Working with Nature, which is explained in a PIANC Position Paper, calls for an important shift in thinking in our approach to navigation development projects to help deliver mutually beneficial, ‘win-win’ solutions. It promotes a proactive, integrated philosophy which focuses on achieving the project objectives in an ecosystem context rather than assessing the consequences of a predefined project design and focuses on identifying win-win solutions rather than simply minimising ecological harm.
Working with Nature considers the project objectives from the perspective of the natural system rather than from the perspective of technical design. However, Working with Nature does not mean that we no longer achieve our development objectives: rather it ensures that these objectives are satisfied in a way which maximises opportunities and – importantly – reduces frustrations, delays and associated extra costs.
In essence, adopting the Working with Nature philosophy means doing things in a different order. Instead of developing a design and then assessing its environmental impacts – an approach which inevitably revolves around damage limitation and is ultimately not sustainable – Working with Nature advocates the following steps:
PIANC’s 2018 Guidance on Applying Working with Nature to Navigation Infrastructure Projects offers a framework to design new infrastructure or rehabilitate existing infrastructure in a way that works with natural processes and promotes the creation of new wetlands and aquatic habitat as part of large infrastructure projects. This approach serves to enhance ecosystem viability and resilience and minimise negative anthropogenic impacts commonly associated with navigation- infrastructure improvements. The guidance, prepared by PIANC’s Working Group 176, raises awareness of natural ecosystems, inspires the navigation infrastructure community to embrace natural systems design, and promotes expanded acceptance of the WwN approach by providing a selection of case studies to illustrate how WwN applies to navigation infrastructure projects.
The PIANC Working with Nature Position Paper, which was first published in December 2008, discusses the extent to which the Working with Nature philosophy can already be put into practice, as well as some of the outstanding challenges. It also recognises that developing and delivering such win-win initiatives will take more innovation and imagination in some cases than in others. Notwithstanding such challenges, PIANC is convinced that the rewards of Working with Nature will extend far beyond the natural environment into social and economic aspects.
Working with Nature represents an important element of PIANC’s future strategy. The paper – and the shift in thinking that it encourages – will be actively promoted both within and outside the organisation as a necessary way to contribute to truly sustainable development.
To read the full Working with Nature Position Paper, which is available in many different languages, click below.