The Global Disaster Preparedness Center’s Resilient Coastal Cities Project

Rapid population growth combined with the impacts of the changing climate pose one of the world’s greatest threats continuing to result in a staggering loss of human life and property, as well as ecosystems and livelihoods.  If not addressed, natural disasters and climate impacts will  increase community vulnerability particularly for developing countries. It is imperative to find multi-disciplinary and cost-effective solutions that cut across development, adaptation, sustainability, and disaster risk reduction goals.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society’s Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC) have formed a unique and innovative partnership joining the world’s largest conservation nonprofit, with the world’s largest humanitarian organization to address the increasingly detrimental impacts from natural hazards. This partnership builds on the unique strengths of each organization, blending TNC’s experience in science-based ecosystem conservation and restoration, with the Red Cross’s experience in community mobilization, awareness raising and education.

Resilient Coastal Cities In Indonesia


In October 2015 the GDPC started a 5-year project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) to prototype approaches for coalition-building, addressing increasing risk in a set of coastal cities in South East Asia and the Pacific. The goal of  Resilient Coastal Cities is to enhance local collaboration and problem solving to support effective climate change adaption. The project also serves as a lab to develop and test guidance and models for local coalitions within the One Billion Coalition, an initiative convened by the IFRC to galvanize support for resilience-building actions by people and communities. The Coastal Cities project is being piloted initially in Indonesia and Vanuatu with roll-out to coastal cities in a wider set of countries planned for subsequent phases of the project..


Project Implementation


The Nature Conservancy has joined efforts with GDPC in the Coastal Cities project in Indonesia to help identify ways that nature can be a part of building social-ecological community resilience before, during, and after natural disasters. TNC contributes the importance of nature conservation and geospatial technology to the dialogues. The Coastal Resilience approach and tools will provide city-specific ecosystem data that can assist and guide city level planners and community members to make informed decisions for appropriate nature-based adaptation solutions, or natural infrastructure, as a critical component of disaster risk reduction. Specific objectives of TNC’s contribution to Coastal Cities include:

  1. Assessing the more common social, flood hazard and ecological tools and apps relevant to Southeast Asia
  2. Identifying relevant social-ecological data alongside hazard information to design an analysis that compares inundation from specific flood events with the presence or absence of mangroves
  3. Contributing the results of this analysis in the design resilient solutions phase of the project through training and workshops as part of the coalition-building process

Demonstrating the value of natural systems in protecting social and economic community assets relies heavily on the adoption and buy-in of key stakeholders and governments. This can begin through better integration and visualization of valuable ecosystems in the surrounding area. Improved management of these natural resources – including reefs, mangrove forests, fisheries and floodplains – will provide increased sources of sustainable food and income while protecting people and their livelihoods.

This work will contribute to TNC Indonesia’s Ecological Disaster Risk Reduction (EcoDRR) strategy. TNC Indonesia is promoting coast and ocean management through Blue Growth by Design in four main objectives. One of the objectives is to invest in the restoration of Indonesia’s blue infrastructure: coral reefs, mangroves, and beaches to mitigate and adapt to climate change while reducing coastal vulnerability.

Open Resilient Coastal Cities Prototype App


Geospatial Framework


In collaboration with FloodTags, Peta Bencana, Wetlands International, Deltares, Esri, Microsoft, and GDPC, TNC has led the development of the geospatial framework for Resilient Coastal Cities.

The framework is designed to:

  • Incorporate crowd-source social media data on flood events
  • Build a communications campaign and user base around local flooding
  • Utilize coastal engineering design parameters from Demak (west of Semarang on the north shore of Central Java)
  • Simulate mangrove restoration scenarios
  • Build a mobile app and dashboard to integrate the information
  • Deliver the framework, analysis and app to the coalition-building process in Indonesia.

thumbnail of Geospatial Framework for Resilient Coastal Cities (DRAFT)

Social-Ecological Urban Analysis

An integrated, resilience-disaster management approach is intended to support Semarang city planning, contributing to more informed decision making for issues including flooding and water quality, while also serving as a pilot method and decision support tool to be leveraged in other South Asian cities as part of the Resilient Coastal Cities project.  Components of the analysis include social media data from FloodTags and Peta Bencana, ecological data from TNC and Wetlands International, and socioeconomic data from Mercy Corps.

Flood Tags

FloodTags is a social enterprise with its headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands. Together with researchers from universities and institutes, they develop and implement software to analyse online media content, aimed at deriving useful information for water and development projects. FloodTags started with Twitter, but can now perform event extraction on all text-based media, such as news articles, blogs, forums, Twitter and Facebook public pages. They do this for real-time and historic (trend) analysis of floods, water scarcity, water conflict, integrated water management, food security and other water- and development related topics.

FloodTags was identified by the coalition as a useful tool that identifies and consumes large amounts of social media data where flood events are happening and the connection between upstream and downstream impacts. Earlier studies of FloodTags showed the potential for flood monitoring in Indonesia, where up to hundreds of thousands of tweets are shared about new floods happening (without anyone asking those people to tweet).

As part of this project, Flood Tags will contribute the following:

  • Identify new flood events for the North Coast of Central Java in the upcoming flood season November, 2017- April, 2018, on the basis of Twitter data — with emphasis on Semarang
  • Per identified flood event, provide the related Twitter content and summarize the known characteristics (time, location, most frequent words and hashtags)
  • Per identified flood event, determine the uncertainty (of it being a flood event) and suggest whether (the extent to which) further validation of the flood is required, either by manual validation or data combinations
  • Share results via an API that can be accessed by Coastal Resilience – Cities Mapping Portal
  • Share results via the existing online FloodTags Dashboard in which further analysis of the data can be performed

Photo Credit: Kevin Arnold



As part of the Resilient Coastal Cities Project, Esri’s CityEngine will be used to simulate the potential impacts of various landscape-scale mangrove restoration scenarios in 3-dimensional space. This three-dimensional visualization will help planners better understand green infrastructure in the urban landscape. The goal is to influence city land use planning and disaster management decisions by allowing planners and decision makers to explore the relationships between mangrove restoration, built infrastructure and watershed management, as well as assess project feasibility and implementation.

This integrated resilience-disaster management approach is intended to provide a pioneering geospatial framework that can be leveraged in cities across South Asia and the globe. This work will also take advantage of TNC’s collaboration with Microsoft through their AI for Earth program and the Azure cloud, specifically in app design and delivery.

Photo credit: © Kevin Arnold

CityEngine Models

Using mangrove restoration scenario polygons and metrics developed from ecological-based coastal engineering guidelines, CityEngine procedural models can be adapted to simulate the look and impacts of mangrove restoration over time.

Phase 1

The first phase of this “NatureEngine” prototype will be piloted in the city of Semarang on the north coast of Central Java. The outcome of the project is a set of 3-D mangrove restoration scenarios and a list of feasible next steps and recommendations to advance this work as part of the Microsoft collaboration. ArcGIS 360 Virtual Reality can be leveraged to provide 3-D scenes that can be viewed from the desktop or through phones with virtual reality capabilities and post-processed CityEngine scenes will be hosted on Azure.

Phase 2

The second phase of the project, Esri will explore the potential to harness the power of the Data Science Virtual Machine (DSVM) to develop and run “NatureEngine” procedural models dynamically, importing model output directly into the evolving app and associated dashboard.

Providing virtual 3-D interpretations of mangrove restoration scenarios will provide a deeply immersive stakeholder experience that will improve their understanding of the relationships between coastal ecosystems, critical infrastructure, aquaculture assets, watershed management and city planning.  “NatureEngine” can evolve for different types of ecosystems which can be leveraged to cities around the world to allow planners to explore the multi-beneficial functions of green and hybrid green/grey infrastructure in urban planning.