River Cities Network (RCN): Engaging with Waterways in the Anthropocene

The third research and activist 'Cities' network at IIAS is the River Cities Network (RCN). Launched in December 2022, this transdisciplinary and global network promotes the ecologically and socially inclusive revitalisation of rivers, waterways, landscapes/waterways, cities and neighbourhoods that coexist with them, with a focus on social justice and biodiversity.

The urgency that brings together the RCN partners is the serious degradation of rivers and waterways all over the world, particularly in urban areas, where most of the world’s population lives. The fragmentation, diversion and pollution of these water bodies endanger the food security, livelihoods, and cultural traditions of millions of people. The effects of climate change exacerbate river degradation, in the form of flooding, drought, and unpredictable water levels, temperatures and quality, made worse by other man-made interventions.

RCN’s innovation is to bring together a (natural science-based) focus on strengthening biodiversity with a (humanistic and social science) focus on environmental and social 'justice' in the quest to revitalize urban rivers and waterways in over 30 case study areas across the world. These two pillars of the network’s activities are usually tackled separately in professional and academic circles, but in RCN, we seek to combine them in our methods, tools, and outcomes. The RCN’s institutional partnerships -with Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden and with scholars and professionals in the humanities, the social sciences, engineering departments and NGOs- reflect this attempt to pool different knowledge systems. 

An in-depth description of the aims and components can be found at www.iias.asia/programmes/river-cities-network.

Visit the RCN website at www.rivercities.world for an overview of participating teams, the people involved, and events.