The Chinese megacity Wuhan launched a 15-year project using green and blue sponge projects to prepare for increased waterlogging caused by rapid urbanization and natural disasters.

The Wuhan Sponge City Programme focuses on reducing waterlogging and increasing water quality via the ecological remediation of existing urban water systems and the construction of blue and green spaces to capture and store rainwater. The first phase of the project, from 2015 to 2017, will see the development of 389 so-called sponge projects, such as urban gardens and waterbodies in parks, roads, residential communities, commercial buildings, and public buildings. These will cover 38 square meters of the city and provide habitat for plants and wildlife.

70% of rainfall is estimated to be absorbed through initiatives in the project

Cities100 – 2016

By the end of the pilot period, two new rainwater pump stations will have been constructed, providing at least 25% of the city’s water. Furthermore, 13 ports and channels will be repaired, drain pipelines will be improved, and at least one lake will be ecologically restored. Overall, the project is expected to reduce the occurrence of severe waterlogging events from once annually to once in 10 years in the pilot zone, a strong start to adapting the city to climate change.

The challenge

Rapid urbanization and industrial development in Wuhan has increased the city’s impermeable area, causing flooding, pollution, and, at the same time, overconsumption of existing water supplies. By increasing the ability to absorb rainfall and improving the quality of the urban water system, the Wuhan Sponge City Programme is preparing the city for growth and extreme weather events.


Environmental It is estimated that initiatives in the project will result in a 70% reduction in pollution carried via runoff in certain catchment areas.

Economic By focusing on the protection and utilization of the natural water system, the Wuhan Sponge City Programme prevents considerable costs caused by damage from waterlogging.

Health The project increases the quality of drinking water for the people of Wuhan.

Social It is estimated that 20,000 new jobs will be created through the Wuhan Sponge City Programme.

About Wuhan

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, China, and is the most populous city in Central China. It is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and expressways passing through the city and connecting to other major cities. Because of its key role in domestic transportation, Wuhan was sometimes referred to as “the Chicago of China” by foreign sources.

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