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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Overcoming path dependency to implement nature-based solutions for coastal flooding : cases from the global north and south Rawal, Simone


The limitations of dominant approaches to managing coastal flood risk that rely on technical, hard, grey infrastructures have become more evident, and nature-based flood defences (NBFD) have been gaining attention in coastal climate change adaptation. This study explores the barriers and possibilities of transitioning toward NBFD, focusing on how path dependency can be overcome to implement NBFD in coastal areas. Through a systematic literature review, a conceptual framework is developed to identify lock-ins as well as enabling factors that can overcome path dependency and facilitate implementing NBFD. The framework is then applied to three NBFD case studies that are widely considered to be success stories from the Global North and South: (i) The Wide Green Dike (WGD), (ii) the Living Breakwaters, and (iii) Mangrove Plantation Projects (MPP). Through document review and 16 expert interviews, the research identified case- and context-specific lock-ins and enablers in the implementation of each case study. The study shows that the key factors causing lock-ins differ more amongst case studies than factors breaking path dependency. Insufficient data and/or technology and gaps in coordination significantly influenced all three case studies, although this took different forms. Aversion to change was a significant influence in the WGD and LB case study, which impacted the trust and uptake of NBFD. The MPP has more lock-ins than the other two case studies, including knowledge gap, lack of financial resources, and overdependence on local knowledge. Regarding factors breaking path-dependency, collaboration, leadership, and available funding resources were important for all three case studies, and past flooding events triggered changes in the approach to FRM. Community engagement has also been identified as a critical factor and was especially important in the MPP case study. In sum, the study showed that the lock-ins and enablers differ not only between the Global South and North cases but also between the two Global North Cases, and they interact in both causing and breaking lock-ins. Lastly, the findings inform guiding principles and recommendations for policymakers, planners, and key decision-makers on successfully overcoming lock-ins to implement the appropriate NBFD in the future.

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