Mercy Corps Indonesia is working closely with stakeholders in Pekalongan to develop integrated urban water resource management that delivers flood resilience in a changing climate. We shared our experiences during an Asia Pacific Climate Week event which this blog is based on.
Climate change is an urgent challenge for Asian cities
More and more people live in cities, many in informal settings where disaster risk and appropriate land use is not sufficiently understood. Meanwhile climate change is impacting life in cities. Climate related hazards like extreme heat, droughts, and floods are already common, and likely to get worse. The risks from climate change are no longer future, or long term concerns, but are affecting many of us now.
Cities across the Asia Pacific region need to change existing policy and practice, or develop new ones to cope with a changing climate and increasing disaster risk.
Water resource management challenges in Indonesia
One such city is Pekalongan, an Indonesian city home to 300,000 people. In order to understand the risks facing Pekalongan, and identify solutions, Mercy Corps Indonesia partnered with local and regional government and research institutes to carry out a climate risk and impact assessment.
The increase in frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall, along with sea level rise, is leading to more flooding. Land subsidence, caused by excessive ground water extraction, is further exacerbating the severity of floods. Most of Pekalongan City is expected to be inundated by 2035.
Our session at Asia Pacific Climate Summit with the Pekalongan City government, National Development Planning Agency of Indonesia, and Bogor Agricultural University highlighted the main challenges Pekalongan is facing.
Anita Heru Kusumorini, Head of the Local Development Planning Agency in Pekalongan City, spoke on the importance of considering climate risks in development plans.
“[the city] cannot think about development without thinking about climate risk and impacts – some areas of Pekalongan already experience tidal flooding everyday”.Anita Heru Kusumorini, Head of the Local Development Planning Agency in Pekalongan City
She explained that communities have had to transform their livelihoods from agriculture to aquaculture because of permanent inundation. If further flooding continues, many people do not have alternative income options. Batik production, Indonesia’s traditional textile and a key economic sector in Pekalongan, may be lost.
“Climate impacts are local” – the need for local data to inform policy decisions
Our study also highlighted the importance of evidence to inform policies. Cities are required to make difficult choices on where to allocate their limited resources . In Pekalongan where the risks of floods and other natural hazards are increasing action is urgent.
Decision makers need reliable and accessible information to design policies that work, today and in the future. Emod Utomo, the Head of Secretariat of the National Climate Resilience Policy in the Government of Indonesia, highlighted the importance of data to identify priority areas and sectors to focus limited resources.
Akhmad Faqih, a climatologist at Bogor Agricultural University, reminded us that:
“although climate change is a global phenomenon, impacts are local. Coordination between academia and city governments to collect local data on climate risks and impacts is critical to informing policy decisions.”Akhmad Faqih, Bogor Agricultural University
Climate resilience requires collaborative and inclusive trans-boundary water resource management
Cities are not self-sufficient but often rely on natural resources outside their borders. In Pekalongan, watersheds that supply the city run through two different administrative areas. Since nature has little respect for human made borders, activities in one part of the watershed will have impacts in others. This means trans-boundary water resource management is vital for effective disaster risk reduction.
The session at Asia Pacific Climate Week closed with recommendations from the panellists on the need for collaboration across administrative boundaries, tiers of government, and sectors, for coastal cities globally to fight the climate crisis.
In the case of Pekalongan, a shared understanding which recognized flooding as not only a disaster management issue. But also closely connected with climate change and urban water resource management , was essential for diverse stakeholders to tackle the problem. Through a multi-sector approach, solutions are currently being devised. This includes zoning regulations, water resource conservation, and flood management infrastructure development.
Strengthening the institutional capacity of communities and local governments must always be a key component of solutions for sustainable development.