UN-Habitat and the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen their collaboration in urban drainage management. The MOU was signed by the Executive Director of the association, Mr. Olivier Vion, and Mr. Andre Dzikus, the Coordinator of Urban Basic Services at UN-Habitat.

Founded in 1974 to share knowledge in the tunnelling industry and to promote advances in planning, design, construction, maintenance and safety of tunnels and underground space, ITA brings together 68 Member Nations and 310 corporate or individual Affiliate Members.

The signing ceremony followed a two-day Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Urban Drainage Management held at the Centre International de Conférences Genève (CICG) in Geneva from 1-2 June 2013. The meeting was jointly organized by UN-Habitat and ITA and held back-to-back with the World Tunnel Congress. It was officially opened by the President of ITA, Prof. In-Moo Lee.

The more than 20 urban drainage experts, researchers and policy makers in attendance identified the need to make a case for urban drainage by encouraging political buy-in, building a knowledge base on innovative technical options, good practices and experiences, highlighting costs of inaction, promoting community participation and getting drainage into the Post-2015 discussions on Sustainable Development Goals.

Other key recommendations of the session included: promoting innovative financing arrangements for drainage; adopting an integrated approach to urban planning; promoting a mix of technical options; risk analysis and management; and the strengthening of institutions involved in drainage management and stakeholder mapping. The meeting also demonstrated Guastavino vaulting as an appropriate and low-cost technique for underground drainage, which generates jobs and small scale businesses.

The participants outlined four preliminary entry points for UN-Habitat in urban drainage:

i) Awareness raising and advocacy

ii) Building an expert reference group on drainage issues

iii) Strengthening urban governance

iv) Brokering broad strategic partnerships involving financial institutions and the private sector

As a follow up to the meeting and the agreement with ITA, UN-Habitat will develop a UN-Habitat Strategy Paper on Urban Drainage to guide its engagement in urban drainage management.