How to estimate Carbon sequestration of forest

Forest is one of the largest carbon sequesters or carbon sinks beside Oceans.

Source of picture is here.


To be continued later …

Rivers: Meandering and Deltas

Life of a river is very dynamic depending on discharge and activities on its watershed. A river can be straight, meandered, or braided.

Why a river is meandering? Here is a simple and brief explanation on this matter.


And why do rivers have deltas?






What is a watershed? sometimes watershed can also be used interchangeably with Drainage Basin, River Basin in the likes. Here is a simple explanation on a watershed.

Water Resources Recovery

I always eager to learn about water. To me water is life. No water means no life. Here is I share generic water processing system.

Difference between pretension and post-tension in Prestressed Concrete

Still about civil engineering student and profession. Here is a simple video that describes the difference between pretension and post-tension in prestressed concrete design.

Segmental Bridge Construction

I was a civil engineer. When I was a civil engineering student, and enrolled for a prestressed concrete design subject, I was asking to my teacher, what if the bridge is curved and having a very long span. The reason I asked was because of the subject assumed that every computation considered in a two dimensional plane with ‘reasonably’ short span. I had not received a satisfied response for my teacher. I believed that my teacher was also confused.

Now with the advance of civil engineering technology and construction everything is possible, by using segmental bridge either pre-cast or cast in place. Here is an animated example of segmental bridge construction.

I need to adapt for a few moment, when I go back to civil engineering profession.

Environmental Conservation vis-à-vis Economic Development: the Dilemma of Developing World


A new paradigm in sustainable development has been released as Griggs (2013) defined the sustainable development in the Anthropocene which is “Development that meets the needs of the present while safeguarding Earth’s life-support system, on which the welfare of current and future generations depends”. This paradigm seems people’s centrist very much.  Traditionally, sustainable development embraces three aspects of the environment, economics and social. Thus, within the sustainable development concept, the environment, and economic development are supposed to go in parallel. However, in fact, environment and development are two words that do not always go hand-in-hand in the same direction. In most cases, these two entities go in the diametrically opposite path. From the view point of human development, the relationship between environment and development is a sort of love-hate correlation. Development needs environment as resources while human-being needs an environment and development to support their life. Economic development certainly needs resources for the progress of human capital advancement. At the same time, the use of resources for the development may deteriorate the environment. If the environment destroyed beyond acceptable limits, the human development would be threatened. This complexity makes environmental conservation, and economic development cannot be effortlessly optimized.

Figure 1 World’s Oil Production

Source:  (10 February 2015) The Sustainable Scale Project.

Sixty to fifty years ago just a few years after the end of World War II, the mainstream of human development was placed under the economic theme without at all considering the environmental aspect. During this period, a low-hanging fruit era of oil production was commenced. While developed countries enjoyed the blissful economic boom, most underdeveloped countries in Asia and Africa were still struggling for their independence. These two contrasting situations create substantial use of energy resources for logistic supplies and development. It was then not surprising if energy consumption was noticeably increasing. The World’s oil production is exhibited in Figure 1 (The Sustainable Scale Project, 2015). The figure clearly explains the significant increase of oil production during 1950s to 1960s.

The era of low-hanging fruit for energy consumption and production was over after 1970s when everyone realized the constant decrease of oil production. Oil is a non-renewable energy resource while its existence in nature is constant, the consumption constantly increases.  In the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, world communities intended to bring the disparities between the industrialized and developing nations together into a common future to delineate the rights of the human family to a healthy and productive environment (Brundtland, 1987). By this platform, the environment and economic development gained the equal opportunity to sustain. The UN General Assembly accepted the sustainable development concept in 1987.

Sustainable development aims, in principle, at recognizing the presence of future generation’s needs upon present resources consumptions. Thus, the resources and environment must be used and conserved responsibly. However, in the course of implementation, the sustainable development concept was not always be respected as the initial intention. As a result, the environmental degradation is ubiquitous, particularly in developing countries where economic growth takes precedence over environmental conservation. By using this starting point as a legible stand, we intend to explore the dilemma of environmental conservation and economic development, as most developing world has long experienced it. As Adams (2001) highlighted that the dilemma is a notable challenge for many developing countries, as it is problematic and complex to be optimized.

To get the full picture of environmental deprivation as the result of economic development, it would be wise if start the discussion since the industrial revolution.


The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution began in Europe in the 1700′s and spread to the rest of the world, beginning with the United States. McLamb (2011) asserted that the Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in Earth’s ecology and humans’ relationship with their environment. The Industrial Revolution dramatically changed every aspect of human life and lifestyles. The impact on the world’s psyche would not begin to register until the early 1960s, some 200 years after its beginnings. From human development, health and life longevity, to social improvements and the impact on natural resources, public health, energy usage and sanitation, the effects were profound.

It was called revolution because of somewhat abrupt change from agricultural to industrial activities, from manual means to machinery. During this period, many inventions, including power-driven machinery that replaced slow and inefficient hand tools flourished. The use of machinery and factories led to mass production, which in turn led to the development of numerous environmental hazards. The effects on the environment would only be seen clearly years later (McLamb, 2011). The use of factories and mass production has also led to a depletion of certain natural resources, leaving the environment permanently damaged. One example of this depletion is deforestation, which is the clearing of forest trees for use in production. When the trees are cleared, the wildlife in the forest also becomes uprooted.

The use of machinery and the booming of dirtier industries – from present perspectives – particularly in Western European cities such as London and Paris, as a result of the industrial revolution, led to a beyond environmental imagination impacts. Water and air pollutions were two infamous environmental consequences in London and Paris. In 1832 over 20,000 Parisians died in a cholera outbreak; London experienced similar outbreaks. This was caused by increasing amounts of sewage dumped into the Seine and Thames rivers (EH Resources, 2015). In the same time, EH Resources (2015) also reported that London was infamous for its combinations of smoke and fog – the smog -. All major cities suffered from smoke pollution. Edinburgh’s nickname, which is “Auld Reekie”, refers partly to the sanitary situation of the town as well as to smoke pollution. The effects of air pollution brought cities to a halt, disrupting traffic but more dangerously also causing death rates to rise. During a week of smog in 1873 killed over 700 people in London. Although the largest air pollution disaster in Britain was the Great London Smog of December 1952 which killed approximately 4,000 people.

Figure 2 Increase of Carbon Emission with Industrial Revolution as the baseline.

Source: (Retrieved 11 February 2015)


From an environmental viewpoint, the developing countries in Asia and Africa, during this period, the nature, and natural resources were still intact, but politically under colonialism of Western European countries. Thus, environmental degradation was not as bad as what witnessed in Paris and London. The industrial revolution to a certain extent has influenced the global environment, in which the impacts are prolonged up until today. Therefore, it is valid if the global environmental timeline was referred to the industrial revolution as the baseline of environmental degradation.

One example of the Carbon emission increase since industrial revolution period was provided by Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) is shown in Figure 2.

Since the industrial revolution era, Western European cities (now developed cities) emitted a significant amount of greenhouse gasses at the expense of underdeveloped and developing nations. Thus, the concept of environmental conservation and economic growth balance must be applied impartially between developed and developing countries.


Sustainable Development: the Dilemma of Developing Countries?

The sustainable development is a very philosophical concept. One of the popular definitions of the sustainable development is based on Brundtland’s definition (1988) in Our Common Future, which defines sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This definition contains three philosophical concepts:

  • First, the concept of needs of the present, in particular, the essential needs of the poor instead of fulfilling the demand of the rich.
  • Second, the concept of limitations that may be imposed by the state of technology, government and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.
  • Third, the concept of meeting the present needs without neglecting the future needs. This third concept is a key idea of ‘sustainability’.

The ‘sustainability’ lies on the third concept. Without the ability to meet the present and the future needs, sustainable development will fail to retain its soul and back to conventional development concept, which is a contemporary process.

With a strong connection between ‘present’ and ‘future’ in the sustainable development concept, we must regard that the natural resources and environment are not the legacy of our ancestors, it rather belongs to our great-great-grandchildren. By this philosophy, the present generation must conserve existing natural resources and environment for future purpose. However, in the fact that the future generation has no enforcing ability to impose the present to keep the natural resources and environment undisturbed. In reality, the present generation dictates the needs of the future generation.


The development process is mostly reflected in the economic growth. Almost no countries and nations can accomplish high economic growth without involving the use of natural resources. The use of natural resources is unavoidable. On the other hand, the uncontrolled natural resources utilization would mechanically degrade the environment. Therefore, the natural resources utilization for economic growth and development, amid reconcilable, could not go hand-in-hand with the environmental protection as depicted in Figure 3.

Figure 3 visually asserts that apart from the sustainable development, which promotes the balance of social, economic and environment aspects, the environmental protection and natural resources utilization go in different direction. Too much environmental protection will lead to stagnant economic development, particularly for the country where the economic development is fully dependent on natural resources. On the other hand, total utilization of natural resources for the purpose of economic growth, will hamper the environment to function continuously to serve the human beings. However, we do not exactly know the optimum state of the balance between environmental protection and economic development. This issue will be fully depending on the policy of the countries. For developed countries where the country’s economy does not depend on natural resources, the environmental protection prevails. In contrast, for the developing countries and less developed countries where the economic growth largely depends on the natural resources, the environmental protection will not be the priority. We can easily observe the presence of relaxed environmental protection policies in developing countries.

In the countries with high technology advancement, still natural resources are required to produce goods and technology itself. The situation would be even more visible in developing countries where economic growth depends fully on natural resources. The development process will terminate without the support from a natural resource. By this situation, the dilemma of the environment and the development is more noticeable in developing countries. The developing countries are facing three essential challenges: excessive natural resources use without the ability to control it, environmental degradation, and poverty.

Figure 3 the Dilemma of Development and Environment


There is no doubt of the ethical domineering of tackling human poverty (Corbridge, 1995). By this thought, must human poverty be eradicated at all cost? Including environmental degradation? If so, it is then acceptable when human poverty is alleviated at the expense of the environment. The multiplier effects of alleviating human poverty are tremendous providing that good governance exists. As, poverty has gone, social welfare encroaches, then education level also improves. With higher education level, production of goods and services increases and economic productivity also increases.

However, the actual process is not that easy as most developing countries lack good governance. Political instability, social unrest, terrorism, and corruption, are, among others, the persistent problems that the most developing world must face. In reality, the so-called development process resulting in significant impacts on resources depletion but with obstinate poverty in both rural and urban citizens.

The developing countries seem difficult to cut the environment-development dilemma and considered irreconcilable (Motel et al., 2014). For instance, Meadows et al., (2005) argued that rising world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resource depletion are impossible to continue and will sooner or later become unsustainable and collapse. However, we are confident that environmental protection and economic development are reconcilable. This fact can be easily found from the progress path of developed countries. Western European countries, for instance, experienced the industrial revolution era where the environmental degradation was beyond imagination, but now they can cope with the environmental problems while enjoy high economic growth. Barbier (1999) illustrated that the endogenous growth theory in the 1980’s brought a fresh and very different perspective on the growth-environment relation, and the environment can equally influence the long-run growth path. Thus, it is perhaps rational to say that decoupling of environmental effects from growth is possible.


The key-point is whether or not the authority would be able and willing to reconcile this dilemma in a sensible way. The proper path of development on agriculture-based, mixed agriculture-industry based, industry-based, and then industry-cum-services as the eventual process of development would be worth implementing.


Optimizing the Dilemma: Ways to accomplish the balance

In the real life, we will always encounter the dilemma, and it is our way to optimize the dilemma and therefore it will work for us.


Unifying Economic Growth and Environmental Conservation: Learning from cross-country Data

There is always cure for all diseases except death. Although many people believe that environment-development dilemma is irreconcilable, but the ways to optimize it are always there. Take a look at a powerful example of GDP and level of environmental degradation as illustrated by Kuznet curve. Chow and Li (2014) defined the Environmental Kuznet Curve as an empirical relationship during the course of economic development where per capita CO2 emissions first increases with per capita real GDP and later decreases with per capita real GDP. Kuznet curve has been fashionable to depict the sustainability (Farhani et al., 2014).

The curve in Figure 4 perfectly depicts the richer the greener and the poorer the “green”. The upper curve shows the countries with weak protection of property rights while the lower curve shows the countries with strong protection. This curve tells us that a country with low GDP, the environmental problem i.e. environmental pollution in that country is also low, since no or few polluting industries are in place. The main economic activities are mostly agriculture-based products. The pollution level is, therefore, low. As the economic growth is much depending on industries – many people believed that predominant agriculture economics will not lead a country into high economic growth – the growth is much faster and higher now, but environmental pollution becomes higher. At the same time, the capability of the country to eradicate the pollution is not as faster as the economic growth as reflected in GDP. As a result, the environmental pollution is still considerably high.

Figure 4 A real Kuznet Curve as work of X.D. Qin (1998)

Source: Tierney J (2009) (Retrieved 14 March 2015).

The curve in Figure 4 is based on a study in 1998 with 1985 GDP. As a comparison to this curve, we studied the Environmental Kuznet Curve (EKC) by using 2010 CO2  Emission and GDP PPP data. The result is similar as shown in Figure 5.

On the other side of the curve, when the GDP of a country exceeds a certain point, a peak point, the GDP per capita increases but the environmental pollution decreases. This situation is possibly because of two reasons (1) the use of greener and cleaner industries in that country (2) the increased capability of the country to cope with environmental pollution. According to Tierney (2009), the peak point is about USD 8,000 based on GDP per capita in 1985 PPP. However, by using cross-country data in 2010, the peak point is now higher, which is about USD 50,000. The outliers such as Bahrain, Brunei, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates are excluded from the analysis. They are high income countries, but their per capita emission is high.

Although perhaps the only indicator of CO2 is insufficient to show comprehensively the characteristics of the EKC, however, it seems that some recent studies done in developing cities show that there is indeed a strong connection between economic development, as reflected in the land use changes, and CO2 emission stemming from transport sector (Permana et al., 2015a, and Permana et al., 2015b). This study found that urban development that is reflected in the land use changes as a result of economic growth in the city has brought to the significant generation of motorized transport, then lead to the degradation of air quality. The city, where the study was undertaken, has the per capita GDP of about USD 5,000.

Figure 5 Kuznet Curve, based on 2010 Data

(Source: Authors’ Analysis)

This curve confirms that economic growth could not be decoupled from environmental protection, as Kuznet curve suggests. Thus, the economic development and environmental conservation is reconcilable. However, still it is open for debate since the indicator used by the environmental pollution is per capita CO2 emission. This indicator will not perfectly represent the actual situation of the environment. One can argue that the poverty strongly associates with the environmental degradation see, for example, Duraiappah (1998), Ravnborg (2003), Aaron (2005). Thus, if the indicator of the environment is “natural resources depletion”, the curve may not be the case.


Different Countries, Different Needs

We have briefly discussed the traditional path of development of a country, in which its economic development is commonly started with an agriculture-based sector, then followed by a mixed agriculture-industry based after accomplishing certain level of GDP, and subsequently most people in the country engaged in a predominated industry-based sector, and ultimately they involved in industry-cum-services sector as eventual process of development would be worth implementing.

In consultation with the Kuznet curve, at any given point or period, the different countries have a different level of development. Thus, they have different needs. Switzerland, for example, with per capita GDP PPP 2010 was about USD 84,000, per capita CO2 emission was only 4.95 ton. At the different side, Burundi emitted 0.35 ton of CO2 per capita while its per capita GDP was USD 870. Burundi, for sure, will not emphasize their development over environmental protection, since Burundi needs to struggle strongly with the acute poverty problem. It is then an acceptable pretext if the natural resources in Burundi are exploited and degraded, as long as the poverty problem in Burundi is eliminated. It is the Burundi’s rights to emit more CO2, for instance, for the sake of constant increase of their per capita GDP. Western European countries could not complaint on the state of the environment of Burundi, as immediately after the industrial revolution, Western European countries also emitted CO2 much more than Burundi does.

Malaysia with per capita GDP of about USD 23,000 and per capita CO2 emission is about 7.6 ton is presently in the mid-point towards peak-point. Malaysia’s economic development is the predominantly industrial sector with a smaller fraction of agricultural and rural sectors. At this point, Malaysia will be able to deal with the increase of CO2 emission along with their economic growth. Malaysia has also promised to cut per capita GDP emission by twenty percent by 2020. This shows the capacity of Malaysia unify economic growth and environmental protection. The countries around and beyond peak point i.e. North American and most Western European countries are technologically and financially able to minimize emission and environmental degradation.


Figure 6 Stage of Development vis-à-vis GDP

(Source: Authors’ Analysis)

Figure 6 composes of two super-imposed figures (1) countries with different per capita GDP ordered from the smallest to the largest (2) correlation between environmental conservation and natural resources use i.e. economic growth. This figure shows that countries with GDP per capita less than USD 10,000 are considered as at the initial stage of development. At this stage, the economic growth is largely supported by the use of natural resources. Thus, we can expect that in the countries with this stage, the environmental degradation is substantial. However, environmental pollution can be low as fewer industries are in place. The countries are incapable of freeing themselves from the dependency on natural resources use. If the government wisely use the natural resources for mere economic and human capital development, the subsequent stage can be smoothly accomplished. However, in the repressive and corrupt government, the depletion of natural resources use will be much faster than the improvement of people’s wellbeing and economic growth.

The countries will be posed in the development stage when their economic growth is not fully dependent on natural resources. Their GDP is about USD 10,000 to 30,000. New industrializing countries will be born at this stage, and the natural resources use and environmental pollution will be more at the commencing stage since industrial sector predominates the economic growth.

At the advance stage, when per capita GDP more than USD 30,000, the dependency on natural resources use will be less although the use of natural resources could not be totally avoided. Both environmental degradation and environmental pollution will be less, because of the ability of the countries to employ greener and cleaner industries. However, there are some countries considered as outliers. These countries enjoy high per capita GDP during the level of environmental pollution also high. These countries are mostly dependent on single vital natural resources such as oil. Brunei, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and United Arab Emirates are among them. These countries do not either place environmental protection as priority or have technological independency from countries. Alternatively, simply the total population of the country is too small, and expatriates mostly run industries.

From the cross-country data presented, it is fair to say that optimizing the natural resource use and environmental degradation or pollution is a dynamic process depending on the development stage of the country. One assumption on this circumstances is that a country will follow a traditional stage of development i.e. [agriculture]-[agriculture + industry]-[industry + service].


Sustaining the Potentials

Every country and nation has its potentials for the advancement of their development. The potentials of the country can be, and definitely, natural resources; human resources, and technological know-how. Unfortunately, the developing world lacks human resources and technological know-how. Thus, natural resources as the only asset, must be utilized wisely and sustainably. Natural resources must be able to develop human resources, because of the multiplier effect properties of human resources development. With the high quality of human resources, the technological know-how to develop the country is made available. Japan has no natural resources and a natural disaster vulnerable country. However, Japan has a high quality of human resources. Thus, natural resources roles in their development process can be nullified.

United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman has natural resources. However, this potential is not used to develop the capacity of their nations. In the short-term, the need of human resources to run the country is met by hiring high-quality expatriates. The financial matter is one of the strongest attractions for professional. UAE, Qatar, and Oman are practically run by expatriates who mostly come from developed countries of Northern America and Western Europe. The number of local people in these countries are less than the number of expatriates and migrants workers. Their policies are good for the short-term but not for the long-term unless they also conducted an intensive transfer of knowledge from the professional expatriates to local people. We could not predict the situation in these countries in 50 years to come.

It is left to the authority on how to sustain their potentials and assets to develop their countries and nations. Many models of the development are there to replicate or duplicate. We could not fully depend on natural resources, as it will be depleted sooner or later. Development without natural resources is not impossible unless the Earth does not leave anything for the human-being. Earth will be able to fulfill all human’s needs but greediness.


Environment: a Resource for Development

Natural resources are vital prerequisite for the development process. No one can avoid the use of natural resources to meet their needs, not even developed countries with advance technology know-how. However, not all resources provided by nature are renewable, most of them are in the non-renewable state.

Presently, to harvest renewable energy is very expensive, and most of them are at preliminary stage. The use of sun and wind energy is still not that advance and limited energy production, unlike, for example, nuclear energy or hydropower energy. Nature limits hydropower energy, and it will be no more development someday after no more water with potential energy exists.

Oil as a prominent source of energy will soon deplete. The replenishment will take millions of years. Thus, it is considered as non-renewable energy. On the other hand, the use of renewable energy is not ready yet with respect to technology and mass production. There is almost no low-cost technology to utilize renewable energy. Therefore, there is an only small fraction of renewable energy use in the world, although there are significant increases. For example, in 2012 the percentage of renewable energy for electricity was about 12.2% and in 2014 this percentage was about 22% (REN 21, 2014).

The use of renewable energy must be able to take precedence over the non-renewable energy, as the era of the low-hanging fruit was over, and the depletion of fossil fuel is around the corner. When human-being is still at the center of the development, the concept of sustainable development is still perfectly valid.

Producing More with Less

Efficiency is one way to conserve the environment. Efficiency can support sustainability, including sustainable consumption and production. Sustainable consumption and production is about “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of further generations” (Oslo Symposium, 1994). These flowery words can be shortened by saying that we must produce more with less. The key is efficiency in both production and consumption.

When we observe a product for the whole its life-cycle, we will immediately identify that the production process from exploiting raw material to end of lifetime of the product (cradle-to-grave process) involves a number of inputs i.e. material and energy and also residuals.

Efficient use of raw materials and energy to produce the things and minimize residual products contribute to the environment and natural resources conservation and eventually contribute to sustainable development. For a certain circumstance, improving the productivity of the workers are more important than improving the number of workers. The number of workers will affect the productivity because of ‘diminishing return’ phenomenon while highly-productive workers will not be easily affected by production factors. Productive workers are different with workers’ productivity. A productive worker can stay to yield more products, whereas worker’s productivity is a relative measure. Each worker has his/her productivity.

Technology, to a certain extent, can increase the productivity of a stuff that has limited capacity. One example is the productivity of farm land. Before the introduction of technology, a hectare of farm land can produce only 5 ton of paddy per season. However, with the application of technological product for enriching soil nutrients i.e. fertilizer along with good irrigation system, the farm land production can be improved up to 9 ton per hectare per season. This case happened in Thailand and some parts of Indonesia.

The farm land area is decreasing over time due to land conversion to be industrial, commercial and residential development. At the same time, the need for food is steadily increasing. If the crop production is a function of land area and land productivity, F=f(A,P), while the land area is constantly decreasing, the only way to increase crop production F is by increasing land productivity P, or else, increasing the cropping intensity by doubling or tripling A through increasing crop seasons, for example, two or three seasons a year. It is possible if the nature supports, i.e. water availability is sufficient for the whole year. Alternatively, modern farming like multi-story building. However, this is presently economically infeasible for the government unless no other choices available.


Concluding Remarks

Economic growth and environmental conservation are a classical conflict that brings to the dilemma. The dilemma is reconcilable dynamically since the optimum reconciliation state is depending on the level of development. There is no a fixed optimum point of the reconciliation. Different countries will have a different emphasis on the sector either put a priority on economic growth or environmental protection.

For the initial stage of development, for most developing countries, the emphasis is given to economic growth with lower attention to environmental conservation. On the other hand, for developed countries with high technological know-how and high gross domestic product, the attention to environmental conservation will be higher while economic development is already stabilized and, therefore, unless an unanticipated incident appears, it will almost automatically run.



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Living with Floods: An Adaptation Strategy – Part #2

The causes of floods can be in various form, such as natural causes: hydrologic cause (high rainfall intensity), geographic cause (lowland, floodplain), and anthropogenic cause (living in floodprone area, insufficient drainage, lack of awareness, land use change due to development), and indirect anthropogenic cause: global warming and climate change.

Here is the discussion of Part #2:

The initial volume of fluid e.g. floodwater displaced by the hollow floating apparatus must be large enough to initially lift the platform. Periodical checking on the hollow floating apparatus must be undertaken to ensure that there is no leakage on the apparatus. A pre-fabricated light reinforced concrete, such as Ferro-cement, is perhaps good for hollow floating apparatus.


Flood Barriers or Flood Guard

This flood-proofing effort emphasizes on-plot barriers such as temporary doors or windows closure by using pre-fabricated closure equipment or temporary sandbags (refer to Figure 13).


Figure 13 Temporary Flood Barriers

Pre-fabricated flood barriers are commercially available. However, a cheaper temporary flood barrier can be produced locally by using polyethylene bags filled with locally available clay soil.


Flood Gates

By “flood gates”, it is here meant a pre-fabricated “gate” that is installed as a closure of front-gate opening of the fence. This effort assumes that there is an encircling flood-proof fence that is sufficient to prevent flood. The term “sufficient” here is with respect to its height, construction and material. Since it is pre-fabricated equipment, it is obviously not a cheap flood-proofing tool, and for certain people it will not be affordable. It is shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14 Installment of Flood Gate

The installment of flood gates will only be effective if the front gate of the encircling fence is the only opening around the house, and again providing that the fence is sufficiently reinforced to withstand horizontal hydrostatic pressure that is due to flood depth and velocity.


Flap Gates and Backflow Valves

House drainage is perhaps the most open system that connects flood flows outside the house into the house. The waste water/sewerage system may leak if it uses the closed pipe system while clean water supply is less prone to leaking compared with the other two. Flap gates can be utilized to prevent flood water seepage to the inside part of the house if the house drainage system uses the open channel. This system works by utilizing the differential hydrostatic pressure between the outside and the inside; this principle can be depicted in Figure 15. Hydrostatic pressure P (ton/m2) is computed according to P = ½ w*h2 where w is the density of fluid e.g. flood water (ton/m3), and H is the depth of water (m).

Figure 15 Automatic Flap Gate

Floodproofing does not reduce the flood quantity. There are community-based activities that can significantly reduce the flood magnitude, this action employs similar principle with the retention basin or flood control dam, but is implemented at the community level. The following section will discuss this matter.


Reducing Runoff

Floods are greatly influenced by urban land use. Not many local authorities can appropriately control land use in order to reduce flood magnitude. Given the present run-off coefficients are not easy to modify and also rainfall is beyond people’s control. Thus the maximum discharge from an urban area theoretically cannot be modified. However, the rate of release of discharge can be regulated through concerted actions from the community; how does it work? It acts like a distributed storage system; it can be undertaken if all individuals within the community are willing to contribute to reducing the flood magnitude.

All individuals are asked to provide storage capacity and, to ensure fairness in distribution, storage which is provided by each in the community should be based on the area of individual land plots. The local authority, in this case, determines the design rainfall that will be regulated by the decentralized system. For example, a design rainfall is designated as h mm/hr.  The individuals, therefore, provide storage according to their land plot area, defined by Si = 0.001Ai*h*D, where Si is storage that must be provided individually (m3), Ai is individual land plots area (m2),  h is design rainfall (mm/hr) determined by the local authority, and D is projected rainfall duration (hr). The best situation will be created if those storages are installed underground since this enables collected rainfall to recharge into groundwater. In the long run, it will provide sufficient groundwater source and ultimately lead to sustainable development (refer to Figure 16). Rain water that falls within an individual land parcel is collected, including through pipes from the roof-top, and discharged into an underground tank for subsequent recharge into groundwater.

Figure 16 Storage Systems

 The effectiveness of the individual storage system depends on the hydraulic conductivity of tank storage, groundwater table, as well as rainfall intensity, duration and frequency. More permeable soil structure around the storage boosts groundwater recharge, therefore, the process of emptying the storage will be faster, and successive rainfall can be stored properly in the tank. Higher groundwater table and less permeable soil structure will delay the emptying process of the tank and reduces its capacity for storing successive rainfall.

Figure 17 Storage System in Urban-type Residential Building

In densely populated urban area, where detached individual houses are normally rare, and multi-storey building types are dominant, the storage system can be placed at either roof-top or basement (refers to Figure 17). However different operation is applied for the roof-top storage, that is, at the time when rainfall stops, and underground storage is empty, the roof-top storage can then be released to the underground storage. The same principle of storage calculation for individual detached houses can be applied to multi-storey buildings. With this arrangement, assuming that individual storage system works well, the reduction of flood magnitude will be directly proportionate to the built-up area excluding roads and other non-occupancy areas. This reduction also leads to a reduction in the need for drainage infrastructure; costs for providing such infrastructure; and flood damages and losses. At the same time, it potentially leads to an increase in groundwater resources and improved environmental sustainability.

If all the above-mentioned activities are implemented appropriately, harmonious coexistence between human and nature will be potentially achieved. Floods will no longer be viewed as disasters to defend against, but rather as normal, natural phenomena that humans must learn to adapt to and make the best of. The Netherlands’ socially-rooted approach for addressing climate change adaptation to flooding sums it up best with a vision of a country “safe against flooding, while still remaining an attractive place to live, to reside and work, for recreation and investment” (Wenger et al, 2013, p.218).


Concluding Remarks

The study has paved the way toward the possibility of harmonious living between human and nature within the context of unpreventable floods. This discussion has arrived at the conclusion that with creative ideas, the process of human adaptation to nature can be accomplished with little adverse impacts for both. Adaptation of the people to floods can be created at both the individual and community levels with the least cost, although certain requirements are needed. The study also shows that achieving better living in harmony with nature does not always require high costs; with innovative ideas that are suitable for to the present situation, many positive possibilities come into view for practice by the community.



Borrows, P. (2006). ‘Living with Flooding: Noah’s Legacy,’ Irrigation and Drainage, 55, S133-S140

Building Futures (2007). Living with Water: Visions of a Flooded Future. RIBA, London

Chow, Ven Te (1956). Hydrologic Studies of Floods in the United States. International Association of Science of Hydrology Publication No. 42, 134-170

Cuny, F.C. (1991). ‘Living with floods: Alternatives for riverine flood mitigation,’ Land Use Policy, 8(4), 331-342

DeGregorio, M. and Huynh, C.V. (2012). Living with Floods: A grassroots analysis of the causes and impacts of Typhoon Mirinae. ISET-Vietnam, Hanoi

Dozier, E.F and T.N. Yancey (1993). Floodproofing Options for Virginia Homeowners. US Army Corps of Engineers and Commonwealth of Virginia, Norfolk, Virginia

Nebraska Department of Natural Resources web-site can be accessed through URL: Last accessed: 10 October 2005

Otago Regional Council/Queenstown Lakes District Council (2006). Learning to Live with Flooding: A Flood Risk Management Strategy for the Communities of Lake Wakatipu and Manaka. Otago Regional Council & Queenstown Lakes District Council, Dunedin

Rostvedt, J.O. et al. (1968). Summary of Flood in the United States during 1963. US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper, 1830-B

Scott, M. (2013). ‘Living with flood risk,’ Planning Theory & Practice, 14(1), 103-106

Sheaffer, J.R. (1960). Floodproofing: An Element in a Flood Damage Reduction Program. Department of Geology Research Paper No. 65, The University of Chicago

Smith, Keith and Roy Ward (1998). Floods: Physical Processes and Human Impacts. John Wiley & Sons, Baffins Lane, England

Tingsanchali, Tawatchai (1996). Flood and Human Interaction, Experience, Problems and Solutions. Professorial Inaugural Lecture. Water Engineering and Management Program. Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand

Ward, Roy Charles (1978). Floods: A Geographical Perspective. The Macmillan Press Ltd, London

Wenger, C.; Hussey, K. and Pittock, J. (2013). Living with floods: Key lessons from Australia and abroad. National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast

White, I. (2013). ‘The more we know, the more we know we do not know: Reflections on a decade of planning, flood risk management and false precision,’ Planning Theory & Practice, 14(1), 106-114




Living with Floods: An Adaptation Strategy – Part #1


One widely known consequence of global warming is the rise of sea level. This sea level rise increases the vulnerability of low-lying lands and coastal areas to flooding. As most urban development takes place in coastal areas and estuaries, and coupling this to ever more rapid urbanization, more and more humans will be exposed to greater risks and threats of flooding in urban areas.

Various adaptation strategies to cope with global warming induced flooding need to be carried out especially in coastal urban areas to minimize losses of property and life. While structural and non-structural measures may be undertaken by cities to prevent flooding and reduce its impacts, such measures are often beyond the financial and institutional abilities of most developing cities (Cuny, 1991). Developing cities with limited flood control infrastructure, both in quantity and quality terms, stand to suffer the most from the expected more frequent and severe flooding. One way to adapt to such eventuality that is affordable to most cities, including developing cities, is “living with floods.” The adaptation calls for people to harmoniously live side-by-side with flooding while minimizing its impacts. It is necessary because human beings appear to have been inseparable from the river and coastal area since the beginning of human civilization. Living with floods reflects a practical shift from the historic belief that flooding could be controlled through physical measures to a reality. The reality is that, flood risks arise as a consequence of the human societies’ inclination to live adjacent to water (Otago Regional Council/ Queenstown Lake District Council, 2006; Building Futures, 2007).

Since ancient times, land along the river has attracted human habitation in large part because of its fertility for agricultural purposes, its topography that is suitable for dwelling in, as well as the accessibility the river offers as the main transportation artery (Borrows, 2006; Building Futures, 2007). Therefore, it is not surprising that many cities are located close to the river or even on its floodplain (refer to Figure 1) – land alongside a body of water that is subject to periodic flooding – thus exposing human activities that take place on the floodplain to flood hazards.

Figure 1 Floodplain (Source:


Fundamentally, flooding is more a natural phenomenon than the natural disaster. Flooding becomes disastrous when it brings about harms, such as life and property losses, damages to and destruction of public infrastructure, disruptions to the socioeconomic functioning and provision of services to society. The flooding problem also brings  other negative environmental effects with immediate and long-term social, ecological and economic implications (Cuny, 1991).  It happens because human society has put itself at risk by settling down in harms’ way; carrying out agriculture, industry and economic activities. Other activities such as constructing roads, bridges and railway lines in areas susceptible to flooding (Ward, 1978). In densely populated and rapidly developing land-scarce urban areas, the magnitude of the disaster caused by flooding understandably swells as more people and development activities encroach onto floodplains. The activities also bring about the worst  impacts when there is the absence of adequate strategies at either/both the institutional or/and grassroots level to cope with floods (see DeGregorio and Huynh, 2012).

In wittingly opting to live within floods’ way, human society needs to learn to live and cope with, and get accustomed and resilient to, unpreventable flooding and shifting flood risks. It increasingly so in a world that stands to witness more intense and severe storms due to global climate change, where a single-dimensional “keep floodwater out” approach dealing with floods no longer suffice (Scott, 2013; see also White, 2013). The following sub-sections attempt to define the problem associated with “living with floods” and formulate the objectives of this study.


Floods as A Problem to Live with

Floods are complex phenomena; they are viewed differently by different people (Ward, 1978) and under different socio-spatial contexts, for instance, urban versus rural settlements (DeGregorio and Huynh, 2012). In terms of geographical scale, floods may inundate relatively vast areas, or they can be quite localized events. This study focuses on the process of humans’ adjustments in response to flood events that take place within the urban community domain, in particular at the level of individual efforts, where collective efforts to prevent urban flooding at the community level are not deemed feasible. The study mainly considers moderate flooding with low water depth and velocity (depth and velocity are two key flood parameters in designing for flood-proofing; see below).

Chow (1956) defines flood as a relatively high flow which overtaxes the natural channel. For Rostvedt (1968), a flood is any high stream flow which overtops natural and artificial banks of a stream. Ward (1978) considers flood as a body of water that rises to overflow land that is not normally submerged. One aspect that is common to all three definitions is the “overtopping” of stream banks by higher than normal stream flows, resulting in the inundation of land that is not normally submerged.

Living with floods requires adaptability of the human to the temporary watery environment and calls for physical, technological as well as cultural responses from the human in order to harmoniously adapt to the flooding phenomenon. A symbiotic-mutualism between humans and floods is required in this process, in which each complement rather than competes with the other. Technological roles in the process of living with floods will be significant since flood occurrence is almost unpredictable in the long-range. However, within a shorter range period, say within a few hours, flood can be predicted because prior to a flood event there will be a precedent event such as rainfall. Therefore, people living in areas prone to flooding must be well prepared at any point in time particularly during the flood season. In the community where living with floods is a frequent routine, flood prevention, mitigation and adaptation are critical events.


Why is It Important?

This discussion attempts to describe the conceptual idea of “living with floods” with a view to bringing it into practice. What are the appropriate adaptations to the immediate living environment towards mitigating the adverse impacts of floods? How to bring those ideas into practice for actual implementation? In line with that, the outcome of this discussion is a demonstration of ways of achieving a ‘symbiotic-mutualism’ relationship between human and nature. In this case, a smooth adaptation of the built environment to the natural phenomenon of flooding is promoted towards enabling harmonious coexistence between human living and unpreventable flooding. Solutions proposed for achieving the above objective and outcome are multi-dimensional, encompassing technology, adaptability to local conditions, degree of implementability and viability.


Analytical Framework

Human and nature are co-existential and interdependent, the relationship of which manifests in the complex interplay of various processes between, and within, human-kind and nature itself. There are two processes associated with floods. First, a stochastic process which is a statistical process involving a number of random variables depending on a variable parameter (usually time) – in this case rainfall may be considered as a time-dependent random variable. Secondly, a deterministic event, which is not random but predictable – in this case land use change and floodplain habitation may be considered as deterministic. These two events may affect flood discharge differently. If discharge is beyond the capacity of the river channel then, flood will occur. When no prevention and mitigation against flood are undertaken, the losses may be significant. Conversely, if prevention and mitigation are undertaken to a certain degree, the losses may be minimized. Further processes of the flood event, including its prevention and mitigation efforts, are schematically depicted in Figure 2, which provides an underlying framework for the discussions that follow.

Figure 2 Flood occurrence

There are on the whole two main formal approaches to minimizing losses due to flooding. They are, firstly, structural measures, where flood prevention and mitigation are mostly undertaken by means of engineering structures and secondly, non-structural measures that emphasize more regulation, governance and institutional aspects. The formal measures are generally more preventive and defensive (against flooding) in nature and have been the focus of most cities and countries in dealing with floods thus far. Despite massive investments in various formal measures, due to an increase in occurrence, severity and adverse socioeconomic impacts of flood events in many urban areas around the world, in recent years, many developing cities are beginning to refocus on community-based flood-proofing efforts. The effort focuses on managing and alleviating flood risks (Cuny, 1991; Otago Regional Council/Queenstown Lake District Council, 2006). Floodproofing activities done by the community and individuals (Sheaffer, 1960) that appear to be making a comeback are the core of this study and will be deliberately discussed in the following sections.


The Causes of Urban Flooding – Living with Floods as A Way Forward

Flooding in urban areas is mostly due to the urbanization process, where changes in land use from previously natural to built-up areas are frequent. Although urban areas occupy less than 3% of the Earth land surfaces, the effect of urbanization on flood hydrology and flood hazard is disproportionately large (Smith and Ward, 1998).

One of the most widely used equations to calculate the quantity of discharge is the rational formula. This formula, first described by Kuichling in 1889 (Smith and Ward, 1998). The formula is expressed by Q = CIA, where: Q denotes the estimated maximum flood discharge (m3/s); C, a run-off coefficient that indicates the percentage of rainfall and appears as overland flow (dimensionless); I, the rainfall intensity (mm/hr); and A, the area of the watershed within which rain water that falls will flow through a certain reference point (hectare).The run-off coefficient is dependent on the type of surfaces, for example, asphalt paving in good order will have run-off coefficient as much as 0.85 to 0.90, and this parameter indicates that 85 to 90 percent of rainfall will be transformed into overland flow that may lead to flooding. Unlike asphalt paving, parks, gardens and lawns (depending on the slope of its surface and character of sub-soil) have run-off coefficient of 0.05 to 0.25. These two conditions show that in a more urbanized area where the built-environment is dominant, the same rainfall intensity will generate much greater storm discharge compared to an area that is predominantly natural environment. That is why in the urban area where inadequate or poorly maintained drainage channels are present, flooding tends to occur more frequently.

Limited land and other resources are the most common problem in urban areas. Urban poor communities tend to suffer the most in any urban problems, including having limited choices of suitable urban land for their settlements; some of the poor communities thus end up inhabiting the floodplain that is periodically flooded. In reality, it is not only the poor communities who reside on floodplains, but also other strata of the communities. One solution to this problem is the introduction of “living with floods” as an alternative to alleviate flood risks that arise from the necessity to occupy floodplains due to land scarcity in urban areas. Living with flood requires certain acceptable condition of the floods in terms of safety for the individual and community. There are two important flood parameters that significantly affect people’s response to flood: depth (D) and velocity of flood (V). These two parameters will determine whether living with flood can be applied without compromising the safety of the community and will thus be discussed in the following sections.


Flood Water Depth-Velocity Correlation

The degree to which a flood poses hazards upon human beings hinges on two flood parameters: flood water depth and velocity. The combined effects of these parameters help suggest the most suitable solution to flooding problems in any type of situation, including one that employs flood-proofing activities.

Figure 3a and 3b Flood Impacts at Different V and D (After Tingsanchali, 1996)

Figures 3a and 3b show the impacts of flood to human activities in terms of three risk levels, namely low, medium and high risks (Tingsanchali, 1996). Based on these figures, Tingsanchali (1996) classifies three categories of flood hazards: low, medium and high hazards. Standing water depth that is below 0.8m and flood water that flows below 2.0m/s with depth below 0.3m are considered ‘low hazard’ and safe for humans. With respect to physical structures, the curve (Figure 3a) anchored by water depth of 2.0m with flow velocity of 0.5m/s and water depth of 0.5m with flow velocity of 2.0m/s sets the maximum limit beyond which damage to light structures would occur.

Before discussing the details of the “living with floods,” a little theoretical digression is necessary to briefly discuss various mainstream, conventional flood prevention efforts. These efforts are conventional in the sense that they are universally undertaken and have been proven effective to some degree. This discussion will provide a background against which the living with flood measures may be contrasted and better understood.


Concepts of Flood Prevention

Flood prevention is a general method of avoiding excessive negative impacts due to flood before it happens. It may involve structural measures such as construction of levees and reservoirs, or non-structural method such as land-use planning, floodplain management, early warning system and the likes. Both structural and non-structural measures must complement each other to minimize or, if possible, eliminate losses due to flooding. It emphasizes “losses” since the occurrence of flood cannot be completely averted. The following sub-sections briefly discuss those methods.


Structural Measures

This method is achieved by undertaking engineering construction such as improvement of channel capacity, installation of levees, floodwalls, storage dams, retention basins and the likes. The first three are aimed at confining storm water within designated channels. Meanwhile, storage dams and retention basins seek to control and regulate flood by releasing water to the downstream gradually so that river channels at the downstream reaches are capable of safely conveying the storm water without overflowing. Figure 4 below shows a schematic representation of structural measures using improvement of the channel capacity and construction of flood protection dikes. Flood channel or floodway is improved in order to be able to confine storm water adequately in such a way that do not create overflow. In order to confine storm water within designated channel section, the channel capacity should be sufficient to accommodate the storm water.

To plan and design an adequate channel capacity, the term of return period is introduced. Return period of a flood is defined as the probability of a certain quantity of discharge being equaled or exceeded once in every given period (years). All flood control facilities are designed based on certain return periods; in Thailand, for example, return periods of 25 to 50 years are predominant, while Japan applies flood return periods of 10 to 200 years (Tingsanchali, 1996).

Figure 4 Improvement of Channel Capacity

Another mean of structural flood prevention is the retention basin, or popularly known as “monkey cheek” (refer to figure 5). As the name implies, retention basin is aimed at reducing flood discharge at its downstream by diverting part of the flood discharge into the basin (Qin). The basin subsequently releases the flood water gradually into the downstream (Qout) in such a way that capacity of the river in downstream reaches should be able to accommodate the regulated discharge released from the upstream.

By those arrangements, the protected area along the river particularly in the downstream of the retention basin is prevented from being flooded. The capacity of retention basins should be adequate to accommodate flood design while considering river capacity at the downstream reach of the basin. The main objection to this system is that it needs large parcels of land. It is because, in many cases, retention basins are located on flat lands and the main purpose of the basins is to control as large a volume of flood water as possible. It becomes too luxury when only limited land resources are available in the urban area. Another limitation of the system is that it only protects areas downstream of the basin. Notwithstanding the above, the fringe benefits of retention basins are possible utilization of the water contained within the basin for the purpose of water supply and the possibilities of recreation and eco-tourism attractions.

Figure 5 Retention Basin (Monkey Cheek)

The construction of dam shares essentially the same principles with that of the retention basin in flood prevention. Nonetheless, a dam is much more complicated in planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance compared with a retention basin. Impacts of the dam are also more significant than the retention basin. However, the volume of flood water that can be controlled by a dam is significantly larger than that of a retention basin due to the greater size and height of the dam.

Structural measures are usually costly, and possible impacts on the environment and society associated with the measures are also great; in some cases it is more undesirable than other flood prevention systems. Consequently, other alternatives that are less costly and with smaller environmental impacts have been sought after.


Non-structural or Regulatory Measures

Non-structural measures can be undertaken in various ways such as land use planning, floodplain management, flood risks mapping, early warning system and flood-proofing. Non-structural measures normally require legislative backing to achieve their objectives. Non-structural measures alone will not be effective and work best when combined with other flood prevention efforts. The main advantage of non-structural measures is that they can be carried out at the community level and community participation is as such largely accommodated. The measures are briefly described below.

Land Use Planning. With respect to flood prevention, urban land use planning has two objectives, first, reducing losses due to floods by avoiding occupation on flood prone lands. Second, reducing the quantity of flood discharge by decreasing composite run-off coefficient (C) of the urban land with more natural surfaces (refer to equation Q=CIA). More recent ideas include the introduction of low impact development (LID) and “Green Streets” that require the installation of rainwater harvesting mechanisms, rain gardens, bio-retention swales, pervious paving for parking areas that all aim at reducing the urban surface runoff during storm events.

Flood Plain Management. Flood plain management aims at achieving the compatibility of human activities with flood when these activities necessarily take place on land designated as a floodplain. All designated floodplains are inventoried and assessed according to their risks due to floods; this process may employ the V-D correlation as shown in Figures 3a and 3b.

Flood Risks Mapping. Flood risk maps show the possible losses for different degrees of flooding. By assessing flood risk maps, therefore, losses may be predicted for a forecast flood event. Employment of the GIS technology has enhanced the efficacy of flood risks area delineation and prediction of flood losses. When a flood risks map is superimposed over infrastructure and socio-economic maps, possible flood damages and losses can be accurately visualized.  Without being implemented appropriately through land use planning practices, flood risk mapping itself does nothing to prevent flood loss. Legal support to bring flood risks mapping objectives into practice is required. Consistent implementation and public participation are, therefore, key elements to the success of goals achievement of flood risks mapping activities.

Flood Early Warning System. Early warning system of flood will help to minimize damages and losses. Adequate warning lead time will help to minimize the damages and losses significantly. Flood early warning system is expected to work simultaneously with other flood mitigation efforts in a coordinated manner. Warning lead time becomes highly crucial because the minimization of damages and losses depend largely on whether sufficient warning lead time has been given to potential victims to take alleviation actions. Figure 6 shows the generic correlation between the depth of flood water and gross damages and losses potentially suffered under varying warning lead time. It seems obvious that damages and losses would be significantly reduced if early warning could be issued to potential flood victims. However, huge losses were still suffered in flood events as recent as 2009 due to the absence of early warning. For instance, flood victims in Central Vietnam due to Typhoon Mirinae cited absence of official warning and the resultant lack of time to respond as the first of three main reasons for their losses (see DeGregorio and Huynh, 2012).

Figure 6 Depth and Damages for Different Warning Lead Time (Adapted from Smith and Ward, 1998)

Floodproofing. Floodproofing can be undertaken at the individual level within the community; it is an example of the best-possible adaptation of human to the natural phenomenon, and this is the essence of living with flood. Floodproofing efforts will be deliberately discussed in the following sections.


Urban Flood Prevention and Mitigation at Community Level

As briefly explained in the introduction, land resources in urban areas are limited. In many cases, flood prone areas are encroached upon and occupied for habitation and various urban functions. To totally remove human occupation from flood prone lands would not be realistic from both social and economic viewpoints. The conflict between humans living on floodplains and periodic flooding needs to be resolved through appropriate physical adaptations to the living environments. This is to accommodate the occasional intrusion of water while disruptions to people’s life are kept to a minimum.



Floodproofing is defined as any combination of techniques used to change the structure or property to reduce or eliminate flood damage. The techniques of flood-proofing include berms, flood-walls, closures or sealants, elevation or relocation and any other techniques that, in principle, offer on-site flood damage protection.


Elevated Floor

There are two methods to elevate a house’s floor, by using piles and land-filling. Land-filling is undesirable because the volume taken up by land-filling must be compensated for with additional water depth since the method just shifts flooding problems somewhere else. The piles system does not require depth compensation, since the volume replaced by this system is negligible (refer to Figure 7). Access to the home is achieved by constructing a ramp from the nearest ground surface which has a higher elevation than the expected flood level.

Figure 7 Elevated Floor by Piling System (Adapted from Dozier and Yancey, 1993)

Figure 8 Elevated Floor by Landfilling (Adapted from Dozier and Yancey, 1993)

Figure 9 Individual Flood Barriers (Adapted from Dozier and Yancey, 1993)

Flood barriers can be constructed from concrete floodwall or soil dikes encircling the property. Access to home can be made by using sealed and waterproof gates at the barrier. However, during floods, the opening gate should be properly closed and sealed. The disadvantage of this method is similar to the landfilling system, since it displaces some amount of flood water volume and shifts it somewhere else. If the system is widely used by individuals the flooding problems just shift to other adjacent locations, and it perhaps becomes economically more efficient to utilize the ring-bund system that is a dike encircling the community as a whole as shown in Figure 10.

If the initiative of ring-bund construction and most of the development costs comes from the community itself, the effort can still be categorized as flood-proofing at the community level. However, if the construction covers the community at large and the local authority bears the development costs, the effort is then considered part of the structural measures, which will be a costly initiative.

Figure 10 Ring-Bund Encircling the Community

If depth of flood water is less than 30 cm with a maximum flow velocity of 0.5 m/s, the individual homes can do flood-proofing efforts by using water-proof or high impermeability, elevated concrete foundations such as shown in Figure 11. Flood flow of less than 0.5 m/s is considered as non-erodible overland flow.

With flood water depth of less than 30 cm and foundation made from water-proof material, structurally to the house, the duration of flood does not become a problem as long as the house-owner’s activities are not adversely affected by the situation. If the expected depth of flood is higher but still acceptable in terms of safety, a floating platform can be considered for the part of the house, e.g. a garage or kitchen, or even the entire house (a floating home) if the size of the house is relatively small. It will be further discussed in the following sub-section.

Figure 11 Home with Water-proof Foundation

Floating Platform (Garage, Kitchen, Pathway)

According to Archimedes’ law, a body submerged in a fluid experiences a buoyant force equal to the weight of the displaced fluid. If this law is applied to the flood-proofing system, for the purpose of a floating platform to lift a garage, if the total weight of the garage is 4.0 tons, therefore, the volume of the floating apparatus must be at least 4.0 m3. Considering the cost element, the maximum lifting capacity of the platform must be minimized. With a minimum capacity of the platform and minimum size of the floating apparatus, the only appropriate utilization is perhaps for the garage or kitchen. These floating premises (refer to Figure 12) will work appropriately at relatively deep flood water but with quite slow velocity, it is desirable if the velocity of flood flow is zero during flood occurrence. Anchored platform is required in order to avoid movement due to flood flow; in this case the platform is anchored at least at four points with guard-rail to four firm walls or piles, to allow vertical movements of the platform following rising and falling floodwaters.

This idea follows from the condition that there are no feasible alternatives to avoid flood events; living with floods, therefore, becomes necessary. Flood water contains latent energy to be utilized; the buoyancy force of flood water is utilized in this particular matter to minimize property loss and disruption due to flood. This method does not require high technology to be implemented, an appropriate level of technology that is easily available in the locality will work. However experimental work to proof the effectiveness of the system must be undertaken prior to implementation, since this idea is perhaps introduced for the first time.

Figure 12 Floating Platform for Garage

Continued in Part #2




Contemporary Issues in Urban Transport and Urban Planning in Developing Countries


Urban planning can be defined as making rational decisions on resource allocation and development in the city and bringing order in its physical environment. This definition implies that any development plan within the urban domain must bring in order in the city environment; otherwise urban development would not well organize as envisioned in the goals of urban planning. Urban planning would comprise of many components such as land use planning that gives the fundamental condition in resource allocation; urban design that provides appropriate facilities for all purposes of the citizen; urban transport that facilitates physical mobility of the citizen; and urban environmental management. Although these components are not part of the urban planning, but it must go hand-in-hand with urban planning since the components maintain the good quality of urban environment.

This brief discussion looks on the contemporary issues in urban planning, with urban transport as central idea. The discussion highlights the association between urban transport and urban planning; current World Bank policies on urban transport; and discussion on newly developed public transport system in Jakarta i.e. “Busway” that replicates similar system from Bogota (Colombia) and Curitiba (Brazil).


Urban Transport as a Component of Urban Planning

Urban planning is undergoing in an urban realm –or in more focus and specific– a city. City as an environment domain would consist of human, natural and built-environment; these three components interrelate with each other and shape the dynamic of the city. This dynamism involves the physical mobility. With the presence of people’s mobility the needs of transportation then begins. This argument confirms that urban transport could not be separated in urban planning. Urban transport is one of the core components of the urban planning, as discussed in the introduction. This situation is unarguably strong as long as physical mobility and limited physical ability of human being exist in urban domain.

Urban planning envisions of ‘bringing in order’. This process in fact, is undertaken by zoning system of the urban land use planning. On one hand, zoning system designates the location where a land use category must be appropriately located. This means where residential area is, or where commercial area is. On the other hand, origin-destination e.g. journey-for-work dictates physical mobility. It implies that there is a correlation between land use and physical mobility. Recalling the process of ‘bring in order’ in the physical environment as envisioned by urban planning, the urban transport must therefore be fully integrated with urban land use planning. This full association will be fundamental toward sustainable urban transport system (Newman and Kenworthy, 1996; Atash, 1996; Rabinovitch, 1996; Smith and Raemaker, 1998).


World Bank Policies and Strategies on Urban Transport

World Bank as a world’s prominent leading agency delineates the policies on urban transport as stated in its mission of the Urban Transport that is to improve access and reliable/affordable transport service in urban areas through:

  • metropolitan planning/coordination;
  • integration of land-use and transport planning and environmental objectives;
  • shifting the paradigm re the role of public and private sectors, and
  • appropriate financial reform to assure sustainability as well as adequate and affordable service to the poor


The World Bank policies explicitly state the needs of integration urban transport into urban planning i.e. metropolitan planning/coordination, and that the integration of land-use and transport planning as well as environmental objectives is indispensable. This message signifies that urban planning-transport planning-urban environmental management must go in parallel and complementing one another.

The World Bank policies on urban transport targeted three prominent stakeholders. They are government or public sector, private sector, and community, particularly poor communities. For private sectors and poor communities, World Bank particularly delineates the following strategies:

  • Charging for road infrastructures. This strategy aims seemly at two prong objectives; first achieving development and maintenance costs sustainability; second reducing road uses and hence would reduce the road damage, traffic congestion and improve air quality.
  • Pricing of the public transport. This strategy aims at achieving the optimal environment for public transport users and operators; the price could be based on operational cost recovery and later could be improved up to full cost recovery; some subsidies might be imposed to the operators for non-commercial purposes.
  • Urban transport financing. This strategy aims at administering of appropriate financial resources, for example, pool urban transport financial resources must be administered by a strategic transport authority; and private financing must be based on competitive tendering of concession.
  • Transport need for poor people and poor areas should be recognized explicitly. This strategy aims at prioritizing the poor in the transport planning; therefore cross-subsidy might be appropriate.

World Bank does not explicitly point out the strategies related to planning coordination, integration land use and transport planning and environment objectives. However, it is basically included into Bank’s concerned in managing air quality and traffic system.


Provision of Appropriate Urban Public Transport System: a Busway System, Public Transport in Jakarta

Jakarta has been growing as mega-city with number of population counts more than 10 million with the area of about 660 km2, Jakarta is being core of greater mega-cities Jabodetabek (Jakarta-Bogor-Depok-Tangerang-Bekasi). It is believed that during daytime the population of Jakarta increases up to 12 million, therefore about 2 million people are commuted during workdays from the peripheral cities i.e. Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi, by using various types of transport modes such as private cars, public bus, commuter train, and motorcycles. With two millions commuters plus many more of millions of Jakarta’s residences themselves, makes traffic management fails to provide proper services to the road users.

World Bank’s report reveals that air pollution in Jakarta was alarming; suspended particulate matters is above WHO standard, while CO, NO and lead are approaching maximum allowable WHO standards. This is precaution warning for healthy life in Jakarta without any strategic actions taken by the government.

Per capita road length in Jakarta is about 0.5 km, with length of the road of 5,000 km and number of private cars is about 1.49 millions, 346,000 buses, 495,000 trucks and 2.62 millions motorcycles; they make longer than existing road length, this indicates that the road could not well accommodate the traffic. Improper and unsafe urban public transport system encourages the middle to upper income people to have their own private cars; it was about 180,000 new private cars were operating annually in the roads of Jakarta. One effort to reduce the increase of private cars are improving public transport system. One study team has been dispatched to Bogota, Colombia and Curitiba, Brazil; the team recommends the development of ‘busway’ system as successfully served Bogota and Curitiba.

With the total cost of about USD 15,000,000 provided by local government budget, on the 11 March 2004, Governor of Jakarta has launched the operation of ‘busway’ as claimed to be comfort, safe and anti-traffic jam public transport system, since it employs good quality bus drivers, fully automated air-conditioned buses, comfort with air-conditioned capsules, no annoying buskers, and separate lanes from others not even the president can use this lane. Later it was facilitated with bus feeder to connect into transit points. There are currently thirteen Busway route corridors lane connected most parts of Jakarta from North to South and from East to West. The total corridor length is about 230 km with current ridership about 500,000 passengers per day. The operation is managed by PT Trans Jakarta and other partners.



From the above discussion, it can be concluded as the followings:

  • Urban transport is a core component of urban planning, since this component caters the need of physical mobility in the urban realm that must be addressed by urban planning;
  • It is basically understood that current policies on the urban transport of World Bank as a world’s leading agency are targeted into three prominent stakeholders, those are, government or public sectors, private sectors, and communities;
  • Attempt has been made by local government of Jakarta to accommodate the needs of public transport, by providing comfortable busway system; the main goals are to reduce the use of inefficient private cars, reduce traffic jams, and improve air quality in the city.



Atash, Farhad (1996), ‘Reorienting Metropolitan Land Use and Transportation Policies in the USA, Land Use Policy, 13(1):37-49.

Newman, P.G and J.R. Kenworthy (1996), ‘The Land Use-Transport Connection’, Land Use Policy, 13(1):1-22.

Rabinovitch, Jonas (1996).  ‘Innovative Land Use and Public Transport Policy’, Land Use Policy, 13(1):51-67.

Smith, H. and J. Raemakers (1998). ‘Land Use Pattern and Transport in Curitiba’, Land Use Policy, 13(1):233-251.

World Bank (2004).            ‘The World Bank’s Urban Transport Strategy Review 2001’,, downloaded at April 12,2004.