Living with floods and subsidence in Central Java, Indonesia – Empirical evidence and theoretical implications

Authors: Lisa-Michéle Bott*, University of Cologne, Boris Braun, University of Cologne, Institute of Geography
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Coastal hazards, adaptation, accommodation, social capital
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The coastal areas of Central Java are prone to an interplay of natural and human-made hazards. Relative sea level rise is enhanced by land subsidence up to -15cm/a in urban areas, due to expressive groundwater extraction and massive surface load. As a consequence, the local population is exposed to frequent tidal and river floods. How are people able to maintain their livelihood in this environment?
This paper focuses on bottom-up strategies of households in the city of Semarang and rural villages in Kendal and Demak. We apply a mixed method approach including focus group discussions (2016) and a quantitative household survey (n=660, 2017).
We found that social capital and self-organisation are key factors in enabling the local communities to live in their unstable environment. Coastal hazards have become a ‘normal’ element of live and are not perceived as a severe risk. Rather than retreating or gaining permanent protection, people have found ways to accommodate to and hence live with floods and subsidence. So far the IPCC (2014) frames accommodating as one adaptation strategy alongside retreating and protecting. However, we found that accommodation strategies, such as ground floor elevation and informal loan systems, are effective on a mid-term timescale and allow people to maintain their livelihood. We therefore argue, that accommodation is distinguishable from both long-term adaptation, allowing to improve the livelihood, and from short-term coping, allowing only to recover. We introduce a new three scale framework of coping, accommodation, and adaptation to coastal hazards.

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