Published On: March 30, 2024

By the end of this century, flooding resulting from more frequent and extreme weather events triggered by climate change will greatly affect, in the absence of adaptive measures, both Europe (Rojas, Feyen and Watkiss, 2013) and Finland (Jurgilevich, Räsänen and Juhola, 2021). Nature-based Solutions (NbS) represent a promising alternative to traditional, grey infrastructure to carry out stormwater management (SWM) naturally. The literature on flood risk management recognises the positive outcomes of integrating NbS as preventive measures in flood risk management strategies (Alves et al., 2019) and promotes NbS inclusion in urban planning (Ferreira et al., 2021). Nonetheless, NbS implementation remains limited and problematic and rarely represent a priority in urban land use planning.


Some authors point out how the slow adoption of NbS might be the consequence of the lack of a legal perspective in current NbS research. For example, Bogdzevič (2023) emphasises the lack of a cross-sectoral approach as the main factor hindering the implementation of NbS for flood and SWM, and argues that the legal grounds to adopt NbS are already present at the Union level. More often, land availability and the limitations arising from property rights are commonly referred to as the primary reasons behind the lack of widespread NbS (Ferreira et al., 2021, Hartmann, Slavíková and McCarthy, 2019). Compared to traditional infrastructure, NbS require more land and, when this is owned by privates, lengthy and troubled negotiations are often necessary (Bogdzevič and Kalinauskas, 2021). In these instances, the clash between private and public interest is such that a stable and unproblematic process of land allocation is nearly impossible. This means that even when the competent authorities, such as municipalities, are committed to incorporate adaptation in their land use strategy, such an approach might not be feasible if the opportunities for NbS implementation lie in private lands.


Interestingly, the Finnish model challenges these assumptions. In Finland, municipalities frequently own a large portion of land within their areas of authority. For example, the city of Helsinki owns 65% of the unbuilt land and 80% of the land within the city’s perimeter. However, these apparently favourable circumstances do not coincide with a wide, integrated and systematic implementation of NbS in the city, clarifying that owning the land is not enough to succeed in deploying NbS.


Researchers in Transformative Cities WP4 analysed the Finnish land use planning and SWM legal frameworks to understand through which other mechanisms the law may obstruct the wide implementation of NbS in Finland. Among the central findings, the generic allocation of SWM responsibilities to municipalities emerging from the Land Use and Building Act (132/1999) and the double discipline that can be applied to SWM based on the type of infrastructure used deserve particular attention. Indeed, both these elements result in institutional and organisational fragmentation at the urban level, contributing to decreasing the importance of NbS for SWM in the list of municipal priorities. Moreover, such fragmentation represents one of the main consequences of the absence of regulations taking NbS explicitly into consideration in urban planning. The current situation thus calls for a regulatory approach in NbS able to regulate the activities related to stormwater and the other natural resources in an integrated manner, overcoming siloed practices, by emphasising the cross-sectoral benefits typical of NbS.




Alves, A. et al. (2019) ‘Assessing the Co-Benefits of green-blue-grey infrastructure for sustainable urban flood risk management’, Journal of Environmental Management, 239(March), pp. 244–254. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.03.036.

Bogdzevič, K. (2023) ‘Floods and nature-based solutions. A call for a legal approach’, Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health, 36, p. 100521. doi: 10.1016/j.coesh.2023.100521.

Bogdzevič, K. and Kalinauskas, M. (2021) ‘Sticks, Carrots, and Sermons for Implementing NBS on Private Property Land’, in Ferreira, C., S., S., Kalantari, Z., Hartmann, T., Pereira, P. (eds) Nature-based Solutions for Flood Mitigation: Environmental and Socio-Economic Aspects, Springer, pp. 469–487. doi: 10.1007/698_2021_762.

Ferreira, C. S. S. et al. (2021) ‘Nature-Based Solutions for Flood Mitigation and Resilience in Urban Areas’, in Ferreira, C., S., S., Kalantari, Z., Hartmann, T., Pereira, P. (eds) Nature-based Solutions for Flood Mitigation: Environmental and Socio-Economic Aspects, Springer, pp. 59–78. doi: 10.1007/698_2021_758.

Hartmann, T., Slavíková, L. and McCarthy, S. (2019) ‘Nature-Based Solutions in Flood Risk Management’, in Hartmann, T., Slavíková, L. and McCarthy, S. (eds) Nature-Based Flood Risk Management on Private Land: Disciplinary Perspectives on a Multidisciplinary Challenge, Springer, pp. 3–8. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-23842-1_1.

Jurgilevich, A., Räsänen, A. and Juhola, S. (2021) ‘Assessing the dynamics of urban vulnerability to climate change: Case of Helsinki, Finland’, Environmental Science & Policy, 125, pp. 32–43. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2021.08.002.

Rojas, R., Feyen, L. and Watkiss, P. (2013) ‘Climate change and river floods in the European Union: Socio-economic consequences and the costs and benefits of adaptation’, Global Environmental Change, 23(6), pp. 1737–1751. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.08.006.