Settlement planning for natural hazard resilience in small island states: the population and development consolidation approach

Shaig, Ahmed (2008) Settlement planning for natural hazard resilience in small island states: the population and development consolidation approach. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Small island states, particularly the low-lying archipelagic small island states, are faced with a planning predicament: how to efficiently provide basic public services and socioeconomic development in sparsely populated settlements, while having to cope with the high per capita cost of development, limited economic capacity and transport challenges. Moreover, natural disasters and climate change risks, especially the predicted sea level rise, has introduced a new dimension to the exiting challenges.

This thesis explores a potential solution to this predicament: the 'population and development consolidation approach' to settlement planning. The concept behind the approach is to rationalise and concentrate public resource allocation into selected large settlements, in order to make allocations economically viable and more efficient. At the same time, migration from smaller settlements to larger settlements are encouraged and facilitated, so that economies of scale could be achieved for future development. This approach was first proposed, within regional science literature, as a planning option for reducing regional economic disparities within or between regions. It has since been adopted in numerous planning applications such as rationalising service delivery, agricultural land consolidation and small town development. It was first proposed for a small island state, the Maldives, as a measure to reduce diseconomies of scale in public service delivery. However, this approach may have the potential to extend beyond its current conception, and contribute to a more comprehensive model for small island state planning; a model which integrates development and, climate hazard adaptation and mitigation.

The fundamental research issues addressed in this thesis are to establish: i) whether the population and development consolidation (PDC) approach to settlement planning, as proposed in the Maldives, could be extended to include a natural hazard resilience and climate change adaptation dimension, and; ii) whether it could be a viable and practical approach to planning in small island states. These research issues are explored, first, by establishing the concept of population and development consolidation, as proposed in the Maldives, within the theoretical works of regional science. It then proposes a multidisciplinary methodological framework to assess the viability and practicality of the strategy in an archipelagic small island state setting. Finally, using the proposed framework, it undertakes a case study of the Maldives – a low-lying archipelagic state, widely accepted as vulnerable to natural hazard and climate change risks.

The methodological framework is modelled on a policy analysis approach. There are three components in the framework: i) identification of resilient and vulnerable settlements; ii) economic viability assessment and; iii) social change assessment. First, resilient and vulnerable settlements are assessed using a vulnerability index, based on the relationships between natural hazard risks and geophysical characteristics. The resulting 'ranked list of islands' is used as an input for the rest of the study. Economic viability is assessed using a benefit-cost analysis method, and social change is assessed using a social impact assessment method.

The overall results show that the population and development consolidation approach could be extended to integrate the dual rationales of reducing the cost of basic service delivery and, reducing the natural hazard and climate vulnerability in a small island state. However, the case study suggests that a PDC policy is only marginally financially viable in the Maldives, within the proposed policy parameters. The policy was found likely to face significant practical challenges in its implementation, particularly due to the magnitude and rate of social changes, short-term financing requirements, administrative limitations and uncertainties in climate and geophysical sciences. Thus, the various conditions which could make a PDC policy viable and practical in the Maldives are explored.

In theoretical terms, this thesis seeks to contribute to the advancement of the 'polarized development paradigm', by: i) extending it to include a physical vulnerability dimension and; ii) by explicitly testing a planning application based on the paradigm in a small island state setting. Finally, in methodological terms, this thesis presents a potentially replicable framework for evaluating the viability and practicality of a PDC policy in other small island states.

Item ID: 29232
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: settlement planning framework; public resource allocation; economies of scale; Maldives; natural hazard resilience; economic viability assessment; social change assessment
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2013 23:11
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040699 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience not elsewhere classified @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169999 Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 50%
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