Practices/Behaviors which Influence Coping with Floods

This research finds that coping strategies mainly serve to reduce human and economic loss in time. The ability to cope with a disturbance is mainly determined by practices and behaviors that already exist in communities. We find two main practices or behaviors that help to understand how communities build their resilience.

First, coping is affected by the positive practice or behavior of helping each other and the spirit of working together or mutual assistance (gotong royong). During floods, people will save their family members, particularly children and elderly first, and then to move property to a safer place (FGD-01-PJR). During floods, each household will do this first for themselves and afterwards help others. People will help neighbors, particularly families with elderly or those without adults as well as women-headed households. For instance, they help to move heavy things to a safer place. In this case, people help without considering ethnic background. Moreover, people also try to protect their houses from flooding by installing sandbags in front of and around their houses (FGD-01, 02-PJR). People usually make sandbags themselves before floods. They collect sand from the small canal surrounding the informal settlement during the gotong royong, especially when cleaning the small canals in the neighborhood to prepare for the rainy season. They put all the sandbags along the streets and over time they become dry and solid. People can then take them and put them in front of their houses in order to control the floodwater when it comes.

During floods, people who have a two-storey house prefer to stay at home even though the height of water can reach one meter or more. As long as they still can stay on the second flood, they feel safe to stay at home. However, family members especially the elderly and children will be evacuated to the shelter. Only adults will stay in the house. Based on the FGDs, we find that this was because they want to save their property and second, to save the house from being hit by boats that travel around the settlement to evacuate affected people. Knowing that neighbors are still in their house, others will keep supporting them by delivering food from the shelter or from charity organizations. Not only do people distribute food from the shelter, but they also share their own food when the water is still low and all people are still inside their houses. Based on their experiences of flooding, during the first and second day of the flood no aid usually reaches their place. Thus, they have to survive solely based on their own capacity. Therefore, sharing food with neighbors is one strategy and behavior that helps people to survive in the first and second day of the floods. This behavior is important for those whose house is far from the main road and thus might suffer a delay in being reached by relief. Based on these experiences, people in the case study area stated that they have the confidence to cope with disaster because they have a strong connection with one another.

This research also finds that other practices or behaviors of people to be able cope with floods are related to their livelihood activities. Respondents mention the economic benefit of living close to the fishing port. The port operates for 24 h and the busy time is at night when most of ships drop their fish and buyers come from all over the city. Respondents who have a night schedule of working need a place close by to live. Moreover, people who migrated from coastal area of their origin place feel comfortable in the familiar location of their current area and influence their perception to floods.

The main economic activities of respondents include working in the fishery sector, e.g. working as a crew aboard a fishing boat, traditional fishing, laboring at fishery firms, or as fish traders in the informal sector. Since their daily activities are close to the water, they ascribe a special meaning to water and are used to living in harmony with water (HH-01; 02; 03-PJR). People perceive floods merely as a change in the water condition. During FGD in RT 20, participants stated that high water is not something that makes them afraid, but in contrast, they felt they could deal with the situation. During floods, children enjoy playing around using small boats. One interview with respondents in RT 19 revealed that during floods they could through rubbish directly to the water since the water moves fast. However, when the 2013 flood occurred, eventually people decided to go to the shelter after few days staying in their house, because the length of the inundation lasted around 2 weeks.

The benefits that they get make them less concerned about the severe experiences during floods, in particular the floods in 2007 and 2013, likewise for the decision to stay in their houses during floods. Protecting their property and avoiding damage to their house is seen as a better decision compared to going to the shelter. To conclude, the practice and behaviors of the people in Muara Baru is represented through the characteristic of having strong empathy for each other and living in harmony with the water, which influences their ability to cope with floods. Hence, this also nurtures their confidence in the face of disasters.

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