Human-River Interactions in Cities

ISRivers Conference Session

With the explosion of urban waterfront revitalization projects in the developed world, it is timely to reflect on the relations between cities and their rivers: how the rivers influenced development of the cities, how cities have treated their riverfronts over time, and how the spatial relations of city and river constrain and enable improved connectivity between urban populations and their rivers.  This topic will be explored in a session in the upcoming conference ISRivers in Lyon, France, 4-8 June 2018.  IS Rivers, held every three years, is an interesting mix of researchers and practioners, from Europe and beyond.  The setting in Lyon is particularly good for our topic, as the ‘reconquest’ of the banks of the Rhone is a compelling story of returning river banks to ‘the people’ (in this case, from their former use as parking lots).

Human-River Interactions in Cities: Special Issue in Sustainabilty

Editors: G. Mathias Kondolf, Amir Gohar, and Yves-François LeLay

Most cities are located on rivers, and for very good historical reasons that included navigation/commerce, fisheries, water supply, waste disposal, and quotidian uses such as washing clothes. The identities and distinctive characteristics of many cities are closely tied to their rivers, and the many ways their residents interact with their urban waters. In recent decades, urban riverfront projects have become ubiquitous in the developed world, and increasingly promoted in the developing world. Both celebrated as revitalizing neglected urban centers and criticized for displacing the disenfranchised populations, these projects raise questions about what constitutes ‘restoration’ in the urban context, to what degree natural processes and ecological values can be restored in such contexts, and how sustainable ecological benefits will be in light of the urban context. In highly dense cities, the social benefits of restoration likely overshadow the potential ecological benefits. Moreover, attempts to transplant waterfront restoration approaches from a successful application in one city to another with different characteristics commonly fail when the diversity of fluvial process, form, and culture is not adequately accounted for. We invite your contributions to this special issue exploring these rich human-river interactions in the urban environment.