Rethinking Flood Risk Management
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ABSTRACT Damages due to flooding have increased significantly in recent years and are predicted to rise globally despite many attempts by governments to mitigate flooding. Since 2015, global efforts to reduce the risk of flooding and to promote adaptation have gained momentum. These efforts include the development of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Despite the increase in global attention, there is evidence that the unpredictable impacts of climate change, combined with changes in social and economic trends, are not being adequately addressed in flood risk management strategies around the globe (FRM). A key concern is the roles played by natural or human-induced factors that directly or indirectly cause a change in the risk of flooding or the ways in which flooding is managed or governed. These are referred to as “drivers of change”. While the challenges and impacts of drivers of change on FRM are widely recognized by researchers and policymakers, very few studies have explored the impact of drivers of change on FRM at the global and local levels. Therefore, it is beneficial to study FRM systems in different social, economic, and environmental contexts to identify a global and local range of drivers of change, their impacts on FRM, and their implication for governance. Examining drivers of change and studying their potential impact on flood management sheds light on pathways to change flood management approaches and to connect with broader social ecological systems to adjust to, cope with, or benefit from the impact of drivers of change. The overall purpose of this research is to identify and assess drivers of change and their influence on flood management. Four research objectives follow from this overall purpose: (1) build a conceptual framework that recognizes and accounts for impacts of drivers of change on flood management using insights from the Social-Ecological Systems (SES) Framework, institutional design and analysis, flood management, and broader water governance literature; (2) apply the conceptual framework to detect drivers of change and to understand the ways in which flood management and water governance literature have identified and addressed the influence of drivers of change on flood management; (3) use this framework empirically to examine flood management approaches concerning the influence of drivers of change in Ontario and the City of Toronto; and (4) identify ways in which institutional arrangements for flood management can be changed to reduce and manage the risk of flooding by accounting for drivers of change. This dissertation used a mixed-method design that combined a systematic review of FRM literature with case study research in the City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A systematic review of peer-reviewed papers (n=170) was conducted to identify the most common and noted drivers of change. Using the systematic review, I explored FRM literature capacity to recognize or acknowledge the impact of drivers of change (Chapter Two). Case study research focused on the FRM systems in the City of Toronto, which is nested in the Ontario FRM system (Chapter Three and Four). In total twenty-eight key informant interviews were conducted. All participants had a managerial role in their organization and were purposefully recruited based upon their knowledge of FRM in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and/or their involvement with the selected FRM systems. Personal observation and analysis of more than 230 documents provided additional data used in the analysis. Documents included statutes, case law, and reports from government agencies, the insurance industry, and other actors. The collected data described, explained, and exemplified the scientific, engineering, policy, management, and governance approaches in FRM systems in the City of Toronto and Port Lands Flood Protection Project. The empirical findings reveal that the most noted drivers are usually portrayed as global challenges outside the scope of FRM or governance, despite having a noticeable impact on the flood hazard and vulnerability at a local level. Defining and categorizing drivers of change facilitates identifying direct and indirect drivers that exist in different levels and scales (temporal and spatial). Identifying drivers of change is a necessary first step to rethink FRM approaches. This analysis also concluded that awareness of drivers of change and their impacts on FRM is increasing among people involved. The result from the systematic review reveals that drivers of change are emerging in five key categories: Environment (ENV), Policy (POL), Technology (TEC), Economy (ECO), and Social (SOC). The systematic review analysis also highlighted a gap in defining and categorizing drivers of change or weighing their impact on flood risk and vulnerability. To address this gap, I developed a conceptual framework that situates the select FRM system in the broader social-ecological systems and accounts for the pre-existing conditions in the system. The conceptual framework, as a major contribution of this research, presents a new approach to identify the impacts of drivers of change on flood risk management using insight from the modified CIS (Combined Institutional Analysis Development and Social-Ecological Systems and a diagnostic approach. The conceptual framework follows a four-step analysis and supports high-level and in-depth research in the case study approach. In the four-step analysis, the first step is to define the action situation as clearly as possible. The second step, “spiralling inwards,” determines if a FRM perspective is appropriate. The third step critically reflects on the boundaries of the current action situation to facilitate the analysis' final step, which focuses on identifying opportunities to improve governance by accounting for drivers of change in the selected action situation. Together, the last two steps promote inquiry into interactions “external” to the selected action situation; they involve, which involves “spiralling outwards” to explore broader interactions and their impact on current FRM contextual factors. Using the four-step analysis, I explored the impacts of drivers of change on institutional arrangements to highlight opportunities and weaknesses in the selected action situation. The case study research results highlight thirteen drivers of change relevant to FRM in the City of Toronto and five main drivers of change in the Port Lands Flood Protection Project. Further, this dissertation emphasizes a need for strengthening nested polycentric governance in FRM by engaging all levels of government. Further, examining drivers of change in the Port Lands Flood Protection Project provides a lens into the characteristics of an innovative institutional design that can adjust to, cope with, or benefit from the impacts of drivers of change. This innovative institutional design has enhanced collaboration among public and private actors while providing a strong business agenda to ensure the continuity of the projects and the plans. Finally, this dissertation makes scholarly and practical contributions. Scholarly contributions complement literatures on water and environmental governance, flood risk management, institutional analysis, and flexibility literature. Practical and policy contributions address the impacts of drivers of change on FRM in Ontario and the City of Toronto and build the case for more flexible institutional arrangements.
Cite this version of the work
Parastoo Emami (2022). Rethinking Flood Risk Management. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18054