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Susann Baez Ullberg

Flooding has long been a recurrent problem in the Argentinian city of Santa Fe, mainly affecting the poverty-stricken suburban outskirts. In 2003 one of the worst floods ever occurred, which also affected residents in the middle income sectors who had never been flooded before and who reacted with an extraordinary process of commemoration and protest against the government for its lax disaster management. Paradoxically, most other past disastrous floods in the city’s history seem to dwell in the shadows of social oblivion. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the years 2004–2011, this article analyzes how local flood memories are made through daily life practices and places in the suburban outskirts, more than through public commemorations, which has implications for vulnerability and risk.

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“That’s Where I First Saw the Water”

Mobilizing Children’s Voices in UK Flood Risk Management

Alison Lloyd Williams, Amanda Bingley, Marion Walker, Maggie Mort and Virginia Howells

This article reports on a project, led jointly by Lancaster University and Save the Children UK, that used mobile, creative, and performance-based methods to understand children’s experiences and perceptions of the 2013–2014 UK winter floods and to promote their voices in flood risk management. We argue that our action-based methodology situated the children as “flood actors” by focusing on their sensory experience of the floods and thus their embodied knowledge and expertise. The research activities of walking, talking, and taking photographs around the flooded landscape, as well as model making and the use of theater and performance, helped to “mobilize” the children not only to recall what they did during the floods but also to identify and communicate to policy makers and practitioners how we can all do things differently before, during, and after flooding.

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Kah Seng Loh and Michael D. Pante

A history of urban floods underlines the state's efforts to discipline people as well as to control floodwaters. We focus on two big cities in Southeast Asia—Singapore and Metro Manila—in the period from after World War II until the 1980s. During this period, both cities traversed similar paths of demographic and socioeconomic change that had an adverse impact on the incidence of flooding. Official responses to floods in Singapore and Manila, too, shared the common pursuit of two objectives. The first was to tame nature by reducing the risk of flooding through drainage and other technical measures, as implemented by a modern bureaucracy. The second was to discipline human nature by eradicating “bad” attitudes and habits deemed to contribute to flooding, while nurturing behavior considered civic-minded and socially responsible. While Singapore's technocratic responses were more effective overall than those in Metro Manila, the return of floodwaters to Orchard Road in recent years has highlighted the shortcomings of high modernist responses to environmental hazards. This article argues that in controlling floods—that is, when nature is deemed hazardous—the state needs to accommodate sources of authority and expertise other than its own.

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Anna Scolobig, Luigi Pellizzoni and Chiara Bianchizza

There is an increasing demand for improvement of the quality of decisions about flood risk mitigation by fostering public participation in decision-making. However, the extent and way in which formalized participation guarantees good outcomes is still a matter of discussion. This article analyzes different approaches to decision-making for flood risk mitigation by comparing two experiences in the Italian Alps. In Vipiteno-Sterzing, decisions were made by involving citizens in a structured participatory process. In Malborghetto-Valbruna, a formally technocratic (yet substantially inclusive) approach was adopted after the flood that affected the municipality in 2003. Our results critically review the perspective that structured participation is always something "good." In this regard, the way relevant trade-offs between public and private goods were acknowledged and dealt with turned out to be crucial. At the same time, effective participation is closely related to citizens' actual engagement, institutional responsiveness to residents' needs and expectations, and the capacity to harmonize different views and types of knowledge in the development of risk mitigation options. Policy context, choice of approach and quality of outcomes appear as "nested" issues. Further research is needed in order to assess different experiences of decision-making and to set robust conditions for better outcomes in public participation.

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Jeroen Warner

The article sketches the history of the Flood Action Plan 20 (FAP-20), an experiment with polder compartmentalization, seeking to integrate flood management, drainage, and irrigation, and make it more democratic in response to the destructive 1987 and 1988 floods in Bangladesh. As a transferred technology the project took too little cognizance of local physical, social, institutional, and economic context and practices to be able to work successfully. The project did bring previously unavailable amenities to the region that served as a shelter area in the floods of 1998.

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Anna Wesselink and Jeroen Warner

The aim of this special volume is to critically examine the various ways in which floods and flood management are framed in current policies, especially the “space for rivers” policies that have been adopted in many countries of Western Europe. The articles in this volume discuss different aspects of this framing, while employing different theoretical frames. Of these, Spiral Dynamics stands out as the most intriguing and least known. The papers thereby potentially contribute to reframing policy contents and/or procedures: either because they show alternative policy contents and/or because they show different ways of looking at policy making. This introductory article provides an overview of what framing means in a policy-making context, thereby highlighting the politics of engaging in (re)framing.

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Jos Spits, Barrie Needham, Toine Smits and Twan Brinkhof

Many historical cities are built alongside rivers. Floodplains were attractive sites for urban expansion. However, the flood events since the 1990's have shown that many urban settlements are under flood risk. This research investigates how flood management and land use planning policies have changed after high water and (near)floods in the Netherlands, Germany, and France. In particular, it investigates how changing policies affect the development of urban riverfronts. Policy documents have been analyzed from all three countries and case studies illustrate the impact of changing policies on concrete developments.

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Thomas Hartmann

Why are recent attempts to give space to the rivers so unsuccessful? Floodplain management is a complex social process with many stakeholders, who pursue different rationalities before, during, and after floods. The resulting patterns of activities of the stakeholders have led to a technological lock-in. This article uses Cultural Theory to analyze the stakeholders' different framing of floodplain management. The concept of Large Areas for Temporary Emergency Retention (LATER) is then introduced as a way to create space for the rivers. Its implementation can be facilitated if the different rationalities, framing the patterns of activity in the floodplains are taken into account. Therefore, based on interviews with landowners, water managers, land use planners, and policymakers the rationalities are uncovered and different proposals for land policies are presented. The result is a land policy based on an obligatory insurance against natural hazards.

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Niki Frantzeskaki, Jill Slinger, Heleen Vreugdenhil and Els van Daalen

This article presents the reframing of flood management practices in the light of social-ecological systems governance. It presents an exploratory theoretical analysis of social-ecological systems (SES) governance complemented by insights from case study analysis. It identifies a mismatch between the goals of the underlying ecosystem paradigms and their manifestation in management practice. The Polder Altenheim case study is an illustration of the consequences of flood management practices that do not match their underlying paradigm. The article recommends two institutional arrangements that will allow institutions to increase their capacity to co-evolve with SES dynamics: (a) institutional arrangements to ensure and enable openness in actor participation, and (b) institutional arrangements to enable updating of the management practices in response to SES dynamics.

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Anna J. Wesselink, Wiebe E. Bijker, Huib J. de Vriend and Maarten S. Krol

This article shows how Dutch technological culture has historically dealt with and developed around vulnerability with respect to flooding and indicates recent developments in attitude towards the flood threat. The flooding of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina temporarily made the Dutch public worry about the flood defense infrastructure in the Netherlands, exemplified by the Delta Works. Could this happen in the Netherlands? After the flooding disaster of 1953, a system of large dams was built to offer safety from flooding with—in theory at least—protection levels that are much higher than in New Orleans. In the public's perception the protection offered is absolute. In practice not all flood defense structures are as secure as they are supposed to be, but their upgrading takes time and money. Katrina has served as a reminder of what is at stake: Can the Dutch afford to take another 10 years to restore the protection level of their flood defenses? Calls for pride in clever engineering are the latest in a continuing debate on the best way to continue life below sea level.