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RISE, communities seek to influence global investments for informal settlements

1 March 2021

Last February, in the weeks before COVID-19 swept across the world, Suva Community Leader Maciu Turagavou (pictured) stood up and spoke of his desire to improve the standard of daily living for his community. He addressed Fiji Government officials and communities before New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched construction of RISE in Fiji – starting with Maciu’s own community of Tamavua-i-Wai.

One year later, the community stands as a demonstration site showcasing RISE’s water and sanitation infrastructure in action – a concrete example of the potential for scaling up the water-sensitive approach.

Tamavua-i-Wai and Batua in Makassar, Indonesia, are demonstration sites that tangibly showcase the RISE approach, how to build local capacity, and provide a proof-of-concept to support replication and scale-up.

Professor Thomas Clasen leads RISE’s Policy and Scaling up work from Emory University in Atlanta, USA. He explains that the demonstration sites showcase the whole water-sensitive project lifecycle, not just the end product of the infrastructure itself.

‘From discussing the designs of wetlands with a community, to costing and implementation planning, to training household heads and government representatives in the operation and maintenance of these systems – Tamavua-i-Wai and Batua are invaluable experiences for the entire spectrum of work involved in the water-sensitive revitalisation of informal settlements,’ Clasen explains.

Batua, Makassar: meaningful, nuanced and sensitive community engagement is essential for designing
water-sensitive infrastructure with long-term benefits.

Suva, Fiji: local government and community partners have continually expressed an appetite for training
and new approaches to address the challenges facing informal settlements. Maciu Turagavou in training, far right.

‘By being able to calculate, for example, the costs of water-sensitive infrastructure elements, we are able to determine the upgrading cost per household of the demonstration sites, and compare it with the cost of conventional municipal trunk infrastructure.

‘This practical budgetary information is critical for governments and funders to make informed decisions about implementing this type of infrastructure’.

Translating experience into practical resources

RISE has co-authored with ADB three knowledge products available to the public, policy-makers and practitioners, capturing lessons and experiences for those interested in utilising the water-sensitive approach in the Asia-Pacific.

The three-part series covers the entry-points for understanding the water-sensitive approach, guidance on a community-based process for project implementation, and the technical foundations of nature-based technologies in urban informal settlements.

Professor Clasen believes experience and evidence is what policymakers will find most compelling. ‘Early engagement and meaningful collaboration with community, governments, funders and implementers and providing them with rigorous data is essential for supporting efforts to scale up RISE’s water-sensitive interventions’.

For Maciu Turagavou, being the very first community in Fiji to design the infrastructure, undergo training for its maintenance and watch the infrastructure being built, it all comes back to improving life in his community.

‘We are looking forward to the new green infrastructure waste management systems, the biofilters for grey water treatment and construction of new sanitation systems,’ he says.

‘I can see that Tamavua-i-Wai will be a better place to live’.


The RISE – Asian Development Bank launch of the knowledge products series on water-sensitive upgrading of informal settlements is on 25 March 2021. Contact to register your interest in attending.