Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Natural Sciences

Faculty

Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Professor Pierre Horwitz

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Andrea Hinwood

Abstract

Local communities must have a capacity to ameliorate coastal erosion impacts. Since coastal erosion operates over long time frames, understanding this capacity, or the abilities of communities to respond to the impacts and recover to maintain community functions, requires analysis of the past and the present. This study explores factors which influence the capacity of communities to respond to coastal erosion and conversely how exposure to coastal erosion itself affects community capacity.

Mixed methods research was used to investigate the views of respondents in seven coastal villages in the upper Gulf of Thailand, three from an area that has experienced low erosion, and four from an area that has experienced high erosion. A questionnaire survey was administered 358 respondents to investigate socio-demographic characteristics, opinions about livelihoods in communities and experiences of losing and responding to coastal erosion. Thirty five key informants for semi-structured interviews were selected from villagers who responded to the questionnaire and volunteered as well as officials, scientists and NGOs. Descriptive analyses were applied to examine differences in socio-demography, opinion about livelihood and coastal erosion experience variables between the two areas, and factor analysis was used to investigate the importance of factors that affect and could build community capacity to respond to coastal erosion.

The physical characteristics of the high erosion area were significantly different to those of the low erosion area. The former was closer to the Chao Praya Delta River, had many shrimp ponds across villages and residents applied materials which were too fragile to prevent coastal erosion. The low erosion area was far from delta rivers, was surrounded by shrimp ponds and hard structures were applied to protect the coastal area. For socio-demographic characteristics of villagers, residents in the high erosion area had less employment, lower education, lower income and lower levels of land ownership than residents in the low erosion area. Residents in the high erosion area reported more experiences of property loss from coastal erosion in the past 30 years than residents in the low erosion area as would be expected. Across the two erosion areas rock placements were applied as a common method to protect the coast in the past, while embedding thin bamboo stems offshore was also used in the high erosion area. The government and other networks had promoted a combination of methods to protect coastal areas by embedding thick bamboo stems offshore and planting mangrove trees in intertidal areas. This combination of methods was yielding positive results.

Residents impacted by coastal erosion migrated landwards from eroded area and those residents lost connection with their neighbours, lacked opportunities for generating their own income or obtaining employment, and spent their savings in mobilising and rebuilding houses. Some residents who felt insecure from erosion sold their land to external landholders and then they moved to live in more secure areas away from their villages, taking their financial resources with them, thereby effectively removing their financial resources from the original communities. The external landholders held increasingly large areas in these villages. Local communities thereby suffered from a lack of finance and power and diminished rights to build infrastructure for coastal erosion prevention and improvement of their quality of life.

Five main factors were found from multivariate factor analysis. Firstly, villagers having control over their own land (and therefore control over their destiny) provided more opportunities to build structures to prevent coastal erosion in their own communities. Secondly, higher levels of leadership were central to mobilising resources to address coastal erosion problems provided the leaders had the necessary attributes to deal with this challenge. Thirdly, coastal community resilience was necessary for communities to address existing changes, whereas communities needed to maintain their functions to be ready to respond to unpredictable impacts of coastal erosion and other events without diminishing their potential. Fourthly, enhanced levels of sense of community were important to gain collaboration from residents to cope with coastal erosion. Lastly, a positive household socioeconomic element was necessary for residents to have sufficient resources for building natural hazard protection appropriately. These five issues could be highlighted to coastal communities to improving capacities to respond to coastal erosion effectively, whereas local authorities and other organisations with high capability could facilitate and support the communities to build capacities through those issues.

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