Profile of Mr Heri Sutanta Universitas Gadjah Mada

Heri Sutanta

General research interests

Spatial data infrastructure, spatial governance, disaster risk reduction, geospatial information science, spatial planning

PhD/Postdoctoral Research Title

Spatial Planning Support System for an Integrated Approach to Disaster Risk Reduction

PhD Abstract

Natural disasters are increasingly threatening human lives, infrastructure, and economic and social activities. Although most of the losses and casualties result from rapid onset disasters, the effects of slow onset disasters cannot be neglected. Little attention is paid to slow onset disasters, as their effects are not immediately evident. Nonetheless, their economic impacts are high and might hinder development and sustainability in many highly developed and densely populated cities. With the global climate change, particular attention should be paid to coastal cities. Global sea level rise, combined with locally borne hazards, have threatened many lowland areas in coastal cities.
Coastal cities are economically and socio-politically important, with more than half of the worlds’ largest cities located in the area. Environmentally, the areas are sensitive to sea- and land-based activities, and are vulnerable to many types of natural, human-made and human-enhanced hazards. In light of this situation, protecting coastal cities from current and future natural hazards is an urgent matter. Specifically, it is important and less expensive to reduce the potential risks of disasters before they materialise.
Disaster risk reduction is an activity that involves multiple disciplines, perspectives and actors. Therefore, it requires an integrated approach that brings together all elements. It also requires cooperation between government agencies at different levels of hierarchy and jurisdiction.
Time is an important element in natural disaster risk reduction, where there are short- and long-term activities. Without discounting the benefits of short-term activities, long-term benefits will be higher, although not immediately evident. Long-term efforts rely on the reduction of exposure of elements at risk to multiple types of hazards, as well as measures to increase the coping capacity of the community and government to withstand disaster impacts. Long-term efforts should be served well by managing long-term relationships between people and infrastructure on one side, and natural hazards on the other. Spatial planning, with its function to regulate the long-term utilisation of land, is potentially very useful in minimising the exposure of people, socio-economic activities and infrastructures to natural hazards. It is important to both rapid and slow onset disasters, but is particularly relevant for slow occurrence natural hazards or predictable hazards such as sea level rise and land subsidence.
This thesis asserts that the development of spatial planning would be better if facilitated by a planning support system (PSS), which functions to help planners and decision makers envision the future by simulating the developmental likelihood using a set of parameters and scenarios. The process will result in a prediction of where and when a particular development will occur. At the same time, the potential progression of natural hazards is also modelled. This information is essential for evaluating whether the initial spatial plan has met disaster-resiliency measures. Any possible collisions between the predicted progression of natural hazards and planned development would be avoided in advance.
The model has been developed based on the acceptable risk concept. All land use designations have different levels of risk, vulnerability and coping capacities, which should be taken into account when developing a spatial plan. Determining the acceptable risk level should be a result of public consultation; however, the government, which has better knowledge and resources, should lead the process. Considering the physical and psychological distance between people and the government, the process is best conducted at the local level. Local governments need guidance and directives from the relevant central government agencies, as they have limited resources, funding and capacity.
This study presents the methods and requirements to predict the potential effects of future natural disasters. The research differentiates between slow and rapid onset disasters, and focuses on slow onset disasters. The findings revealed that neglecting the possibility of disaster progression would result in a high economic cost in the future. The economic cost will likely be unaffordable for less affluent people, who are forced to live in marginal lands that are highly vulnerable to a number of disasters. To overcome limitations in the available space, cooperation with neighbouring jurisdictions is required to transfer activities from disaster-prone to disaster-free areas.
A PSS is essential for delivering the method, and particularly for obtaining the information on where and when the projected development will be realised. Spatial data infrastructure (SDI) is required to facilitate data discovery and exchange among local and national government agencies working on the topic. However, the use of a PSS has been limited in local government agencies. In the event that a PSS is to be introduced, it needs to be low cost, have high compatibility with existing GIS software and have a shallow learning curve.
Many recent statistics from national and international agencies reveal an increasing number of natural disasters, along with greater numbers of people affected and higher economic losses. Advanced preparations will benefit both the government and the people, leading to sustainable development. This research fills the gap in linking risk mapping and disaster risk reduction.