Managing urban water systems with significant adaptation deficits—unified framework for secondary cities: part II—the practice


Adaptation gaps are shortcomings of a system responding to climate change, whereas adaptation deficits are shortcomings in providing services. These two drivers for adaptation are often in conflict in many secondary cities in the global south (SCGS). It is possible to align these seemingly conflicting drivers into a productive unity, a conceptual alignment, which is the first step in achieving harmony while implementing adaptation actions. This paper focuses on the practical aspects of implementing aligned adaptation action that leads to improvements in liveability, sustainability, and resilience of SCGS. At an abstract level, the nature of the adaptation problem is similar to the complex problems identified in various domains, such as software development, manufacturing, and supply chain management. The widely accepted “agile principles”—used in the above domains—is the basis for developing a set of twelve principles for urban adaptation, which are synthesized from numerous recent studies that have implicitly proposed or applied most of these principles to climate change adaptation in urban settings. These principles lead to four essential objectives appertaining to the process of sustainable urban adaptation. The urban agile principles are used to analyze the current state of adaptation of Can Tho City in Vietnam and to ascertain the agile ways of addressing its adaptation challenges. Analysis of the outcomes shows that harmonized approaches can simultaneously address both adaptation deficits and gaps.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Path dependency is the causal dependence of a decision on past decisions. For example, some types of sustainable drainage systems (e.g., detention storage) will depend on the separation of storm water and sewage. Historical decision to have a combined sewer system has major implications on how these will be implemented in today’s context.


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Correspondence to Assela Pathirana.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “Climatic Change and Development in the Mekong River Basin” edited by Jaap Evers and Assela Pathirana

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Pathirana, A., Radhakrishnan, M., Ashley, R. et al. Managing urban water systems with significant adaptation deficits—unified framework for secondary cities: part II—the practice. Climatic Change 149, 57–74 (2018).

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