WSG-52306 Disaster Risk Management and Nature Based Solutions


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Excursion (one day)7
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. JM van Loon-Steensma
Lecturer(s)dr. RWA Hutjes
prof. dr. C Kroeze
dr. JF Warner
dr. ir. JM van Loon-Steensma
Examiner(s)dr. ir. JM van Loon-Steensma

Language of instruction:


Continuation courses:

SDC-34306 Conflict, Development and Disaster; SDC-34806 Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction; SDC-52306 Urban Disaster Governance (taught in same period).


Water-related disasters like floods (coastal, river and urban floods) and droughts are among the most frequently occurring natural disaster events. The occurrence of these disasters is expected to increase with a changing climate. Besides such water quantity related disasters (too much or too little water), many locations worldwide suffer from increasing problems with water quality, especially in Deltaic areas. Deltaic areas are low-lying coastal areas where large rivers drain the water collected from (often extensive) inland catchments areas into the sea. Here water quantity (coastal flooding, river flooding, urban flooding, groundwater level, cooling water for energy production) and water quality (drinking water, and ecological quality of river water and coastal seas) problems come together and reinforce each other, exacerbated by rapid urbanization, economic development, and climate change.

'Nature Based Solutions' (NBS) are increasingly seen as a promising approach to solve such complex and interrelated problems. NBS are solution-oriented activities or measures that are based on, inspired by, or copied from nature. They vary from the direct use of existing or restored natural systems and processes, to solutions with green elements, sometimes adjoined with other types of measures. Although the NBS concept is enthusiastically embraced by e.g. policy makers, water managers, NGO’s, industry and scientist, the applications of NBSs are still limited, and usually on a small scale. There are still important knowledge gaps in NBS’s performance in risk reduction. Moreover, implementation of NBSs often requires a change in the current, technology driven, management of natural systems and associated governance arrangements.

In this course nature-based approaches in risk management are discussed with the disaster risk reduction cycle (DRR cycle) and integrated flood management (IFM) as point of departure. The course focuses on the potential and draw backs of nature-based flood protection compared to traditional hard flood risk protection, but also delves into risk strategies to prepare (making of emergency plans, raising awareness, early warning and communication systems, insurance), to respond (e.g. evacuation) on coastal, river and urban floods, and to recover from disasters. The role of early warning will be explained based on an example of a Mediterranean transboundary river.

Attention will be paid to the Dutch flood risk strategy and how nature-based solutions fit in this strategy. Furthermore, flood risk strategies of (developed and developing) countries are compared, and differences in risk reduction strategy will be related to differences in geophysical, socio-economic, and political background. Besides the impact of climate change on flood risk, the course addresses the impact of climate change on droughts, and how to prepare and to respond on drought events. In view of this, the potential (and limitations) of climate services will be explained for the Horn of Africa. Climate services involve the use of global and regional climate models to predict drought events and to inform governments and farmers about foreseen drought risks, which offers opportunities to timely respond.
Water quality related risks will be explained by examples from coastal cities, in Asia for instance. The fast economic development in many Asian countries results amongst others in a rapid increase of industrial and agricultural production. Because often untreated water is disposed in rivers, this leads to the pollution of many rivers by, for instance, excess nutrients. Transport of these pollutants by river to coastal waters may result in several pollution problems, such as blooms of harmful algae and oxygen depletion.
The course will take an international perspective with examples from e.g. the Netherlands, Europe (for instance Germany, UK and France), USA, Africa, and Asia (for instance China and Indonesia), paying attention to technical approaches and institutional arrangements and the importance of attuning design and practices to the context.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- understand and analyse the principles and practices of the disaster risk reduction cycle and integrated flood management;
- analyse and understand nature-based disaster risk reduction strategies;
- analyse and compare risk reduction strategies of different (developed and developing) countries, and to relate this to differences in geophysical, socio-economic, and political background;
- understand and analyse the importance of contextual elements in the design and implementation of flood risks strategies and IFM; 
- analyse and develop proposals for nature-based risk prevention, resilient spatial planning, preparedness and recovery with a view to enhancing resilience against hydrological extremes.


Classroom lectures with active participation of the students; use of audio-visual material and assignments, supervised study and tutorial, excursion.


- written test with open questions (60%);
- case study report (30%);
- active participation during lessons and case study (10%).


Will be made available at start of course.

Compulsory for: WUDIRBSc Minor Disaster Risk and Resilience6AF