Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE)

by Monash University


A Global Compact member


RISE is an action-research program working at the intersections of health, environment, water and sanitation.

Project implemented: August 2017 - July 2022

Project goal

To demonstrate that a localised, water sensitive approach can deliver sustainable health and environmental improvements in urban informal settlements.

delivering on

why is this project important?

Australia has a responsibility to support its Asia Pacific neighbours, and collaborate with them to solve global challenges.

Key steps to make it happen


Baseline health and environmental assessments


Co-design of upgrading works with communities and local partners

3Implementation Tranche 1

Implementation of upgrading building works to half of the settlements


Quarterly monitoring of human health and environment

5Implementation Tranche 2

Upgrading the control settlements at the end of the study

6Policy and investment

Continuous dissemination of lessons learned and results to inform policy making and investments

Over one billion people live in urban informal settlements globally, and over two billion live without basic sanitation. In these communities polluted water and inadequate sanitation are the leading causes of preventable diseases. Water and sanitation challenges are intensified by climate change and rapid population growth. A new approach to water and sanitation management is needed to achieve SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), and SDG11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).

To help meet this challenge, an interdisciplinary team of global researchers are channelling their efforts into the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) program. RISE aims to provide unprecedented insight into a more sustainable approach to water management, trialling the water sensitive cities (WSC) approach in 24 urban informal settlements across Suva, Fiji and Makassar, Indonesia. The goal is to reduce both environmental contamination itself and human contact with contaminants. Underpinned by the emerging discipline of planetary health, success will be measured by the health and well-being of residents – particularly children under five years of age – and the ecological diversity of the surrounding environment.

The WSC approach integrates sustainable water sensitive infrastructure – like constructed wetlands, bio-filtration gardens, and decentralised sanitation systems – into buildings and landscapes. Also known as nature-based solutions, these systems are more ecologically sustainable because they mimic natural processes, while being more economically sustainable because they require less energy to operate and maintain. Decentralised water infrastructure is implemented at dwelling, neighbourhood, and precinct scales to harvest rainwater and storm water, recycle wastewater, and protect dwellings from flooding and environmental pollution. Locally sourced water is used for a range of domestic purposes and economic activities including urban agriculture, while green spaces increase local amenity.

RISE researchers are examining the impact of the WSC approach – before, during and after the intervention. This is being done through a randomised control trial (RCT) whereby half the settlements receive the intervention initially and the other half are control settlements, to receive the intervention after the first period. Key human health, well-being and environmental dimensions are measured quarterly to provide the evidence base that a localised, WSC approach to upgrading informal settlements can deliver sustainable, cost-effective improvements in health and the environment.

Community-led and socially inclusive, RISE is applying a co-design process for each site, working closely with local communities, governments, leaders and in-country partner institutions. RISE has made significant progress since launch in August 2017. Strong partnerships have been forged with local and international institutions, and government partners in both locations have committed their full support. RISE’s unique interdisciplinary nature is one of its key strengths, with highly experienced local teams and global partnerships ensuring the program is well positioned to achieve its objectives.

RISE is part of the prestigious Wellcome Trust’s ‘Our Planet Our Health’ funding program, with support from the Asian Development Bank.

Led by the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, RISE brings together global expertise from five Monash University Faculties (Art, Design and ArchitectureBusiness and EconomicsEngineeringMedicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, and Science), Monash University MalaysiaCRC for Water Sensitive CitiesStanford UniversityEmory UniversityThe University of MelbourneUniversity of CambridgeFiji National UniversityHasanuddin UniversityThe University of the South PacificUnited Nations UniversityMelbourne WaterSouth East WaterOxfamWaterAid, and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

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