Daily Answer Writing for UPSC – 1st September 2023

Question: What is the concept of Sponge Cities? Examine their role in addressing urban flooding and the challenges they face in implementation. (250 words


The concept of Sponge Cities involves a unique approach to urban development aimed at combating urban flooding by enhancing water absorption and drainage systems. This initiative was introduced in China in 2015 to bolster flood resilience in urban areas and optimize rainwater utilization through architectural, engineering, and infrastructural modifications. However, recent devastating floods in China have raised questions about the effectiveness of this approach and exposed challenges in its implementation.

Role in Addressing Urban Flooding

Enhancing Resilience and Water Management

  • Resilience Boost: Sponge Cities are designed to bolster urban areas against the impacts of extreme weather events. By facilitating efficient water absorption, these cities aim to minimize flood risks and associated damages.
  • Rainwater Utilization: The initiative seeks to harness rainwater more effectively. By redistributing rainwater through innovative infrastructure, Sponge Cities mitigate surface runoff and help recharge groundwater levels.

Challenges in Implementation

  • Inconsistent Implementation: Despite the promising concept, the rollout of Sponge Cities has been inconsistent. While 30 pilot cities were selected between 2015 and 2016, only a fraction of China’s urban centers have established legislation to enact the guidelines.
  • Lack of Governmental Attention: Researchers highlight the lack of significant governmental focus on Sponge City development. Advocates call for the formulation of national legislation to ensure uniform progress and consistent implementation.
  • Infrastructure Constraints: The infrastructure of Sponge Cities can handle only a limited amount of rainfall. Experts estimate an effective threshold of approximately 200 millimeters per day. This poses a challenge when dealing with extreme rainfall events that surpass this capacity.
  • Funding and Retrofitting Hurdles: Retrofitting existing urban areas with sponge-like features and securing adequate funding for widespread implementation are ongoing challenges that impede the initiative’s progress.

Sponge Cities introduce an innovative approach to urban flood management through nature-based strategies. While they offer the potential to reduce runoff and enhance flood resilience, recent catastrophic events in China highlight the multifaceted challenges in their implementation. Inconsistent rollout, infrastructure limitations, funding hurdles, and the need for comprehensive adaptation underscore the complexity of addressing urban flooding through the Sponge City concept. A well-rounded and adaptable approach remains crucial for effective urban flood management.

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