Resilience unpacked – framing of ‘uncertainty’ and ‘adaptability’ in long-term flood risk management strategies for London and Rotterdam

Britta Restemeyer, Margo van den Brink, Johan Woltjer

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    Resilience is held as a promising concept to produce a paradigm shift from traditional flood control to an integration of flood risk management and spatial planning. Central ideas to the resilience narrative are that nothing is certain except uncertainty itself' and adaptability' is key to governing the unknown'. However, this terminology is far from clear, yet increasingly used, which raises the question how it is made sense of in practice. To answer this question, we examine two long-term flood risk management strategies in the London and Rotterdam region with a policy framing perspective (i.e. the English Thames Estuary 2100 Plan and the Dutch Delta Programme). In both strategies, uncertainties are a key concern, leading to adaptive strategic plans. Reconstructing the framing processes shows that the English adopted a scientific pragmatism' frame and the Dutch a joint fact-finding' frame. While this led to different governance approaches, there are also striking parallels. Both cases use established methods such as scenario planning and monitoring to manage' uncertainties. Similarly to previous turns in flood risk management, the resilience narrative seems to be accommodated in a technical-rational way, resulting in policy strategies that are maintaining the status quo rather than bringing about a paradigm shift.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1559-1579
    JournalEuropean Planning Studies
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • resilience
    • water management


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