Indonesian women rowing in boats down a river carrying foodstuffs against a background of colourful houses on stilts on water.
A UK-Indonesia research project is helping to protect coastal communities. ©

iStock, used with permission from Newton Fund 2019

Coastal communities are often vital hubs of economic and social development. A UK-Indonesia research project is helping to protect coastal communities from the devastation caused by coastal hazards such as flooding and tsunamis. 

Led by Professor Richard Haigh from the University of Huddersfield and Dr Harkunti Rahayu from the Institute of Technology Bandung, the project combines two distinct approaches to develop a new integrated strategy to better protect homes, businesses and infrastructure in coastal urban areas. 

This project emerged from a British Council Newton Researcher Links workshop held in Bandung in November 2015. The results of the workshop, which focused on developing coastal resilience, formed the basis for this Institutional Links grant.    


Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events and natural hazards.

Indonesia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and has coastal regions exposed to tsunami and other hazard threats.  

In the coming decades, climate-induced extreme events are expected to increase and will continue to disrupt our productivity, and the diversity and functions of many ecosystems and livelihoods.  

Disasters tend to hit the poorest and most marginalised demographics the hardest. Women and girls are particularly exposed to climate-related disaster risk. This is because, for example, they are more likely to be dependent for their food and income on the land, and natural resources, which are being threatened.  


To protect coastal communities from the devastation caused by coastal hazards such as flooding and tsunamis.  

An effective tsunami warning system is one that integrates the upstream hazard monitoring, forecasting and prediction with downstream disaster risk assessment, communication and preparedness activities that enable individuals, communities, governments, businesses and others to take timely action.  

The UK-Indonesia research team’s work focused on the interface arrangements between upstream and downstream, including the decisions that must be taken by a wide array of jurisdictional agencies and response partners. 


The team carried out fieldwork in Sarbagita, Bali and Greater Jakarta - regions that are unique in terms of coastal hazards, community, culture and disaster governance.  

They identified vulnerability and capacity of the coastal communities by conducting direct observation and field surveys with penta-helix actors (including communities, governments, private sector, local university, local NGOs, religious groups). 

Following this they conducted focus group discussions with those penta-helix actors to obtain public engagement and commitment. 

The team also identified twelve critical areas of capacity that underpin an end-to-end tsunami early warning system.  

A male and two female researchers in an urban environment standing on a pavement next to a river
The UK-Indonesia research team carrying out fieldwork in Jakarta. ©

Professor Richard Haigh



This research has led to improved standard operating procedures involved in receiving and processing regional tsunami warning and monitoring information. It is helping workers in key agencies carry out complex routine operations involved in receiving regional dissemination and warning information, evaluating against pre-defined criteria, and disseminating and enacting the response. 

It should make early warning messages more accurate and help to ensure they are issued promptly to communities at risk.   

The team produced a policy statement to embed the research in Indonesia’s development plan.

The team is working on a practical guide to help other countries in the region benefit from the study and improve their capacity for tsunami early warning. The guide will focus on approaches to improving the upstream-downstream interface arrangements for early warning, and will include a self-assessment tool that can be used to evaluate capacity and standard operating procedures.

Mutual benefit

A further comparative study at the regional level, including the Maldives, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, has been undertaken to illustrate the range of structures and approaches that can be effectively used in different national and local context.  

The results of this work, combined with those of Indonesia, have influenced the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System on their approaches to assessing tsunami preparedness and priorities for capacity development of member states.  

The UK can also benefit from this research. An assessment of the vulnerability of several European countries to sea level rise has shown that the UK is one of the most vulnerable.  

Without adaptation, the UK could experience major impacts on coastal flooding from sea level rise.  

The types of approaches developed through this project can be adapted for use in the UK, for example improved spatial planning in urban areas, regulatory changes that influence the behaviour of people or industries, adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events, or building flood defences. The project has also supported researcher capacity building through knowledge exchange.  

'The research has helped us to carry out a comprehensive assessment of tsunami preparedness in Indonesia and other countries in the Indian Ocean, allowing us to improve our standard operating procedures.'
Professor Dwikorita Karnawati
Chair of UNESCO IOC ICG/Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System
Director General of National Agency of Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics

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