Implementing the Urban Nexus approach for improved resource-efficiency of developing cities in Southeast-Asia

Steffen Lehmann

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Resource challenges are particularly dominant in fast-expanding cities in the Southeast-Asian region and include inefficient infrastructure systems leading to energy black-outs, urban flooding, lack of waste recycling and increasing emissions and air pollution.
This article addresses the development of integrated infrastructure planning approaches as a tool for increased resource efficiency. It aims to link the circular economy discourse with the Urban Nexus. Three specific case studies called ‘living labs’ implemented the Urban Nexus approach relating to energy, water, food and waste/material (EWFW) flows. The article speculates about anticipated systemic changes that will be required to transform urban life, describing a cross-sectorial urban ecosystem approach. The nexus project is introduced along with some challenges that are likely to be encountered.
The Resource Nexus is the interrelated complex system where energy, water, food and material flows/waste treatment systems intersect. The Southeast-Asian Urban Nexus project, initiated by significant organisations, commenced in 2013 and is currently in its second phase, aiming to integrate resource management processes that increase the efficiency of natural resource use, transforming infrastructural systems and planning practice to reduce CO2 emissions and waste generation. The approach is based on the untapped inter-dependencies between the sectors (rather than understanding these in an isolated single-purpose, single-sector linear way).
The article provides a brief overview of the different nexus approaches and presents findings from the three case studies; it provides a literature review and relevant policy and planning recommendations.
The author expects that the Urban Nexus approach will enable a closer link between the principles of a Circular Economy and urban planning. The objective of the EWFW Nexus project is therefore to provide an informed framework for determining trade-offs and synergies to meet future demand, while increasing urban resilience and resource efficiency, without compromising safeguards for the environmental protection.
The article ends by asking for more research into the impact of urban development decisions on the consumption of our planet’s natural resources. One conclusion is that the Resource Nexus is a time issue and there are clear overlaps with the concept of the Circular Economy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
JournalCity, Culture and Society
Early online date6 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Urban Nexus thinking
  • Energy-Water-Food-Waste (EWFW) Nexus
  • Southeast-Asian cities
  • urban resilience
  • circular economy
  • decoupling


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