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2.2              Key impacts of urbanisation

In industrialised and developing countries in the 19th and 20th century, most urban rivers were channelled into canals, buried or otherwise confined. Eden and Tunstall (2006) summarise the traditional European approach to urban river management as “…bury them, turn them into canals, line them with concrete and build upon the (now protected) floodplains”. This approach was designed both to improve urban hygiene and to protect cities from flooding. In the 1950s, the growing use of cars in cities led to river banks being transformed into high-speed traffic lanes (e.g. the case of the River Manzanares in Madrid and the Seine in Paris). Due to pollution from wastewater and the fact that river banks became increasingly difficult to access, traditional uses of urban rivers (bathing, boating, fishing) disappeared. Cities gradually turned their backs on the rivers that they once relied upon for their prosperity. Only major water shortages and flooding reminded local authorities and residents of the presence (or absence) of water in the city (Bruhn, 2015).

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