Livability in cities of the future – Seminar and Thematic Alumni Event

This programme gave me a new way of thinking and refreshed my knowledge of what I had learned. The session was really interactive. it allows me to actively participate during discussions. The programme is well panned. it is hard me to find any suggestions, but i recommend to have this kind of programme frequently as it will keep us continuous developing.” A participant

Nuffic — the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education —  provided us financial support to conduct a ‘Thematic Alumni Event’ (TAE) in Sri Lanka. The purposes of this novel type ‘thematic’ events are (a) to contribute to the professional development of alumni and the development of the organisations they work for and (b) to stimulate the set-up and maintenance of thematic networks and create clearer links between Nuffic, alumni, relevant (Dutch) educational institutions and Dutch organisations. These events provide an opportunity for mutual-learning for all relevant stakeholders.

We proposed to hold the event within the theme of ensuring sustainability, resilience and livability of the rapidly developing cities of the world. Hence we chose the theme “Livability in cities of the future” – here livability is seen as a vehicle for enabling sustainability and resilience.

The TAE on livability was held during 27th and 28th of July, 2017. The first day of the event was planned as a public seminar. In addition to the 22 IHE alumni selected from those who applied, we invited a broad range of urban water professionals from almost all the major water and related organizations. The second day was exclusive to the selected Alumni and several invited professionals.

Day 1: Seminar on Livability in cities of the future

The response of the professional community was phenomenal. We initially expected about 70 participants, but ended up having 140 participants attending the seminar! This was of course a surprise for us, the organizers and sent us scurrying over to arrange extra orders of refreshments etc! But, it was really a nice kind of surprise to have and convinces us of the importance of organizing these type of events.

The chief guests of the seminar were H.E. the Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mrs. Joanne Doornewaard and the secretary of the ministry of Megapolis and Western Development, Mr. Nihal Rupasinghe. Ambassador Doornewaard opened the seminar.


The event consisted of two talks by IHE staff and two by Sri Lankan professionals (Mr. Nihal Rupasinghe and Dr. Srikantha Herath). The talks were followed by a panel discussion participated by the speakers including the Ambassador. William Veerbeek of IHE Delft conducted the panel discussion.

The event ended with a networking lunch.

A participant said

“This is the first event in Sri Lanka, as well as first alumni activity had after 2004 of my graduation. Had the opportunity to meet many alumni and exchange ideas and also a network among us”

Field Visit

wetland park

Thalawathugoda wetland park – nature’s success on a dumping ground

On the afternoon of 27th of July, the TAE participants visited Thalawathugoda Wetland Park, an urban wetland being developed and maintained by the Wetland Management Division (WMD) of Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLR&DC).

The 25 hectare wetland is an interesting example of how an urban wasteland can be transformed in to an oasis nature: This location was used as dumping ground for dredging material during the construction of the parliamentary complex of Sri Lanka which is built on an island, surrounded by the Diyawanna Oya (river). Ms. Chethika Gunasiri, the resident expert explained to us though the soil was too acidic to grow any plants in the beginning, the nature has succeeded in giving back life to this barren piece of land over time. Today it is home to 50 species of wetland birds, over 25 butterfly species, many types of fishes, dragonflies, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and many terrestrial and aquatic plant species, this park indicates high biodiversity value especially remarking the value of urban wildlife. The most interesting species found in this park are fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus globally and nationally threatened), otter and the estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). The Purple-faced leaf monkey, a long-tailed arboreal languor endemic to Sri Lanka is also seen here.

After the field trip, the participants travelled to Negombo (about 40 km north of Colombo) where they stayed overnight.

Panel discussion

“I like the panel discussion very much. It explored vast knowledge on one stage. It was very interesting due to participation of professionals from different sectors.” — A participant


Day 2: Alumni workshop

22 IHE Delft alumni and some invited experts attended the second day which was an largely interactive workshop focusing both on the theme of the event (Livability in cities of the future) and other important issues like future activities for IHE-Delft Alumni in Sri Lanka and gender issues in the urban water sector.

During the first part of the workshop was three interactive presentations by Mr. H.N.R. Perera (CEO of Lanka Hydraulics Ltd.), Mrs. Mangala Wickgramanayake of Coast Conservation Department and Mr. P. P. Ghnanapala (formerly at SLLR&DC). These were followed by charrette style group-based workshop on the topics of future activities for IHE-Delft Alumni in Sri Lanka and gender issues.  After a late lunch, some social activities took place. For these in addition to the Alumni, some of their family members also participated.

Group work

A presentation

Lunch of day 2

Photos of the event

Many more photos of the event are posted at:

Thematic Alumni Event : 2017

Livability in cities of the future: Addressing multiple challenges of climate change, urbanization, food and water security issues

 The main objectives of the event are:

  1. Provide a platform for Alumni involved in different aspects/sectors of urban livability to get together and share their common problems/concerns and experiences.
  2. Realize a sustainable professional network of such Alumni that will continue improved collaboration beyond the event.
  3. Share some of the success-stories in integrated urban (water cycle) management from around the world by experts involved in those case studies.
  4. Share experiences of harmonizing the strategies/actions of diverse urban organizations.
  5. Give an opportunity for the participating alumni to experience some of the successful strategies of collaboration by participating in structured collective brainstorming workshop (whose objective is to strategize and plan (2) above).

The Programme

Day 1

There is a public seminar titled “Livability in cities of the future: Addressing multiple challenges of climate change, urbanization, food and water security issues”. You can download the draft program here. If you would like to participate, please register here. 

09:30 – 10:00      Registration

10:00 – 10:05      Opening

10:05 – 10:15      Welcome Address, H.E. Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

10:15 – 10:35      Aspirations and Challenges of Urban Development in Sri Lanka, Eng. Nihal Rupasinghe Secretary of the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development

10:35 – 11:00      Urban Water System and Livability in the Cities of the Future, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Assela Pathirana, IHE-Delft

11:00 – 11:25      Refreshments

11:25 – 11:45      Coastal Risk and Livability in Cities of The Future, Prof. Roshanka Ranasinghe, IHE-Delft

11:45 – 12:05      Disaster Resilience in Cities of the Future, Prof. Srikantha Herath. Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development

12:05 – 13:00      Panel Discussion, Moderated by Eng. William Veerbeek. IHE-Delft

13:00 – 14:00      Lunch and Networking

14:00                     End of the Programme

Day 2

This day will be a workshop session with the Alumni and invited delegates and experts (25 Alumni and maximum 5 invitees)
Morning will be a ‘planning charrette ’ on the topic:  Organizing and sustaining a UNESCO-IHE/Dutch Alumni Professional network on urban development.
The afternoon session will be a training on a new topic.

9:00-9:30 registration
9:30-10:00 plenary introduction
10:00-11:00 Group brainstorming
11:00-12:00 plenary reporting and discussion
12:00-13:00 Lunch
13:00 – 13:30 Lecture 1
13:30 – 14:30 Guided open discussion on gender inclusivity in urban sector
14:30 – 15:30 Alumni share their views about the event and the way forward

The most important benefit

is to expose urban sector experts to trans-disciplinary way of working. Convincing them of the benefit of integrated approaches and possibility of achieving win-win scenarios with concrete examples of good-practice.

Governance issues

A central issue facing urban (and general) governance of Sri Lanka is the sectoral split. The central objectives of this event is to show the tools and techniques to create a harmonized enabling environment despite the prevailing institutional/governance problems.

Gender issues

Numerous studies have shown that societies need more feminine (not necessarily =female) traits than they currently possess in order to succeed in harmonizing competing societal entities and agendas. A central theme in the proposed integrated approaches is to help instil these qualities to urban professionals. This approach will also create more recognition for female professionals in urban sectors.

Anticipated outputs of the event

  1. The IHE alumni working in urban sectors will get a concrete opportunity to get together in a professional, learning environment to exchange these experiences.
  2. The alumni as well as other participants will be exposed to a number of case studies of urban liveability improvement via trans-disciplinary action and sectoral collaboration.
  3. The alumni will develop abilities of better collaboration by practically experiencing some of the proven approaches that has been successfully used in many diverse case studies.
  4. The alumni will be given an opportunity to sustain the collaboration among them and with the IHE/Dutch experts and Dutch private sector.
Assela Pathirana

Assela Pathirana

Event Coordinator

Associate Professor of Integrated Urban Water Cycle Management

Tel :+31152151854

Email: [email protected]

Rosh Ranasinghe

Rosh Ranasinghe

Event Coordinator

Professor of Climate Change Impacts
and Coastal Risk

Tel: +31152151805