses associated with drought and floods.

One Resilient Team

One Architecture and the Philippines Reclamation Authority will pilot a program of shoreline pond and mangrove restoration, composed, in large part of restored and reforested fish ponds in the Tacloban area, to kick off the much needed implementation of the DRR “Building With Nature” masterplan as well as to serve as a pilot project for similar restorations and soft-infrastructure implementations elsewhere in the Philippine archipelago.

Agricultural and Water Resilience in Coastal Areas of Bangladesh

Practical Action will use meteorological agricultural information services and the improved commercial production and marketability of flood-saline resilient crops to build resilience in vulnerable communities in Bangladesh.

Ecology and Gender Based Flood Resilience Building in Thua Thien Hue,Central Vietnam (ResilNam)

The University of Potsdam will improve the resilience of societal groups especially vulnerable to pluvial, river and coastal flooding in the Thua Thien Hue Province of Vietnam through coastal and urban projects, both with potential for upscaling. These activities will help coastal and urban communities improve resistance against chronic stress and shocks posed by flooding; improve their ability to bounce back in case the capacity to resist is exceeded; and generate learning, awareness raising and knowledge to achieve a system shift towards more inclusive approaches of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.

Coastal: The project team of ResilNam-Coastal aims to enhance flood resilience in coastal communities by strengthening the role of women in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation through ecosystem-based adaptation, including the restoration, conservation and sustainable management of mangroves in Southeast Asia’s largest lagoon.

Urban: To enhance the flood resilience of urban communities, the project team of ResilNam-Urban will work towards the restoration, conservation and sustainable management of natural retention and drainage areas in Hue City, central Vietnam. These bottom-up nature-based solutions will provide a means to strengthen the role of women in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Together with local and regional authorities and stakeholders from civil society, ResilNam-Urban seeks to overcome existing gender differences that make women especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of floods.

For more information please contact:

Stephanie Speck, director of Communications, Global Resilience Partnership / +254 737 547 731