Working with Communities in Developing Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Resilience

The green park community-led project in Sialkot, Pakistan. Photo credit: ADB TA 9329.

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Nature-based solutions offer multiple co-benefits and are implementable at community scale.


Climate change is threatening the sustainability of cities and communities. Increased temperatures and extreme weather events like heavy precipitation lead to heat stress, reduced health, and flooding.

An Asian Development Bank technical assistance, Promoting Urban Climate Change Resilience in Selected Asian Cities–Development of Pilot Activities and Project Development Support (Subproject 3), financed through the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) worked to empower poor and vulnerable urban communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines in tackling the impacts of climate change by using nature-based solutions in community-led projects.

Nature-based solutions can support the sustainability of cities, facilitate social networking, and promote a sense of community by creating green spaces that reduce heat, absorb and distribute water, and provide a pleasant place to meet.

Incorporating nature-based solutions in community projects like the creation of green areas would provide people with greater connection to these spaces, making them more inclined to protect and support their maintenance. Green spaces can also increase social interactions and promote social cohesion in the community, which is an important part of community-level resilience. In addition, parks, green corridors, and roof greenery can function as a health resource.


Faridpur, Bangladesh

Climate change is intensifying rainfall, temperature, and humidity in Faridpur resulting in the worsening of river flooding and riverbank erosion. It also contributes to waterlogging, especially during the monsoon. Poor drainage and unplanned development combine with climate change impacts create risks to the health, well-being, and livelihood of the community.

Sialkot, Pakistan

The rapidly growing cities in Punjab are susceptible to climate change-related hazards like extreme temperatures, extreme precipitation, damaging cyclones, and flooding. The community of Mubarak Pura in Sialkot, Pakistan identified the increase in temperature, unpredictable weather, lack of parks and green spaces, lack of access to clean drinking water, and inadequate solid waste management system as priority resilience issues. Poor sanitation and solid waste management causes flooding, water-borne diseases, water pollution and contamination, which disrupt people’s lives and businesses.

Aklan, Philippines

The community in Malay, Aklan experiences poverty, low economic opportunities, and risks from disasters and the impacts of climate change. Even with the smallest amount of rainfall, the river swells and floods the village. Disaster risk reduction and emergency warning systems of the municipality do not reach vulnerable households in Napaan in time for safe evacuation.


Green spaces and water detention pond (Bangladesh)

The green park in Faridpur municipality is designed with green spaces and a water detention pond to help retain and absorb precipitation and reduce water runoff. Small-scale solutions were proposed so the community can implement these to address waterlogging, including improving solid waste management to prevent drainage clogging. These small-scale community projects complement initiatives and plans of municipal and district authorities and development partners for addressing the issue of waterlogging in Faridpur. These projects include extending the solid waste management scheme to other parts of the city.

Green park (Pakistan)

The green park in Sialkot was constructed to help mitigate the impact of rising temperatures and urban flooding and to address the need for safe green open spaces, especially for women and children in the community. The park is expected to improve the general health and well-being of residents. It provides the community with increased natural shade and cooler temperature. Urban greening is also promoted through rooftop gardening and planting trees outside the park and along the streets.

Native trees and vegetation will be planted that can absorb more precipitation and reduce runoff to mitigate urban flooding during the monsoon season. The nature-based solutions are also expected to ensure the park’s long-term sustainability and reduce maintenance costs. Community awareness-building and a capacity development program for city and community leaders and personnel, park operations and maintenance staff, and community members will also be conducted to ensure the park’s sustainable maintenance and management.

Coco-nets (Philippines)

The community-led project in Malay, Aklan designed retaining walls with locally produced materials, coco-net mats (nets made from coconut fiber), as cover to stabilize critical slopes. This promotes an ecological, locally appropriate, and cost-effective approach to erosion and slope protection. Reforestation and planting of upslopes using native trees and vegetation prevent soil erosion and minimize the incidence of floods and flash floods.

Precipitation in Malay in the next 50 years is expected to increase, likely increasing the frequency and severity of flooding and landslides in the area. The design of the slope protection is based on this projected increase.

Combining retaining walls with coco-nets to cover steep slopes reduces the risk of erosion. (Photo by: Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement/ADB RETA 9329)


Nature-based solutions have the potential to be highly effective in community-led projects not only in addressing direct risks, such as urban heat and floods, but also in generating many of the benefits attached to these solutions.

In Faridpur, the community-led activities gained substantial attention and support from the municipality. The municipality allocated a significant area for the green park and office space for community capacity building. While the green park is still under development as of December 2022, it already shows significant potential for awareness-raising and educational projects.

During the design of the park in Sialkot, the communities gave feedback, such as where plants and trees should be placed to allow for maximum visibility and safety, and placement of benches so the women could sit and watch the children’s play area. Continuous onsite monitoring by the community stakeholder group led to improved construction. For example, the group noted that the park’s boundary wall was low and pose security risks for children, so the height of the wall was increased. Community members, including women and children, also helped plant trees in the park. This ensured that the park met community needs, which will help sustain community support for its upkeep.

Covering the steep slopes with coco-nets stabilized the slopes in Malay and reduced the risk of erosion. Reforestation in the upstream area also ensures that runoff in case of heavy rains is slowed down, reducing flooding incidents and severity. The municipality contributed to the riverbank stabilization and gave the land for the multi-purpose evacuation center to shelter people in case of heavy flooding.


Several community-led projects that integrated nature-based solutions were proposed by community members and were built on traditional knowledge. Nature-based solutions should be introduced as a novel concept in communities.

The diagram shows important aspects of developing and implementing nature-based solutions in communities based on an evaluation of applying nature-based solutions in community-led projects.

It is imperative that nature-based solutions are co-developed with the community to ensure that people feel ownership of the measures and will be inclined to participate in the maintenance of these projects. Embedding bottom-up measures into urban resilience planning at the community level can substantially increase the sustainability of these projects.

Like any other measure, nature-based solutions may sometimes fail to provide expected results. In a worst-case scenario, they can aggravate a situation. One example is the use of wrong tree species; not all plants are suitable for slope stabilization, and some trees have high evaporation that may aggravate drought situations.

Developing and implementing nature-based solutions through community-led projects is resource-intensive with respect to organizing and strengthening the capacity of local communities. To support community-led processes, financial mechanisms should be flexible enough to cater to unpredictable processes when communities come up with outcomes that lie outside the originally foreseen scope.

The possibility of income generation can be an important incentive for local communities to engage in community-led projects using nature-based solutions. For example, Faridpur’s community welcomed idea of producing eco-friendly hollow bricks and making jute bags to replace plastic bags, both of which added value to the production process.

A proper process involving local government stakeholders and representatives of the vulnerable and marginalized groups is also an essential prerequisite. The concept of nature-based solutions has gained political attention worldwide and using the nature-based solutions concepts in communications with government officials can help gain attention and support for developing community-led projects.


Asian Development Bank. Promoting Urban Climate Change Resilience in Selected Asian Cities.

E. Cohen-Shacham, et al. 2016. Nature-Based Solutions to Address Global Societal Challenges. Gland. IUCN.

J. Matthews and E.O. Dela Cruz. 2022. Integrating Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management: A Practitioner’s Guide. Manila. Asian Development Bank.

S. Chand Sandhu and J. Carew-Reid. 2017. Nature-Based Solutions for Building Resilient Cities. Development Asia.

Jos Timmerman
Senior Expert in Water and Adaptation, Waterframes

Jos Timmerman is an expert in linking policy to science and providing processes in water management issues. He has worked on transboundary cooperation, disaster risk management, water quality issues, governance, monitoring and assessment, nature-based solutions, and adaptive water management. He has also worked with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Wageningen Environmental Research.

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Virinder Sharma
Former Principal Urban Development Specialist, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, Asian Development Bank

Dr. Virinder Sharma served as program manager of the multi-donor $150-million Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) supported by the United Kingdom government, Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), and Rockefeller Foundation. He is a development professional with 30 years of experience with ADB, UK FCDO/DFID and the government of India in designing and implementing multidisciplinary programs.

Marino Deocariza
Project Manager, Oxfam Great Britain

Marino Deocariza is an urban planner from Oxfam Great Britain and serves as team leader of ADB’s TA 9329 community-led projects implemented in 8 cities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines to empower poor and vulnerable communities in tackling the impacts of climate change. He has worked in projects supporting cities and communities in reducing risks and impacts of disasters and climate change.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

The Asian Development Bank is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. Its main instruments for helping its developing member countries are policy dialogue, loans, equity investments, guarantees, grants, and technical assistance.

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