Book, Research Papers & Reports

Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia
Prof. Amrita Daniere, University of Toronto, and Dr. Matthias Garschagen, United Nations University (Co-Editors)

The book features the work of young scholars and graduate students who were involved in the Partnership and whose research focused on the relationship between urban poverty, vulnerability and climate change adaptation in rapidly urbanizing areas in Southeast Asia. It also highlights both the vulnerabilities to climate change faced by residents in these areas as well as ways to enhance their resilience and hence, economic and social well-being. The goal is to share the knowledge we have all gained from their combined research to both address emerging debates and offer key recommendations that can help urban residents to achieve long-term resilience. All the work focuses on the dynamics of power relations and looks to increase the role and voice of the traditionally marginalized in shaping their future urban spaces.

The Table of Contents is as follows:

Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia
Chapter 1. Why Focusing on Urban Climate Change Resilience in Southeast Asia Is Relevant and Urgent by Amrita Daniere, Matthias Garschagen, and Pakamas Thinphanga

Understanding Vulnerability: Neighbourhoods, Cities, and Nations Beyond
Chapter 2. Bridging Systems and People-Centred Approaches in Urban Vulnerability Research: Insights for Resilience from Dawei, Myanmar by Taylor Martin, U Saw Win, and Melissa Marschke
Chapter 3. Water Access and Resilience to Climate-Induced Droughts in the Thai Secondary City of Khon Kaen: Unequal and Unjust Vulnerability by Danny Marks
Chapter 4. Migrating Toward Vulnerabilities: The Impacts of Structural Violence on Myanmar Migrants in Phuket, Thailand by Angelica de Jesus

Creating Resilient Urban Governance: Facing Floods in Southeast Asia
Chapter 5. Flood Vulnerability and Resilience in Peri-Urbanizing Vietnam: A Case Study from Ninh Binh Province by Hue Le and Ly Bui Ha
Chapter 6. Urban Governance of Flooding in Myanmar: A Case Study of Bago by Graham Reeder
Chapter 7. Resistance for Resilience: A Reflexive Exploration of Battambang, Cambodia by Try Thuon and Yanjun Cai

Improving Well-being: Forces of Migration, Ecotourism, and Urban Development
Chapter 8. From Sea to City: Migration and Social Well-Being in Coastal Cambodia by Furqan Asif
Chapter 9. Green for Whom? Exploring Ecotourism as a Climate-adaptation Strategy in Trang An, Vietnam by Thao Hoang and Gwenn Pulliat
Chapter 10. The Implementation Gap: Reality vs. Environmental Rhetoric in Lao Cai, Vietnam by Gwenn Pulliat
Conclusion: Towards an Agenda for Profound Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia
by Matthias Garschagen and Danny Marks

The book, available in hard cover and as an e-book, can be purchased from Springer Nature at Except for Chapter 2, which is now publicly available, the other chapters will go live in January 2020.

Understanding Institutional Challenges for Urban Planning in Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR
Compiled by Daniel Hayward

The rate of urban population growth in Lao PDR is the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. This is resulting in accelerated social, economic and environmental change in cities of the nation. Yet it remains a starkly under-researched topic. Using the example of Vientiane Capital, this briefing note presents an overview of the stakeholders, legal and policy frameworks, and infrastructural systems involved in urban planning. To assist both researcher and development practitioner, it provides a frame to engage multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and project implementation, specific to the context of Lao PDR.

Learning from Map Tha Phut for the development of Dawei Special Economic Zone
Jonathan Rhodes

Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia (UCRSEA) partnership understands urbanization as a transformative process. Poverty, vulnerability, growth, and climate change impacts are influenced by ecology-human society interactions. With this focus, the partnership has identified Dawei, Myanmar as a secondary city with the potential to experience rapid growth through the creation of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ). Development at this scale not only changes the economic linkages in the region; it has the potential to negatively transform society and the environment. For this reason, Mercy Corps and the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) are working together to explore applicable environmental and social safeguards for Dawei with Map Tha Phut (MTP) as a frame of reference.

On the surface, environmental governance problems that led to a 2009 court case in MTP can be broadly described by the conflict between the socio-economic, political and environmental spheres. In exploring these issues, the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) is examining the linkages between three influential stakeholder groups: regulatory bodies, businesses, and communities through NGOs, CSOs, and community leaders.

This report does not argue for or against the DSEZ, nor does it address the challenges present in Dawei. Instead, it is written with the assumption that the DSEZ might continue and offers recommendations to better improve the environmental governance mechanisms and policies as the process moves forward.

The UCRSEA Working Paper series addresses key issues related to urban climate resilience, the challenges for secondary cities in addressing climate change, and issues of social and environmental justice as related to broader themes of human-environment relations in Southeast Asia. The working paper series can provide in-depth consideration of conceptual, analytical, or methodological issues relating to these challenges. Overall, the series aims to enhance the emerging knowledge on urban climate resilience in Southeast Asia, and on related development and policy challenges for urban climate governance, and to strengthen the analytical analysis and tools of the UCRSEA project.

Thinking with a Kampung
Indrawan Prabaharyaka (Technische Universität München, Germany)

This is an ethnographically inspired essay which is a preliminary rehearsal of how a kampung thinks. Kampung is a form of vernacular ecology that abounds in, but is not limited to, Southeast Asia, with which one can approach climate in a more lateral manner. The exercise is to rethink resilience with a kampung in Jakarta and the accomplishment is to re-specify the concept as one of the most ordinary things that occurs in everyday life.

Enclaves of Capital in Myanmar: Urbanization and the Dawei Special Economy
Carli Melo (Mekong Migration Network)

The Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in southeastern Myanmar (Burma) is
slated to be the largest industrial complex in Southeast Asia. The development
of the SEZ is driving contemporary urbanization and giving rise to uneven
development. Dawei and Karen villagers are being dispossessed of their land and
livelihoods as a direct result of construction and as an indirect result of speculation.
Land grabbing, enabled by the state, is reorganizing labour dynamics as people are
expelled from agriculture without being absorbed elsewhere in the economy. Ms Melo’s research in Dawei on the SEZ and its impacts is influenced by a three-month internship placement in Myanmar through the UCRSEA Partnership. In this paper, she provides her recommendations for actions that will support meaningful public participation, fair compensation, and environmental and social impact assessments in accordance with international standards, as well as create long-term strategic plans to manage future urban growth.

The Political Ecology of Urban Climate Injustice in Thailand
Danny Marks (University of Toronto)

This paper addresses a gap in the literature on urban climate justice by examining inequity at the “urban scale” and adds to growing discussions and acknowledgment about the need for climate justice at the city scale. The study examines instances of climate injustice in Bangkok, Thailand, a city not only highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but also with one of the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world. Ultimately, the main argument presented is that the city’s governance of climate change has unjustly benefited the upper echelon of society, while low-income communities have been adversely affected.

Urban Disasters: Case Studies from Southeast Asia
Esther Lambert (University of Toronto)

This paper explores the global environmental change disasters that have affected Southeast Asia over the past five to ten years and the practice of predicting and responding to such disasters. The report seeks to understand who the various actors are (pre- and post-disaster) and some of the social, economic and political factors affecting the region’s capacity to predict and respond effectively. The report is available for download here and a summary of the report is available here.

A key outcome of the UCRSEA Partnership is the assessment of climate vulnerability in urban areas in Southeast Asia, specifically our secondary cities of focus.  The assessment for Dawei, Myanmar, is the first to be completed.

Vulnerability Assessment: Dawei, Tanintharyi Region, Myanmar (July 2016)
Taylor Martin and Saw Win

These processes are guided by a Framework for Climate Vulnerability Assessment in Urbanizing Asia.

The Politics of Urban Space Making: A Case Study of Battambang Town, Cambodia (January 2020) Dr. Try Thuon

Dr. Try Thuon’s doctoral dissertation examines urban space making and resilience through a lens of strategic group formation, under pressure from rapid urbanization, regional economic connectivity, and intensifying climate change impacts.

Dr. Thuon’s research reflects how the reconstruction of space, identity, and social belonging, is regularly omitted in mainstream resilience approaches. Through encountered space and local resistance, the study suggests for autonomous state institutions, trust civil society and reposition and local participation are often missing out in the planning and the making of urban spaces.

Coastal Cambodians on the Move: The Interplay of Migration, Social Wellbeing and Resilience In Three Fishing Communities (April 2020) Dr. Furqan Asif

Through qualitative work done among three coastal fishing villages in Koh Kong province in southwest Cambodia, U of Ottawa PhD Student Furqan Asif aims to contribute to a better understanding of the social dimensions of resilience by using a multidimensional (material, subjective, and relational) social wellbeing framework to not only better understand how migration affects the wellbeing of those who leave and those who stay, but also the implications on fishing as ‘a way of life’. His research focuses on understanding the role fishing plays, and the degree to which it impacts the wellbeing of fishers and their households in coastal Cambodia, in the context of migration.


Transforming Climate Resilience:
A Case Study of Myanmar Migrants in Phuket, Thailand (2018) Dr. Angelica de Jesus-Bretschneider

Dr. Angelica de Jesus-Bretschneider’s research on the lives of 80 Myanmar migrants in Phuket, Thailand serves as a case study for the importance of taking a directly political approach to planning for climate resilience. In her thesis, Dr. de Jesus-Bretschneider describes the vulnerabilities of Myanmar migrants in Phuket as embodied structural violence, which refers to the economic, political, and cultural dynamics that systematically cause human suffering and constrain human agency to meet personal needs and goals.

Her work discusses how resilience practitioners in Phuket can apply a structural violence lens, particularly during the vulnerability assessment process, to identify and address social structures that create vulnerabilities, including elitism, nepotism, fragmentation, and discrimination in Thailand. Through this research, Dr. de Jesus-Bretschneider also adds to the discourse of planning for migrant communities, especially at a time when renowned international institutions, such as the United Nations, are highlighting significant planning and policymaking challenges linked to climate change-induced migration.

Dr. de Jesus-Bretschneider’s doctoral research was supported by a UCRSEA Graduate Fellowship

Postdoctoral Fellows and graduate students who conducted research as part of the UCRSEA Partnership shared their research in the form of poster presentations at annual meetings and international conferences.

Stakeholder Mapping of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ)
Tammy Chou, University of Toronto, Danny Marks, University of Toronto and U Saw Win, Renewable Energy Association Myanmar

From vulnerability to resilience: Building adaptive capacity in developing Southeast Asian cities
Gwenn Pulliat, University of Toronto

Enclaves of Capital in Myanmar: Urbanization and the Dawei Special Economic Zone
Carli Melo, University of Toronto

The Cascading Impacts of Migration and Climate Change: Experiences of Myanmar Labour Migrants in Phuket, Thailand
Angelica de Jesus, University of Toronto

Leaving the Coast: The Interplay of Migration, Well-being and Resilience in Cambodian Coastal Fishing Communities
Furqan Asif, University of Ottawa

Assessing Livelihood Resilience and Vulnerability to Climate Change of Khmer Households in Soc Trang City, Mekong Delta Region
Ho Kim Thi, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City

Fostering Urban Resilience Among People in Battambang, Cambodia
Try Thuon, Chiang Mai University

The poster abstracts are available here.