Adaptive risk management solutions in coastal cities through the PEARL Project

Since 2014, APFM has worked with 23 partners from the academia, private sector and international organizations on the Preparing for Extreme and Rare Events in Coastal Regions (PEARL) Project. Funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration, the PEARL Project has been developing adaptive risk management strategies for coastal communities, focusing on extreme hydrometeorological events. The approach taken was multidisciplinary and integrated social, environmental and technical research and innovation.

To mark the culmination of the project, PEARL hosted a series of events at Amsterdam International Water Week (AIWW) from 30 October to 1 November 2017. The PEARL Consortium showcased the monitoring, modelling, forecasting and warning technologies, which were tailored to the social, technical, institutional, organizational and economic realities of selected coastal communities in Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. The events included a day-long side event on “Responding to the risks of extreme events to advance climate change adaptation,” a case session on “Resilient Regions and Climate Change Adaptation,” and an interactive lunch session on “Roadmaps towards climate change adaptation.”

Partners delved into the social, hazard modelling and risk assessment innovations underpinning the PEARL framework, which were later brought to life in discussions on how these were tailored to the project’s different case studies. In the historic city of Ayutthaya, Thailand, for example, it was important to account for the cultural dimension in addition to physical, social and economic dimensions when calculating vulnerability. In Greve, Denmark and St. Lucia, the project demonstrated how fit-for-purpose models and systems could be implemented despite varying levels of data availability. In Rethymno, Greece and Genoa, Italy, there was great value in engaging and co-producing risk assessments with local authorities and organizations through Learning and Action Alliances. In Hamburg, Germany, it was more effective to liaise closely with selected authorities, who would take ownership of the products developed after the project ends.

Innovative products developed throughout the course of the project were also shared during the events. One such product is the PEARL Knowledge Base, which was developed to equip authorities in Rethymno, Greece with appropriate tools but can also be used elsewhere in the world. This online tool allows users to calculate a city’s flood resilience, identify appropriate resilience measures, find examples of where such measures have been applied, and learn more by accessing relevant publications. Another tool developed by PEARL, which can be used in other contexts, is the Water Detective Android smartphone application for crowdsourcing reports on water-related issues.

The events also provided a platform for the voices of the project’s stakeholders to be heard. It was an opportune time to hear from stakeholders in St. Maarten, which is still recovering from the devastation brought by Hurricane Irma. One of the products developed by the PEARL Project in St. Maarten is an infrastructure analysis, which will be useful in the effort to rebuild. Calling for continued collaboration with the project partners, disaster manager Paul Martins said, “The PEARL perspective will help us to build back St. Maarten better.”

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