Penang Nature Based Climate Adaptation Programme

The Penang Nature-Based Climate Adaptation Programme (PNBCAP)

The PNBCAP takes on a comprehensive and collaborative approach, incorporating a diverse set of components addressing both the environmental and social dimensions of climate change in Penang’s urban fabric.

The programme is a pilot initiative that will serve as a municipal framework for climate adaptation with the potential for it to be scaled and adapted in other cities in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region.


Changes In Weather Patterns Are Already Manifesting Here In Penang Island

Southeast Asia is one of the three regions in the world to be the hardest hit by climate change. Among the main impacts in Malaysia will be increasing temperatures and increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events.

Why Are Cities Warmer Than Rural Areas

The urban heat island effect is related to urban areas having much warmer temperatures than nearby rural or natural areas. The difference in temperature between urban and less-developed rural areas has to do with heat absorption of hard surfaces.

Thermal Imagery of George Town Streets

Jalan Brown, images taken at 9.57 a.m
Lebuh Queen, images taken at 10.59 a.m.

The images highlight the impact of materials and shading on surface temperatures. There’s a marked difference in temperatures in shaded areas and bitumen road surfaces.

Source: Produced by Think City with Perfect Prime IR0006 Thermal Imager Camera

Flooding due to increased rainfall & changes in rain patterns is a major issue in Penang and are already causing significant damage

Flood Hazard Map (50 Years ARI)

Source: RBM (2018) Flood mitigation report for Penang Island.

It has also been observed that the economic repercussions of floods are more severely felt by low-income dwellers especially in flood-prone areas. Shortage of food supplies, electricity, clean water, banking services and communication problems can affect flood victims.

Flood-risk assessment is an important part of mitigating, controlling and preventing floods. The economic demand for flood control is measured by the difference between expected flood damage before and after flood-mitigation measures are initiated. Without an assessment, floods may cause damage to property, loss of life, disruption to services businesses or agricultural activity.

A combination of increased urbanisation, heavy rain, high tides and storm surges results in floods as stormwater is unable to discharge into the sea or infiltrate into the ground table.

The two factors:

  1. Expanding built areas resulting in reduced stormwater absorption capacity
  2. Increased volume and concentration of rainfall, has lead Penang Island to become exposed to flooding.

Penang’s ‘worst’ flood in 2017


people died


areas were affected


people were displaced

~RM200 Mil

losses to manufacturing

~RM5.7 Mil

losses to agriculture

~RM57.5 Mil

losses to fisheries


people died


areas were affected


people were displaced

~RM200 Mil

losses to manufacturing

~RM5.7 Mil

losses to agriculture

~RM57.5 Mil

losses to fisheries

What is PNBCAP?

Nature-based Climate Adaptation Programme for the Urban Area of Penang Island

The programme takes on a comprehensive and collaborative approach, in which a diversified set of components addressing both the environmental and social dimensions of climate change in Penang’s urban fabric will be implemented.

Programme Objective

The Adaptation Fund was established under the Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

The programme seeks to deliver strategic actions for adaptation through funding from the Adaptation Fund. At present, the concept note of the programme has been endorsed by the Adaptation Fund, which was established to help vulnerable communities in developing countries adapt to climate change.

On the international front, the programme has won the Climathon Global Cities Award in January 2020 after being shortlisted with the cities of Miami (USA), Karthoum (Sudan), Salvador (Brazil), and Dublin (Ireland).

The programme is being developed as a pilot initiative that will serve as a municipal framework for climate adaptation with the potential for it to be scaled in other cities in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region.

Programme Components

1. Urban Greening

This component focuses on reducing the impacts of increasing temperatures by introducing green elements which help in the overall reduction of urban heat island effect and urban temperatures.

Existing conditions

Urban Heat Island Effect

Warming areas within the George Town World Heritage Site and Bayan Lepas due to an increase in hard surfaces of built forms and bitumen roads.

Mean Temperature

Significant increase of 1.5°C in the mean temperature in Bayan Lepas between 1951 – 2018.

Surface temperatures

Sharp increase in maximum and minimum surface temperatures of 8.7 °C and 2.4 °C respectively between 1988 and 2019 in George Town.

Open spaces and recreational areas

Deficit of 1,203 hectares of green and open space in Penang Island. ( based on population figures for 2017 and the national standard of 20m2 per capita)


Inadequate shading along the streets of George Town and Bayan Lepas


Tree-lined Streets

To introduce new tree-lined streets in George Town and Bayan Lepas and complete the alignment of existing street trees to provide sufficient shade.

Pocket Parks

To convert vacant parks into pocket parks with microclimate-oriented design in order to reduce hard surfaces and add shade.

Greening car parks

To introduce trees in car parks for shading and reduction of UHI effect in the Bayan Lepas manufacturing zone. The introduction of trees in these spaces will ensure parking spaces are reduced by no more than 10%.

Greening built structures

Comprising 2 sub-projects, namely green facades and green rooftops, which will be developed as a grants programmes.

Urban agriculture

To implement urban agriculture and the relevant training sessions in several identified vacant spaces through a grants programme

2. Stormwater Management

Responding to the increasing rainfall and frequency of flooding events in Penang Island, the programme also sets out a comprehensive nature-based approach to stormwater management.

The Sungai Ara Linear Park in Bayan Lepas, Penang, has proven to be a successful pilot project for a blue-green corridor due to the involvement of the local community. The park was adopted by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage under a taskforce which consisted of the Penang Island City Council, Seberang Prai Municipal Council, Department of Environment, Land and District office, State Health Department, Indah Water Konsortium and the Penang Green Council.

A. Blue-Green Corridors

The association of green spaces with rivers is essential as it allows for the infiltration of stormwater to the groundwater table through increased water retention capacity.

This approach calls for rivers to be kept free from hard materials and its margins modelled in different levels /platforms to constrain and regulate the path of water, protecting neighbouring urbanised areas.

B. Swales & Infiltration Wells

Swales are vegetated open drains that collect stormwater whilst allowing for its infiltration to the groundwater table along its full extension. This approach reduces the accumulation of stormwater downstream, which in the case of heavy rainfall often leads to flooding.

Infiltration wells are solutions used for heavily urbanised areas as they provide stormwater retention and fast infiltration to the groundwater table using several deep layers of aggregates of different dimensions.

C. Upstream Retention Ponds

Upstream retention ponds are areas used to retain stormwater and facilitate the process of infiltration into the groundwater table to avoid stormwater runoff to downstream areas.

This approach is particularly crucial in Penang whereby the existing drainage system is threatened by high tides and storm surges.

3. Social Resilience

The social resilience component has a strong community-focused approach, engaging with the most vulnerable groups of society in order to assess vulnerabilities in a collaborative effort. Vulnerability assessments and targeted action plans for the communities of George Town and Bayan Lepas will be initiated in the early phase of the programme, laying the groundwork for enhancing climate change resilience.

The social resilience component comprises 2 specific programmes, which are the women and girls programme and the youth and schools programme.


A. Women and Girls Programme

The women and girls programme aims to reduce gender vulnerability asymmetry and strengthen capacity within existing agencies. It is structured around 4 sub-components which direct the flow of the programme.

Awareness Advocacy of women empowerment in climate-related issues through various communication campaigns.
Knowledge Co-production of educational/training modules, tools, and adaptation resources on various topics from extreme heat to urban agriculture with women NGOs to address gender-specific climate threats.
Building Capacity Provide support, access to information and training for women leadership through peer support networks.
Empowerment Creation of a climate and environmental advocacy forum for women to discuss gender-specific risks, policies and actions.
Adopting the 40:40:20 ratio as a benchmark allocation of a minimum 40% women representation in the committee of the Penang Climate Board.


B. Youth and Schools Programme

The youth and schools programme is focused on educating youth on climate change risks & mitigation strategies.

Awareness School visits to selected natural environments.
Knowledge School lectures on climate change supplemented with various competitions, workshops and educational site visits.
Building Capacity Initiation of a Sustainable Schools Programme.
Development of training modules on sustainable energy, allowing for participants to connect with prospective employers in the renewable energy industry.
Internship opportunities for young people in river monitoring.
Empowerment Creation of the Youth for Nature Forum as a youth-oriented platform for nature advocacy building

4. Institutional Capacity

As the programme will pioneer the use of nature based solutions in Malaysia, it is crucial that it includes a strong knowledge codification component. Institutional capacity will be built through a knowledge management platform, the creation of the Penang Climate Board and a public health programme.

Knowledge Management Platform

Database Set-up
Create a database of the programme’s scientific and technical framework
Collate and evaluate the results on the database
Create a website for collecting all programme’s methodologies, assessments and information for dissemination to other cities




other Cities in Malaysia & ASEAN Region
Penang Climate Board

A unit to be integrated within MBPP’s structure

  • Climate-perspective coordinated approach
  • Climate centralized policy at local level


A coordinated response to climate-related risks is prioritised through the development of an operational framework

Policy Integration

A standard proceeding is developed, centralising all issues and responses related to climate change

Ongoing Programmes

Click here for more information.

Strategic Partners