Institutional dimension of flood risk: Understanding institutional complexity in Flood Risk Management for the case of St Maarten

As extreme weather events increase both in frequency and magnitude (IPCC, 2012, 2014), and considering that over 60% of the world population lives in coastal areas (UNEP, 2016) flood risk is increasing. Hereby, the need to address Flood Risk Management (FRM) becomes evident. Especially on small island the need for adequate FRM is apparent: “relative to other areas, small islands are disproportionately affected by current hydro-meteorological extreme events, both in terms of the population affected and losses as a percentage of GDP” (Anthoff et al., 2010). In the young research field of socio-hydrology, the dynamic interactions between human systems and water systems are studied more integrated (Sivapalan et al., 2012). Socio-hydrology aims to gain a better understanding of the entanglement of human and flood systems in general. The institutional dimension has been studied with relatively little detail within socio-hydrology and Integrated Water Resource Management (Baldassarre et al., 2014; Brown and Damery, 2002; Gober & Weather, 2014; Manuta and Label, 2005; Naess et al., 2005). Therefore, this research focuses on the institutional dimension of FRM, on the rules, norms, and shared strategies that guide decision making behaviour in flood risk response, recovery, mitigation and preparation. Institutional statements are defined as “shared linguistic constraint or opportunity that prescribes, permits, or advises actions or outcomes for actors ... [they] are spoken, written, or tacitly understood in a form intelligible to actors in an empirical setting” (Crawford & Ostrom, 1995). The main research question is formulated as “what is the effect of interdependencies and connectivity between institutions on FRM, for the case of St Maarten?”. First, I address how interdependencies and connectivity between institutions can be studied. Secondly, this methodology will be tested on a case study. Third of all, I discuss how insights in the connections between institutions can be translated to better FRM. The Caribbean island St Maarten was chosen as a case study, as floods are the primary natural hazard on island (Sommers, 2015). The focus on economic development on the island increases vulnerability and exposure to floods, requiring adequate institutions to manage flood risk. Moreover, within the European PEARL research project, St Maarten was chosen as one of the case studies, which has led to the development of a knowledge base on FRM on the island and data availability. Socio-hydrology is used as a theoretical framework of this research. The integrated approach of human-water coupled systems is central in this research. The Institutional Analysis and Dynamics (IAD) framework by Ostrom forms the framework to further address the institutional dimension of human-water coupled flood systems. Institutions in flood systems are researched using the FRM cycle. Within the institutional dimension, we focus on interdependencies and connectivity between institutions, by taking a network perspective towards institutions.

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