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Switzerland’s transition from flood defence to flood-adapted land use–A policy coordination perspective

Löschner, Lukas, Nordbeck, Ralf
Land use policy 2019
case studies, floods, hydraulic engineering, issues and policy, land use planning, risk, risk management, Switzerland
This contribution examines Switzerland’s shift towards integrated flood risk management from a policy coordination perspective. The study applies a heuristic framework of policy coordination to explore how adaption needs promoted cross-sectoral policy coordination between hydraulic engineering and land use planning and enhanced coherence in flood policies targeting extreme flood events. To account for the temporal dimension in policy coordination, the article traces Swiss flood policies back to the early 1800s and distinguishes four phases of policy coordination. Across the four periods, the analysis focuses on (a) the drivers of policy coordination, (b) the manifestation of policy coordination in terms of policy frames, goals, instruments and subsystem involvement, and (c) the performance of policy coordination. Complemented by an in-depth case study of cross-sectoral flood policies in the Swiss canton Nidwalden findings show that the coordination between flood and land use policies has primarily been driven by three factors: (i) extreme floods as focusing events, (ii) an increasing problem pressure, and (iii) strategic reorientations in flood and land use policies. Today, flood risk management in Switzerland displays a high degree of sectoral interplay between hydraulic engineering and spatial planning. By fostering flood-adapted land uses Switzerland’s coordinated flood policies reduce the vulnerability to uncertain future changes in flood risk and strengthen the country’s capacities to mitigate damage in extreme floods events.