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The evolution of Jakarta’s flood policy over the past 400 years: The lock-in of infrastructural solutions

Octavianti, Thanti; Charles, Katrina


Katrina Charles


This paper presents an analysis of the evolution of flood policy in a city in the developing world. Jakarta was selected in order to analyse the role of colonialisation on water policy. Drawing data from historical sources and interviews of key informants, we mapped the history of flood-related investments made in the city for the past 400 years. Using analysis informed by historical institutionalism, we argue that Jakarta’s flood management institutions have been locked-in to infrastructural measures. Some major flood events were able to create critical junctures, resulting in the implementation of old policies and the instigation of flood research. However, they were not able to introduce institutional changes. The persistence of engineering-driven solutions to cope with flooding can be explained by the positive feedback mechanisms taking place after major floods. Infrastructure, albeit expensive, provides a fast relief to flooding, which is ideal to short political cycles. Scientific knowledge introduced by the colonial government plays an important role in sustaining this persistence. The current massive seawall proposal to alleviate increasing flood risks due to land subsidence and sea level rise exacerbates the path dependency of infrastructural measures.


Octavianti, T., & Charles, K. (2019). The evolution of Jakarta’s flood policy over the past 400 years: The lock-in of infrastructural solutions. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 37(6), 1102-1125.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 26, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 28, 2018
Publication Date Sep 1, 2019
Deposit Date Feb 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 8, 2019
Journal Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Print ISSN 2399-6544
Electronic ISSN 2399-6552
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 6
Pages 1102-1125
Keywords flood policy, postcolonial city, Jakarta, historical institutionalism, positive feedback
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Copyright(c)2018 Reprinted by permission of SAGE publications.


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