Building social and ecological resilience for disaster management

Coastal Resilience is based on the premise that coastal habitats and other natural infrastructure offer cost-effective and sustainable solutions to reduce flood risk. While the evidence for ecological disaster risk reduction is clear, all too often the environmental and disaster management sectors operate in silos. For this reason, the Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC), the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have formed an innovate partnership that couples social with ecological resilience. The partnership joins the world’s largest conservation nonprofit with the world’s largest humanitarian organization in an effort to blend TNC’s expertise in conservation and restoration with the Red Cross’s expertise in community mobilization and education to jointly improve human safety and environmental protection from disasters.

As part of the Resilient Coastal Cities and Coalition Building Project, where the American Red Cross and the GDPC are working with Red Cross/Red Crescent National Societies in Indonesia and Vanuatu to build local coalitions and community resilience, TNC co-led a workshop on nature and geospatial technology for the recently established city coalition of Semarang, Indonesia. The project aims to convene coalitions and equip them with a set of tools to better address coastal risk reduction and climate smart resilience within their existing urban governance processes and with support from businesses, civil society organizations, universities, and other stakeholders.

The purpose of the workshops was to design viable solutions that reduce the risk of city flooding and inundation, thereby building both social and ecological community resilience. The workshop included participants from the regional government planning agency; the local disaster agency; social, education, health, and welfare department; local NGOs and universities; the Semarang Chief Resilience Officer; and members from the Indonesian Red Cross. The workshop, held at the Pelang Marang Indonesia (Indonesia Red Cross) office on the 31st of August, 2017, was the first collaborative workshop between the GDPC and TNC for the Resilient Coastal Cities project, which began in 2015. The purpose of the workshop was to (1) present web and mobile-based tools that could advance collaborative activities around resilience to flooding, (2) create a geospatial framework for applying specific tools to specific city planning processes, and (3) leverage the data and tools to other cities in Southeast Asia.

Group discussion on information needs before, during, and after a disaster.

TNC’s Coastal Resilience program and web mapping platform, focused on the ecological resilience benefits that mangrove and coral reef ecosystems provide to coastal communities, were presented to the city coalition of Semarang, Indonesia as part of a larger digital engagement effort to share an array of technical resources available for disaster management. Software developers from Atmago, Flood Tags, Peta Bencana, Global Pulse, and PMI also attended the workshop and shared tools that use social-media derived information about the community assets, areas of vulnerability, and flood-event information. Flood Tags and Peta Bencana both utilize the large amount of information available via social media by filtering for flood-related text and images, and then analyze it for flood-related information including flood extent, duration, magnitude, and other factors related to the community’s experience during a flood.

These tools and their output are intended to be integrated within a Coastal Resilience mapping application for Semarang city planning. The coalition spent the rest of the workshop discussing their priority information needs before, during, and after a disaster, brainstorming ways in which the presented tools would be useful for achieving their city-wide resilience goals.

Group photo with participants and facilitators.

The workshop laid the groundwork for the development of a social-ecological urban analysis and mobile app within Coastal Resilience. The desired outcome is to demonstrate the critical role and value of natural systems in protecting social and economic community assets. The conversation focused on ways to connect community members with the local government, methods for analyzing the conversations that occur during times of flooding and other hazards, and best ways to leverage resources across the coalition to make substantial changes in how disaster management operates at the city level. This integration resilience-disaster management approach is intended to support Semarang city planning, contributing to more informed decision making for issues including flooding and water quality, but also serves as a pilot method and decision support tool to be leveraged in other South Asian cities as part of the Resilient Coastal Cities project.

 

-Morgan Chow, NOAA Digital Coast Fellow, TNC