School of Architecture, CUHK

Flood Control—The Spatial and Temporal Re-distribution of Floodwater—As An Ethical Issue

Date & Time

04.03.2015 04.03.2015

14:30 - 15:30


Meeting Room, 1/F, AIT Building, CUHK


Speaker: Professor Liao Kuei-Hsien
Topic: Flood Control—The Spatial and Temporal Re-distribution of Floodwater—As An Ethical Issue
Moderator: Professor Tsou Jin Yeu
Flood control is the act of using engineering techniques/structures/facilities—such as levees, channelization, flood walls, upstream dams, diversion channel, pump stations, pipe drainage systems, etc.—to prevent water from flooding a place it is not desired. Thanks to flood control, urban development takes place in numerous low-lying areas that otherwise would be naturally flooded frequently. Flood control—of various scopes—has been universally implemented in large and small cities in developed and developing countries across the world. Nevertheless, despite many well-recognized issues associated with flood control as a major strategy of flood hazard management, it is still largely convinced that flood control is as part of the necessary infrastructure for cities. New flood control projects that allows for new urban development and for more intense development continue to be carried out around the world.

In this presentation I will explore flood control as an ethical issue, which few has done. I argue that flood control is an act of redistributing water across space and time. Flood control infrastructure is similar to the function of water supply system, except that the water it redistributes is undesirable. A major technical issue involved in flood control is where the undesirable water should be transfer. But the question is more than a technical one; it is also an ethical one, because transferred along with the unwanted water is also the flood risk. Who has the right to transfer the risk, who should receive is, and how/why has the risk transfer been justified? In this presentation I will bring to light ethical issues associated with flood control that have been unquestioned for too long. I will also present plausible solutions through urban design. While flood control continues to be uncritically embraced in urban development, it is my hope that this presentation will raise awareness of the environmental justice problem in it.

Liao Kuei-Hsien is assistant professor of the School of Architecture, as well as a faculty member of the Urban Studies Programme at CUHK since December 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from National Taiwan University, a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in Built Environment from the University of Washington. Between July 2012 and December 2013 she was assistant professor at the Department of Architecture at National University of Singapore. Her overarching research interest lies in urban resilience and urban ecosystem services, and her current research focuses on flooding and flood adaptation, as well as urban streams and rivers.

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