Coastal adaptation through urban land reclamation: Exploring the distributional effects

  • Alexander Bisaro Global Climate Forum, Berlin
Keywords: adaptation, urbanisation, public finance, inequality, coasts


Land reclamation and urban redevelopment is currently underway in coastal regions around the world, as urbanization continues rapidly, and high-value coastal urban land becomes more scarce. Yet coastal hazards will also continue to increase due to sea-level rise, and building flood risk reduction measures into such land reclamation projects appears to be low cost compared to the potential benefits generated. Moreover, land reclamation in high-value urban areas that incorporates such adaptation can generate substantial revenue attractive to governments, particularly in developing countries, which struggle to finance coastal adaptation measures. Yet revenue generation in these projects depends on including some degree of high-value and high-priced developments, giving rise to potential distributional effects. This paper surveys three current coastal urban redevelopment projects incorporating flood risk reduction in the Maldives, Germany and Nigeria, illustrating different modes of urban development projects and the distributional effects that can arise for each of these. The paper explores the equity implications of such projects that arise in planning processes and in implementation. The examples illustrate that inequalities can arise through incentives for corruption, budget imperatives leading to developments that result in gentrification, and shifting of physical risks on to neighboring communities. Finally, I reflect on policy and project design instruments that can address these inequalities, and draw out implications for future research to ensure sustainable and inclusive development of coastal cities in the context of sea-level rise.



Abidin, H. Z., H. Andreas, I. Gumilar, and I. R. R. Wibowo. 2015. “On Correlation between Urban Development, Land Subsidence and Flooding Phenomena in Jakarta.” Proceedings of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences 370:15–20.

Abosede, Francisco B. 2006. “Housing in Lagos Mega City: Improving Livability, Inclusion and Governance.” Pp. 27–28 in International Conference on ‘Building Nigeria’s Capacity to Implement Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Lessons Learned, Challenges and the Way Forward’. Abuja.

Adelekan, Ibidun. 2013. Private Sector Investment Decisions in Building and Construction: Increasing, Managing and Transferring Risks: Case Study of Lagos, Nigeria.

Ahmed, Ali Hadair. 2005. Private Housing Development: Refining Rational Choice. Vol. PhD Thesis. UCL Barlett Institute.

Ajibade, Idowu. 2017. “Can a Future City Enhance Urban Resilience and Sustainability? A Political Ecology Analysis of Eko Atlantic City, Nigeria.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 26:85–92.

Ajibade, Idowu and Gordon McBean. 2014. “Climate Extremes and Housing Rights: A Political Ecology of Impacts, Early Warning and Adaptation Constraints in Lagos Slum Communities.” Geoforum 55:76–86.

Alexander, Ernest R. 2001. “A Transaction-Cost Theory of Land Use Planning and Development Control: Towards the Institutional Analysis of Public Planning.” The Town Planning Review 72(1):45–75.

Anguelovski, Isabelle, Linda Shi, Eric Chu, Daniel Gallagher, Kian Goh, Zachary Lamb, Kara Reeve, and Hannah Teicher. 2016. “Equity Impacts of Urban Land Use Planning for Climate Adaptation: Critical Perspectives from the Global North and South.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 36(3):333–48.

Beatley, Timothy. 2012. Planning for Coastal Resilience: Best Practices for Calamitous Times. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Beltrán, Allan, David Maddison, and Robert JR Elliott. 2018. “Is Flood Risk Capitalised into Property Values?” Ecological Economics 146:668–685.

Benzie, Magnus. 2014. “Social Justice and Adaptation in the UK.” Ecology and Society 19(1).

Bertaud, Alain. 2002. A Rare Case of Land Scarcity: The Issue of Urban Land in the Maldives.

Biesbroek, G. Robbert, Judith E. M. Klostermann, Catrien Termeer, and Pavel Kabat. 2013. “On the Nature of Barriers to Climate Change Adaptation.” Regional Environmental Change 13(5):1119–29.

Bisaro, Alexander and Jochen Hinkel. 2018. “Mobilising Private Finance for Coastal Adaptation: A Literature Review.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 9(3):e514.

Bisaro, Alexander, Sien Kok, Jochen Hinkel, Mark de Bel, and Laurens M. Bouwer. 2018. “Leveraging Public Adaptation Finance through Urban Land Reclamation: Cases from Germany, the Netherlands, and the Maldives.” Climatic Change (In review).

Brown, K., E. L. Tompkins, and W. N. Adger. 2002. Making Waves: Integrating Coastal Conservation and Development. Earthscan/James & James.

Bruns-Berentegl, Juergen. 2011. “Social Mix and Encounter Capacity - a Pragmatic Social Model for a New Downtown: The Example of HafenCity Hamburg.” in Mixed Communities: Gentrification by Stealth? Policy Press.

Bürgerschaft. 2012. Mitteilung Des Senats an Die Bürgerschaft. Hochwasserschutz Für Hamburg. Drucksache 20/5561.

Cartwright, Anton, James Blignaut, Martin De Wit, Karen Goldberg, Myles Mander, Sean O’Donoghue, and Debra Roberts. 2013. “Economics of Climate Change Adaptation at the Local Scale under Conditions of Uncertainty and Resource Constraints: The Case of Durban, South Africa.” Environment and Urbanization 25(1):139–56.

Connolly, Ciaran and Anthony Wall. 2016. “Value Capture: A Valid Means of Funding PPPs?” Financial Accountability & Management 32(2):157–178.

DeConto, Robert M. and David Pollard. 2016. “Contribution of Antarctica to Past and Future Sea-Level Rise.” Nature 531(7596):591–97.

Dewilde, Caroline and Bram Lancee. 2013. “Income Inequality and Access to Housing in Europe.” European Sociological Review 29(6):1189–1200.

Ekstrom, Julia A. and Susanne C. Moser. 2014. “Identifying and Overcoming Barriers in Urban Climate Adaptation: Case Study Findings from the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA.” Urban Climate 9:54–74.

GoM. 2008. National Housing Policy of the Maldives. Malé, Maldives: Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

Goodfellow, Tom. 2017. “Taxing Property in a Neo-Developmental State: The Politics of Urban Land Value Capture in Rwanda and Ethiopia.” African Affairs 116(465):549–572.

HafenCity. 2006. Hamburg HafenCity: Der Master Plan. HafenCity GmbH.

Hallegatte, Stefan, Nicola Ranger, Olivier Mestre, Patrice Dumas, Jan Corfee-Morlot, Celine Herweijer, and Robert Muir Wood. 2011. “Assessing Climate Change Impacts, Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Risk in Port Cities: A Case Study on Copenhagen.” Climatic Change 104:113–137.

Hanson, S., R. Nicholls, N. Ranger, S. Hallegatte, J. Corfee-Morlot, C. Herweijer, and J. Chateau. 2011. “A Global Ranking of Port Cities with High Exposure to Climate Extremes.” Climatic Change 104:89–111.

Hedin, Karin, Eric Clark, Emma Lundholm, and Gunnar Malmberg. 2012. “Neoliberalization of Housing in Sweden: Gentrification, Filtering, and Social Polarization.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102(2):443–63.

Higgins, Stephanie, Irina Overeem, Akiko Tanaka, and James PM Syvitski. 2013. “Land Subsidence at Aquaculture Facilities in the Yellow River Delta, China.” Geophysical Research Letters 40(15):3898–3902.

Hinkel, Jochen, Jeroen C. J. H. Aerts, Sally Brown, Jose A. Jiménez, Daniel Lincke, Robert J. Nicholls, Paolo Scussolini, Agustín Sanchez-Arcilla, Athanasios Vafeidis, and Kwasi Appeaning Addo. 2018. “The Ability of Societies to Adapt to Twenty-First-Century Sea-Level Rise.” Nature Climate Change 8(7):570–78.

Hinkel, Jochen, Daniel Lincke, Athanasios T. Vafeidis, Mahé Perrette, Robert James Nicholls, Richard S. J. Tol, Ben Marzeion, Xavier Fettweis, Cezar Ionescu, and Anders Levermann. 2014. “Coastal Flood Damage and Adaptation Costs under 21st Century Sea-Level Rise.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111(9):3292–97.

Hopkins, T. S., D. Bailly, and J. Støttrup. 2011. “A Systems Approach Framework for Coastal Zones.” Ecology and Society 16.

Immergluck, Dan. 2009. “Large Redevelopment Initiatives, Housing Values and Gentrification: The Case of the Atlanta Beltline.” Urban Studies 46(8):1723–45.

Jacobs. 2019. “Temaiku Land and Urban Development, Tarawa, Kiribati.” Jacobs. Retrieved April 12, 2019 (

Keenan, Jesse M., Thomas Hill, and Anurag Gumber. 2018. “Climate Gentrification: From Theory to Empiricism in Miami-Dade County, Florida.” Environmental Research Letters 13(5):054001.

Klein, R. J. T., R. J. Nicholls, S. Ragoonaden, M. Capobianco, J. Aston, and E. N. Buckley. 2001. “Technological Options for Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Zones.” Journal of Coastal Research 17:531–43.

Kok, Sien, Mark de Bel, Jochen Hinkel, Alexander Bisaro, and Laurens M. Bouwer. 2018. “Leveraging Public Coastal Adaptation Funding through Nature-Based Coastal Defence: Cases from the Netherlands, Indonesia and Georgia.” Climatic Change Special Issue "Win-win solutions to climate change".

Magnan, A. K., E. L. F. Schipper, Maxine Burkett, S. Bharwani, Ian Burton, Siri Eriksen, François Gemenne, Johan Schaar, and Gina Ziervogel. 2016. “Addressing the Risk of Maladaptation to Climate Change.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 7(5):646–665.

Maldivian Independent. 2017a. “Maldives Reveals Rent for New Flats, Changes in Final List.” The Edition. Retrieved April 18, 2019 (

Maldivian Independent. 2017b. “More than 100 Social Housing Units Put up for Sale.” Retrieved April 18, 2019 (

McNamara, Dylan E., Sathya Gopalakrishnan, Martin D. Smith, and A. Brad Murray. 2015. “Climate Adaptation and Policy-Induced Inflation of Coastal Property Value.” PLOS ONE 10(3):e0121278.

MNBS. 2012. Household Income and Expenditure (HIES) Report 2012. Malé, Maldives: Department of National Planning.

Mullin, Megan, Martin D. Smith, and Dylan E. McNamara. 2018. “Paying to Save the Beach: Effects of Local Finance Decisions on Coastal Management.” Climatic Change 1–15.

Murray, Nicholas J., Robert S. Clemens, Stuart R. Phinn, Hugh P. Possingham, and Richard A. Fuller. 2014. “Tracking the Rapid Loss of Tidal Wetlands in the Yellow Sea.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12(5):267–272.

Naylor, Alexander K. 2015. “Island Morphology, Reef Resources, and Development Paths in the Maldives.” Progress in Physical Geography 39(6):728–749.

NBS. 2014. Maldives Population and Housing Census 2014. National Bureau of Statistics, Republic of Maldives.

Nurse, L. A., R. F. MCLEAN, J. AGARD, L. P. BRIGUGLIO, V. DUVAT-MAGNAN, N. PELESIKOTI, E. TOMPKINS, and A. Webb. 2014. “Small Islands.” Pp. 1613–54 in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, edited by Barros, V.R., C. B. Field, D. J. Dokken, M. D. Mastrandrea, K. J. Mach, T. E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K. L. Ebi, Y. O. Estrada, R. C. Genova, B. Girma, E. S. Kissel, A. N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P. R. Mastrandrea, and and L. L. White (eds.). Cambridge University Press.

Okude, A. S. and I. A. Ademiluyi. 2006. “Coastal Erosion Phenomenon in Nigeria: Causes, Control and Implications.” World Applied Science Journal 1(1):44–51.

Ortega, Francesc and Suleyman Taspinar. 2017. “Rising Sea Levels and Sinking Property Values: The Effects of Hurricane Sandy on New York’s Housing Market.”

Osberghaus, Daniel, Astrid Dannenberg, Tim Mennel, and Bodo Sturm. 2010. “The Role of the Government in Adaptation to Climate Change.” Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 28(834–850).

Oulahen, Greg, Dan Shrubsole, and Gordon McBean. 2015. “Determinants of Residential Vulnerability to Flood Hazards in Metro Vancouver, Canada.” Natural Hazards 78(2):939–56.

Penning-Rowsell, Edmund C. and Sally J. Priest. 2015. “Sharing the Burden of Increasing Flood Risk: Who Pays for Flood Insurance and Flood Risk Management in the United Kingdom.” Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 20(6):991–1009.

Peterson, George E. 2008. Unlocking Land Values to Finance Urban Infrastructure. The World Bank.

Phang, Sock Yong and Matthias Helble. 2016. Housing Policies in Singapore. SSRN Scholarly Paper. ID 2753487. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.

Restemeyer, Britta, Johan Woltjer, and Margo van den Brink. 2015. “A Strategy-Based Framework for Assessing the Flood Resilience of Cities–A Hamburg Case Study.” Planning Theory & Practice 16(1):45–62.

Rosenzweig, Cynthia, William D. Solecki, Stephen A. Hammer, and Shagun Mehrotra. 2011. Climate Change and Cities: First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network. Cambridge University Press.

Rufat, Samuel, Eric Tate, Christopher G. Burton, and Abu Sayeed Maroof. 2015. “Social Vulnerability to Floods: Review of Case Studies and Implications for Measurement.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 14:470–86.

Sengupta, Dhritiraj, Ruishan Chen, and Michael E. Meadows. 2018. “Building beyond Land: An Overview of Coastal Land Reclamation in 16 Global Megacities.” Applied Geography 90:229–238.

Shatkin, Gavin. 2008. “The City and the Bottom Line: Urban Megaprojects and the Privatization of Planning in Southeast Asia.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 40(2):383–401.

Shatkin, Gavin. 2016. “The Real Estate Turn in Policy and Planning: Land Monetization and the Political Economy of Peri-Urbanization in Asia.” Cities 53:141–49.

Shin, Hyun Bang. 2016. “Economic Transition and Speculative Urbanisation in China: Gentrification versus Dispossession.” Urban Studies 53(3):471–489.

Soifer, Hillel. 2016. “The Development of State Capacity.” Pp. 181–194 in The Oxford Handbook of Historical Institutionalism. Oxford University Press Nueva York.

Sovacool, Benjamin K., Björn-Ola Linnér, and Michael E. Goodsite. 2015. “The Political Economy of Climate Adaptation.” Nature Climate Change 5(7):616.

Stefanovics, Nicolai. 2016. Making of a New Downtown: Urban Place-Making in HafenCity, Hamburg, Germany. Vol. PhD Thesis. University of Edinburgh.

Stojanovic, T. A. and R. C. Ballinger. 2009. “Integrated Coastal Management: A Comparative Analysis of Four UK Initiatives.” Applied Geography 29:49–62.

Storbjörk, S. 2010. “‘It Takes More to Get a Ship to Change Course’: Barriers for Organizational Learning and Local Climate Adaptation in Sweden.” Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 12:235–54.

von Storch, Hans, Gabriele Gönnert, and Manfred Meine. 2008. “Storm Surges—An Option for Hamburg, Germany, to Mitigate Expected Future Aggravation of Risk.” Environmental Science & Policy 11(8):735–742.

Suzuki, Hiroaki, Jin Murakami, Yu-Hung Hong, and Beth Tamayose. 2015. Financing Transit-Oriented Development with Land Values: Adapting Land Value Capture in Developing Countries. Washington, DC: IBRD/World Bank.

Taylor, Bruce M. and Ben P. Harman. 2015. “Governing Urban Development for Climate Risk: What Role for Public–Private Partnerships?” Environment and Planning C.

Tompkins, E. L., W. N. Adger, E. Boyd, S. Nicholson-Cole, K. Weatherhead, and N. Arnell. 2010. “Observed Adaptation to Climate Change: UK Evidence of Transition to a Well-Adapting Society.” Global Environmental Change 20:627–35.

van Bentum, K.M., Hoyng, C.W., van Ledden, M., Luijendijk, A.P., and Stive, M.J.F. 2012. “The Lagos Coast: Investigation of the Long-Term Morphological Impact of the Eko Atlantic City Project.” in Jubilee conference proceedings, NCK-days 2012 : Crossing borders in coastal research, Enschede, Nederland, 13-16 maart 2012. University of Twente.

Vogelpohl, Anne and Tino Buchholz. 2017. “Breaking With Neoliberalization by Restricting The Housing Market: Novel Urban Policies and the Case of Hamburg.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 41(2):266–81.

Wang, Hao, Xiaoling Zhang, and Martin Skitmore. 2015. “Implications for Sustainable Land Use in High-Density Cities: Evidence from Hong Kong.” Habitat International 50:23–34.

Weber, Rachel. 2002. “Extracting Value from the City: Neoliberalism and Urban Redevelopment.” Antipode 34(3):519–540.

Wong, Poh Poh, Inigo J. Losada, J. P. Gattuso, Jochen Hinkel, Abdellatif Khattabi, K. L. McInnes, Yoshiki Saito, Asbury Sallenger, and others. 2014. “Coastal Systems and Low-Lying Areas.” Pp. 361–409 in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, edited by C. B. Field and others.

Zhang, Lei. 2016. “Flood Hazards Impact on Neighborhood House Prices: A Spatial Quantile Regression Analysis.” Regional Science and Urban Economics 60:12–19.

How to Cite
Bisaro, A. (2019). Coastal adaptation through urban land reclamation: Exploring the distributional effects. DIE ERDE – Journal of the Geographical Society of Berlin, 150(3), 131-144.