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Socio-economic consequences of post-disaster reconstruction in hazard-exposed areas


With coastal populations growing and sea levels rising, reconstruction decisions after coastal disasters are increasingly consequential determinants of future societal vulnerability and thus the sustainability of development. The humanitarian sector tends to favour rebuilding in-place to avoid the social disruptions of mass relocation, yet evidence on what affected people want is mixed. Using the case of post-tsunami Banda Aceh, Indonesia, we investigate whether a policy to rebuild in-place in the disaster-affected area suits an urban population that was previously unaware of the hazard. We show that following the tsunami, a substantial proportion of the population prefers to live farther from the coast. This has caused a new price premium for inland properties and socio-economic sorting of poorer households into coastal areas. These findings show that offering reconstruction aid predominantly within a hazard-exposed area can inadvertently transfer disaster risk to the poor.

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This research is supported by the National Research Foundation Singapore and the Singapore Ministry of Education under the Research Centres of Excellence initiative. This work was funded by the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) and is EOS Contribution Number 132. The International Centre for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies facilitated this research in collaboration with Syiah Kuala University. Nizamuddin, Ardiansyah and M. Affan carried out geospatial analyses. Hayatullah, N. Anwar, Z. Ak, A. Uzia, C. Murnita, F. Nailufar, Fitriani, I. Fitria, Israyani, Jihan, Safrina and S. Tahir helped to refine research instruments and carried out field research. N. Elviera, I. Fitria, J. Yong, R. Zahara, S. Novita and D. Hundlani assisted with data management and verification. E. Maida, C. Dian Fitri and I. Arisandy provided operational support. P. Adamek provided comments on the manuscript.

Author information

J.W.M., I.M., P.D. and A.P. designed the research. S.M. designed the sampling strategy. J.W.M. and I.M. carried out the research and analysed the data. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Correspondence to Jamie W. McCaughey.

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Further reading

Fig. 1: Risk preferences and socio-economic status of those who moved and those who did not.
Fig. 2: Property prices.
Fig. 3: Estimates of poverty rates.