Governing community relocation after major disasters: An analysis of three different approaches and its outcomes in Asia

Over the past decade, post-disaster recovery efforts have increasingly aimed to relocate communities, with the idea that well-designed plans and implementation will lead to increased resilience. While the rationale has been that relocating away from hazards will reduce the risk of future devastation, in practice relocation has long been the least favored policy option. Communities targeted for relocation are often disadvantaged to begin with, and relocation disturbs their social networks and economic well-being, pushing them further into destitution. In light of this, it is important to understand good relocation governance, particularly ways in which local governments carry out relocation with local actors, and especially considering increasing rates of post-disaster relocation efforts.

This paper focuses on three recovery cases – earthquake and tsunamis in Tohoku (Japan), storm surge in Leyte (the Philippines), and volcanic eruption in Yogyakarta (Indonesia) – to examine different governmental approaches to community relocation. Specifically, it explores how program design and governance structure impacts implementation and success of community relocation, and how that effects community engagement and the ultimate outcomes of relocation in a long-term.

Cross-comparison analysis of governance suggests six findings. First, housing programs that existed pre-disaster are the most likely mechanisms to be used for community relocation post-disaster, as it is difficult to quickly reconfigure relocation programs. Second, governance structure and stability greatly influence the relocation process, which in turn affects social networks and sentiments of those relocating. Third, the way in which incentives are allocated affect the responsibility of recipients toward relocation actions. Fourth, governments' monitoring of community relocation could influence projects' speed, but not the quality of resettlement outcomes. Fifth, the way governments and communities approach relocation are largely a result of their local culture, thus, considering and adapting the local philosophy increases community buy-in. Lastly, actively involving communities in relocation governance is important for their continued investment in the new sites. In sum, a revised model of governance supporting holistic “life rebuilding”, rather than solely “rehousing”, in the societal system is critical, and stresses the importance of governance structured to center communities within the decision-making process

Research Interest
Reserach Authors
Iuchi, Kanako
Mutter, John