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Climate adaptation solution for informal settlers in Asian coastal cities

Source(s):  Climate Adaptation Platform (CAP)

The United Nation Research Institute for Social Development has released the report, Transformative Adaptation to Climate Change and Informal Settlements in Coastal Cities.

The report focuses on informal settlers in the city of Jakarta, Indonesia and Ho Chi Minh and their

  • vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change like flooding and storms,
  • the gaping social inequality between the wealthy and the poor, and
  • the contrast between the rise of high-end condominiums and the rapid increase in informal settlements as people from rural areas flock to the cities for economic opportunities.

On top of the problem, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh face the threats of being underwater in a few decades. Jakarta is sinking according to a new report, and Ho Chi Min will disappear underwater due to high tides without adaptive measures by 2050.

City authorities are debating the best solution to address the problem, whether to adapt through on-site developments or relocate vulnerable residents to safer areas.

Adapting through infrastructures like dykes and seawalls will not be sufficient to address the scale of the problem but would need transformative adaptation on a grander scale and magnitude that involves government system reforms, the report says.

As climate change adaptation is already being mainstreamed into sectoral and socio-economic planning, this is also used to justify relocation of informal settlers.

By analysing the two case studies, one on each city, the paper seeks to understand the root cause of informal settlers’ vulnerabilities and seek solutions to address social injustice and ensure an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future. 

Transformative adaptation remains a conceptual level, and there is still much to know what it looks like in practice. Firstly, what does the adaptation process look like? Is it participatory and inclusive?

Secondly, how can transformation be applied that address the power inequality the community, land-use planning that ensures climate justice for all, and consider future climate change impacts?

Thirdly, when is on-site development suitable and adequate, and how to implement a just and inclusive relocation or resettlement that addresses the needs of the people.

The paper also looks at adaptation initiatives that have been going on in both cities and seeks to find out the barriers or constraints to transformation and how the city’s informal dwellers might address the problem.

Through the analysis of the two case studies, the paper can find out the root causes vulnerabilities to climate change, and other social issues, inform policies, and guide transformative adaptation measures.



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  • Publication date 06 Jan 2021

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