River Cities: Water Space in Urban Development and History

Xiaolan  Lin's picture
Call for Papers
March 22, 2017 to May 1, 2017
Subject Fields: 
Asian History / Studies, Urban Design and Planning, Urban History / Studies

Symposium dates: 11 & 12 December 2017

Hosted by Airlangga University, Surabaya, Indonesia  

Supported by the Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA), Airlangga University, and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden, the Netherlands

Conveners: Dr Paul Rabé, Adrian Perkasa (M.A.) and Dr Rita Padawangi 

Important Dates:

Submission of abstracts and a short biography: 1 May 2017

Selected abstracts notification:  Mid June 2017

Submission of draft paper: Mid November 2017


Cities and water can be said to have a love-hate relationship (1), and this is especially true of rivers in cities in Asia. Many Asian cities, like their cousins in the rest of the world, owe their locations to rivers and the trading opportunities and water sources these rivers provided.  In recent years, cities across China are beautifying their water fronts, and cities as diverse as Singapore and Seoul are turning their rivers into assets as part of urban redevelopment schemes or restoring them in an effort to bring nature back to the city. But many other cities in Asia have their backs turned to their rivers. Where rivers were once trading and transport arteries, nowadays many of them have suffered neglect as roads and evolving trading patterns have supplanted the rivers’ economic and social functions. Their decline has been accompanied by environmental destruction, as their waters have become polluted and serve as the dumping ground for solid waste. Moreover, riverbank settlements evolved into legally ambiguous spaces, as old settlements were detached from land formalization regimes and were subjected to environmental deterioration from the rivers. Far from being an asset, these rivers have become an eyesore—and occasionally also a threat, owing to flooding exacerbated by poor planning and a poor understanding of the place of these water bodies in the wider regional eco-system.  

(1) Reference is to: Feldman, D.L. (2017). The Water Sustainable City.  Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

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