Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities Asia

The Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Henk Ovink and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl, on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) are taking on the challenge of addressing water crises in urban areas. The programme Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities Asia is collaborating with the cities of Chennai (India), Khulna (Bangladesh) and Semarang (Indonesia) to tackle urban water-related challenges in an innovative and inclusive way.

The programme invites internationally operating multidisciplinary teams to develop innovative, bankable and implementable design proposals. Actual implementation is the final aim. Therefore, Water as Leverage has entered a partnership with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, 100ResilientCities and the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation. Furthermore, Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities Asia is supported by the UN/World Bank High Level Panel on Water.

Call for Action

On World Earth Day (22 April 2018) Water as Leverage launched its first call for professional teams to engage in Chennai, Khulna and Semarang. The Call for Action is open until 18 June 2018, 12.00 CEST.

The call consists of the following documents:

The Call for Action is the start of a one-year inclusive and comprehensive competitive process to identify the most ground-breaking proposals and develop these into resilience projects. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will help identify projects, support their development and facilitate their implementation.

Additional information meetings

To learn more about Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities Asia and its Call for Action, organisations can attend one of the information meetings. These meetings will provide more detailed information about the programme. Organisations will also have the opportunities to ask their questions.

On 26 April 2018, the first information meeting was organised by VNO-NCW/NLinBusiness and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. A livestream of this past event can be viewed on Youtube. The accompanying presentation with the Water as Leverage programme overview and the presentation about the procedure for the Call for Action are also available.

On 24 May 2018 a second information meeting was held and streamed live on YouTube. The accompanying presentation of the Special Envoy for International Water Affairs (pdf), the presentation with the Water as Leverage programme overview and the presentation about the procedure for the Call for Action are also available.

The challenge

Water represents the most challenging and complex risk faced by man. Floods and droughts, pollution and water conflicts combined with a growing demand for food and energy, rapid urbanisation, migration pressures, and climate change are potentially catastrophic. Yet, the connecting and interdependent strength of water provides us with an opportunity that cannot be ignored: water can be used as leverage for impactful and catalytic change.

The challenge is to match long-term comprehensive urban planning with short term innovative transformations; ambitious climate adaptation plans with bankable projects; the development of more knowledge on water systems with the construction of more resilient cities; research, design and implementation with inclusive urban alliances. Result-driven collaboration is essential —  across all sectors, all layers of government, and all stakeholders — from activists and vulnerable communities to private and public institutions.

The programme

Water is the leverage for climate impact, yet 'it takes millions to invest billions wisely' – that is the conviction of the Netherlands Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Mr Henk Ovink. The programme Water as Leverage will provide these catalytic first millions, with the aim of developing conceptual designs that will leverage water for real urban climate resilience. The three cities where Water as Leverage is to begin, will pilot a transformative design approach with a view towards replication of its principles, in Asia and the wider world. The initiative involves a dedicated group of partners from governments, financial institutions, investors and community stakeholders committed to the aim of replicating Water as Leverage in other cities and regions. The President of the AIIB, Jin Liqun, put it like this:

"Asia is at a critical juncture. Its role on the world stage is increasing, but the region now faces new and complex challenges. We will not, and cannot, change the course of the planet alone, but we will step up, alongside other members and partners, to do our part to build a sustainable tomorrow."

Water as Leverage wants to be different. Aiming to involve the international financial world, development banks and governments in the advancement of this innovative approach. Creating an inclusive and innovative pre-project preparation facility. Using water as leverage for making cities resilient.


The initially selected cities, Chennai (India), Khulna (Bangladesh) and Semarang (Indonesia), all face complex water-related challenges. All related to, or on top of rapid urbanisation and unprecedented migration flows. This challenging landscape of problems and opportunities is the focus of the first design competition. Not against each other, but for the highest ambition, to find the best resiliency approach.


Join the Water as Leverage LinkedIn group, if you are an individual wanting to take part in a  Water as Leverage project or an organisation looking for new team members for projects in one or more resilient cities. The group  is a meeting point where interested individuals and/or organisations can display their interest, enabling them to come into contact and expand their network.


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