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A free course exploring cultural heritage as a lens to critically question conventional approaches on adaptation

Author: ycha2

2.1 Cultural heritage, climate change and disasters

In this section you will hear from two leading experts in cultural heritage and disasters.

Cultural heritage and climate change relations: Loss, Adaptation and Creativity

Professor David C. Harvey provides a brief overview of cultural heritage and climate change relations.

Culture and risk perception: The hidden significance of culture in development, climate change and disasters

How we perceive cultural heritage is considered to be situated within a risk context (Harrison, 2013). From a Western perspective, heritage is often framed through a preservationist lens as something to be protected from threats rather than a dynamic and multifaceted resource that delivers resilience. To this end, heritage should not be viewed simply as a stable material to be preserved for the future, but as a shifting interaction between past, present and future.

There has been some progress on an international scale to incorporate heritage within risk thinking. For example, The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) refers to cultural heritage in terms of ensuring a better understanding of the impacts on heritage and of good governance for the protection of heritage:

‘To systematically evaluate, record, share and publicly account for disaster losses and understand the economic, social, health, education, environmental and cultural heritage impacts, as appropriate, in the context of event-specific hazard-exposure and vulnerability information; (UNDRR, 2015 p15)

To protect or support the protection of cultural and collecting institutions and other sites of historical, cultural heritage and religious interest;’ (UNDRR, 2015 p19)

To meet the goals of such international agreements, risk assessment methods and tools are developed, tested and improved. The result is a potential increase in accessibility to risk tools and data for local to national government and other key stakeholders. However, comprehensive and systematic use of holistic risk assessments for sustainable development through adaptation is still limited.

The majority of risk assessment tools and methods that incorporate heritage are developed on a project-by-project basis, for specific contexts. They rarely have a long life span.

Watch this video below to learn more about the interconnection between heritage and disasters.

Further reading & resources

Learn more about the UNDRR International framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (also known as the Sendai Framework) 

David Harvey’s book  The Future of Heritage as Climates Change: Loss, Adaptation and Creativity

1.1 Cultural heritage in the context of climate change

Why is heritage so important in the context of climate change?

Cultural heritage shapes our values and beliefs; it is a reflection of who we are and drives our motivations and actions. How we respond to climate change is therefore influenced by our cultural heritage. This may be directly through what we choose to believe and how we may or may not take action to reduce our impact on the planet. Or it may also be a positive tool that can lead to a better understanding of climate change and the actions we can take to protect ourselves, our communities and our shared future.

Climate change is not new. Our planet has warmed and cooled many times over thousands of years. However, anthropogenic (human induced) climate change (which we are experiencing now) is new because it is extremely rapid and driven by us pumping vast amounts of Green House Gases into the atmosphere. Never before has the planet experienced such a rapid change in temperature in such a short amount of time.

Cultural heritage can therefore provide a record of the nature and the effects of past climate change and other disasters, and our responses to them. It gives a valuable perspective on how climate change and other disasters have been experienced in the past by different members of society. It can provide an essential human dimension to our understanding of climate change that can complement data from the physical sciences. That can help us to understand the strengths and limitations of different responses to disaster and hopefully help us become more resilient in the future.

Cultural heritage is itself vulnerable to climate change and other hazards. Both tangible (e.g. buildings, paintings, or materials) and intangible (e.g. beliefs, practices and knowledge) heritage can be exposed to different threats and it can be lost. How we value our heritage and therefore protect or accept its loss. But these decisions should be made in collaboration with the people who live, embody and interact with that heritage.

Geologists say that ‘the past is key to our future’, well, cultural heritage represents our past and our future and therefore is a critical element of how we understand the world and our impacts on it.

Watch this short video explaining the connection between cultural heritage and climate change.

What does heritage mean to you?

Before we get into more detail about climate change and cultural heritage, the short video below shares a diverse range of perspectives on heritage. We invite you to reflect on what heritage means to you.

Heritage and how it is valued is personal to each one of us, it shapes our thinking and influences our actions. It is our toolkit for survival during the current climate emergency.

Further readings & resources

1.2 What is climate change ?

A climate emergency

In this section we will explore the current climate emergency. We will briefly explain why current climate change is so important and its fundamental drivers.

Our planet is warming at an unprecedented rate, this means that as global temperatures rise our weather and longer term climate patterns are changing at a local and regional level. This has overwhelmingly negative consequences for people and biodiversity around the world. Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a global body of climate change scientists) highlight that we need to take urgent action to reduce the worst possible scenario in the future. This means that we must reduce our Green House Gas emissions across the board from industry, to energy production through to land use and transport.  We must also ensure that we take action to reduce the risks we face now and in the future – we call this adaptation. It is important that we consider both mitigation (reducing our emissions) and adaptation together when talking about climate action.

Watch this short video to get a summary of climate change and actions we need to take.

Climate change in more detail

If you are new to climate change, then let’s delve in a little deeper. The following lecture provides an overview of the climate crisis, the reason why we are in a climate crisis and some of the possible things we can do to not only survive but thrive. We cover topics such as adaptation and vulnerability.

Further readings and resources:

Please share your thoughts and experiences in your regional climate change & extreme weather events by leaving comments on this blog post.

2.3 Rethinking value, risk and heritage

As explored in 1.3 What is cultural heritage? Heritage has multiple meanings, ranging from everyday objects and practices to symbolic spaces and rituals. Because these objects, spaces and practices are of value to a given community of interest, we might reason that they should be preserved in an unchanged and unchanging form—especially if they are threatened by the impacts of climate change and globalisation. But this preservationist approach is not a panacea because heritage is valued in different ways by different people over time. This section will expand on the idea of processual cultural heritage as a means of rethinking what is threatened by climate change.

Processual cultural heritage

Processual heritage recognises the multiple interactions of people with heritage objects and practices. This is seen in conservation practice, observing how attempts to stabilise or restore material decay – the practice of preservation – create new environments. This can be understood as new combinations of things used to hold materials together, and new histories – events of change – that recall events that change how the object is understood. In other words, heritage is the process through which ‘things’ become ‘objects of display’ (Harrison, 2013: 69). The process of becoming heritage is a human condition, a social process associated with memory, identity, and perception; it involves re-use, re-working, and re-interpretation (Harvey, 2001).

In the video below, David Harvey explains how we can think of heritage as a process. He explores not only material heritage, such as objects, sites, and landscapes, but also intangible values and power-relations.


Rethinking Cultural Heritage

Mainstream cultural heritage practice has increasingly incorporated the values of local groups in the act of conserving objects and landscapes. The Future of Our Pasts report, commissioned by the International Commission on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), draws attention to the role of cultural heritage, and local stakeholders, in the protection of cultural assets in the context of increased climate risk (ICOMOS, 2019). The report recognises the important role of heritage assets in reducing and compensating for loss and damage, improving adaptation through recognition of cultural limits and capacities, and drawing attention to the vulnerability of cultural heritage that has and will be lost to the impacts of climate change in the 21st century.

Heritage studies in the context of climate risk is therefore a highly interdisciplinary field, requiring the input of climate scientists, archaeologists and anthropologists, historians, museologists, artists, and disaster risk experts to name but a few. To safeguard cultural heritage for present and future generations, cultural resource managers (or heritage practitioners) will require input from each of these fields of research. As previously noted by Rowan Jackson, Hambrecht and Rockman (2017) draw attention to four pillars for addressing climate-related threats: science, mitigation, adaptation, and communication. At the upstream end, academic play a significant role in understanding how climate change will impact sites, landscapes, and communities. Practitioners play a significant role in the co-production of mitigation and adaption strategies together with stakeholder groups, as well as the communication of projected impacts on cultural heritage. A concerted effort to monitor impacts and build capacity is necessary to achieving resilient cultural heritage (Fatorić and Seekamp, 2017).

In the video below, Rowan Jackson asks: how we should conceptualise heritage risk?


Further readings & resources

  • Hambrecht, G. and Rockman, M., 2017. International approaches to climate change and cultural heritage. American Antiquity, 82(4), pp.627-641.
  • Harrison, R., 2013. Heritage: Critical Approaches. Routledge.
  • Harvey, D.C. and Perry, J., 2015. Heritage and climate change: The future is not the past. Routledge.
  • ICOMOS Climate Change and Cultural Heritage Working Group. 2019. The Future of Our Pasts: Engaging Cultural Heritage in Climate Action, July 1, 2019. Paris: ICOMOS.

3.2 South Africa: Historical Injustice and Elandskloof

Taking into account histories, livelihoods and likely climate change impacts to support forgotten communities in Elandskloof

“Heritage is fluid and complex, it is political in every sense. The work of heritage allows difficult conversations to take place in imaginative ways, allowing for history to be understood as being in the present”  -Prof Siona O’Connell, International Co-investigator, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

In South Africa, the scars of inequality and social engineering that characterised the apartheid system persist despite nearly three decades of democracy.

Injustice through forced land ownership changes, brought violent race-based removal of settlements across the Cape Flats. The legacy of historical injustice still affects today as Elandskloof is impoverished in lacking infrastructure, including little formal housing.

The study of vulnerable and forgotten communities – single sites in particular – is therefore utterly crucial. Forgotten communities require context-specific approaches to support them taking into account histories, livelihood portfolios, and likely climate change impact.

About Elandskloof

Established as a mission station by the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in 1861, families from the surrounding area were attracted to settle by the dream of autonomy and dignity – title to a small plot of land, the right to graze your cattle in the surrounding veld, and a community of faith gathered under the wing of the church.

Elandsklowers harvested buchu (Agathosma betulina), kept vegetable gardens, grazed cattle, and worked as seasonal laborers on the surrounding farms. The betrayal, when it came, was dramatic, unexpected, and intimate. In 1961 the DRC sold the land out from underneath them. Residents who were children at the time tell of going to school in the. morning, and returning to find the bulldozers at work on their homes.

Then, like the estimated 3.5 million people in South Africa who suffered forced removal under apartheid, they drifted into the surrounding towns and the dystopian dormitory settlements of the Cape Flats.

In 1996, Elandskloof hit news headlines as the first successful land claim in a newly democratic South Africa. Seventy-six families returned to Elandskloof.

However, over the coming decades, the contradictions in a deeply flawed restitution process came to the fore: land without the capital to develop it, and a group of claimants many decades removed from a meaningful relationship with the business of rural livelihoods, carrying the scars of the struggle for survival under apartheid. In 2005, the Elandskloof Communal Property Association was placed under administration. Today, Elandskloof is an impoverished rural ghetto without infrastructure, and with little formal housing.

Layered onto these traumatic events as an unanticipated and largely indecipherable process has been the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Southern Africa, and the Western Cape, in particular, has been described as a climate change hot-spot, with evidence of warming above the global average.

A rapidly changing climate

The annual average temperature across South Africa in 2019 was around 1.1°C warmer than the average for the period of 1981-2010.

There has also been an increasing trend in extreme temperatures (maximum temperatures) by 0.1-0.3°C a decade across the Western Cape between 1931 and 2020 (South Africa Weather Service, 2020).

There is medium confidence that there has been a long-term decline in soil moisture (increase in aridity) throughout the twenty-first century in west-southern Africa as a result of decreasing precipitation and increased temperatures.

In South Africa the number of droughts have increased by 220% between 1961 and 2016, as a result of anthropogenic forcing (IPCC- AR6).

Food Heritage and Sense of Place

This study foregrounds the importance of culture as central to understanding ways of being.

Cultural scholars and practitioners respond and intervene in creative and productive ways to social contexts and social realities, drawing attention to the lived, material, and embodied realities and crises of the contemporary moment. In the global south and Africa, cultural studies that focus on understanding the human and colonial afterlives provide a framework that allows a critical, immediate and urgent analysis of the world. A focus on food heritage in Elandskloof explores the intimately embodied and everyday aspects of some dauntingly high-level concerns – ideas around culture, identity, history, descendancy, and production in the face of climate change.

We are what we eat goes the platitude. Food plays a central role in all our lives, what we grow, eat and share forms a bond to the land and each other. In rural settlements reliant on agriculture food is a central pillar to the community.

Preparing and sharing food is a ritual through which we build and repair relationships, and nurture those that we care for. Food heritage is interesting because it takes us to such an intimately embodied and everyday aspect of some dauntingly high-level concerns – ideas around culture, identity, history, descendency, and genealogy.

The tangled food heritages of the Cape reference indigenous foodways, the slave diaspora established by the Dutch, missionary proselytization, British colonialism, apartheid segregation and forced removals, and the ambiguities of post-apartheid reconciliation and restitution.

But in Elandskloof food heritage provides a narrative of both hope and loss.

Rebuilding traditional knowledge

The forced removal of the residents during apartheid had a devastating impact on the intergenerational knowledge system in this community. This traumatic dispossession allowed for some practices which took place before the forced removals to disappear. This loss of knowledge is evident from the conversations with the community members. More specifically, Elandsklowers could live sustainably from homegrown crops before the forced removals. This dependency on homegrown crops becomes significant in understanding how other knowledges were created such as recipes. This community currently remains vulnerable as these knowledges and practices seem to disappear with the older generation.

Hybrid knowledge

Can a community recreate lost indigenous knowledge and incorporate new information?

Although Elandskloof is struggling, there is evidence that local and shared knowledge played an important role in adapting to the changing climate but at a very minimal level. Residents recognised that the drought has become an ideal climate in which Buchu and other crops could flourish however, this process is once again hindered by deep divisions within the community. The community has also recognised that they require further knowledge around soil quality and climatic changes to fully benefit from the available land that is still accessible to them.

Questions around heritage surfaces within this community in various ways. The preservation of their tangible heritage has become a point of concern for some residents. At the heart of the community lies the remnants of two-valued buildings, the church, and the community hall or school building.  which was part of the original construction when the Elandskloof as a missionary town was established. These buildings are recognised by the community as valuable sites in which learning and worship still take place. These buildings also serve as an important space where residents can find common ground through shared practices such as worship, the hosting of bazaars, and, more importantly, a place for commemorating the past (events are often held by local community leaders in which they try and prompt dialogue on Elandskloof’s history).

What became more prominent, however, is the loss of intangible heritage. Interviews with residents revealed that there is a great loss of intergenerational knowledge due to forced removals. The violent separation of this community has interrupted important practices which depended on generational knowledge passed from father to son or from mother to daughter. One example of these practices includes the importance of food heritage. Residents corresponded that they try and live from what they grow in their gardens, this practice is now only seasonal and stands in stark contrast to before the forced removals (this is confirmed through archive research conducted in the Dutch Reformed Church archives). Most of the recipes that were collected through each visit existed only through memory and were all handed down from mother to daughter. These recipes were designed to be accommodating to the type of crops cultivated in the Elandskloof community.

Many of the residents expressed the need for valuable helpful data on climate and agriculture.

While Elandskloof is still under administration which prohibits the cultivation of the existing orchard, some community members have collectively planned new areas for harvesting on the land for Elandskloof

It is evident from visits that the community would benefit from access to climactic information, including this information with some of the indigenous knowledges would be beneficial and could promote a new sense of cohesion in the community. Currently the question of land is still a contentious point within the community.

The Future

The future of Elandskloof remains uncertain for the residents. While some responded hopeful with renewed efforts around agricultural cultivation, there was a sincere concern toward the future of Elandskloof. Most residents expressed that the future of Elandskloof is reliant on the new generation who, according to older residents, show little interest in the legacy of Elandskloof. Residents in Elandskloof prioritise day-to-day planning rather than long term planning however there is a concern for climactic threats in the future.

Currently the residents have remarked some drastic seasonal changes such as re-occurring veld fires as well as higher snow-fall in winter months.

The residents however have not yet adapted to these changes. In some instances it was remarked that the out of the ordinary dry seasons have had some benefit in the cultivation of Buchu and that this specific indigenous crop thrives in these conditions. Current community driven projects have been focused on the planning of new crop cultivation which includes the planting of Rooibos Tea, watermelon, green beans and protea (also known as “tolbos”). They are still unsure which crops the soil will support. The new crops will have a direct effect on food heritage and offer an opportunity to rebuild lost food knowledges. The intention of the planting of these new crops is aimed at uplifting the current state of Elandskloof in hopes of returning to a new self-sustaining community. Some of the community plans include the use of some of the natural water sources in the area, the main source being a river which currently runs through Elandskloof.

Study Recommendations

Policy makers such as Cape Nature are urged to approach members of this community for more inclusive decision making, specifically on the decisions which apply to the Cederberg Nature Reserve. While Elandskloof has attempted to independently manage some of the available opportunities such as the implementation of new small-scale farms on available plots of land, this process has been hindered by the lack of funds and inter-community disputes on decision making. This community will benefit from any assistance which could be provided on any environmental changes. This will assist with the community’s strategy to currently complete agricultural projects which will have a beneficial impact on Elandskloof not only in returning to self-sustainability but also towards the recovering and creation of indigenous knowledges.

Click here to explore more about Elandskloof: A Chronology of Loss

This is one of the ArcGIS story map series from the CRITICAL project. Dr Rowan Jackson set up the story map from the South Africa case study provided by Prof Siona O’Connell and Dominique Wnuczek-Lobaczewski  (nee Niemand).

3.4 Indonesia: The heritage landscapes of Yogyakarta city

The changing nature of heritage landscapes and disaster management in Yogyakarta City in Central Java

The study sought to understand the correlation between climate-related hazards and the cultural heritage which connects people or the community to their environment. Early on it was apparent that the river systems that cut through the city of Yogyakarta from their source on Mt Merapi to their mouth at the south sea are critical heritage assets.

The River Code became a focal point for the study. Interviews, desk study, and field observation were conducted to better understand and identify the heritage of Yogyakarta city and the natural landscape of the province stretching from the Merapi volcanic area southward along the main southern rivers to the sea – a traditional Javanese cosmological axis through the city.

This study coincided with an application to UNESCO to create a city wide World Heritage Site in Yogyakarta. But the research team were concerned that  the proposal put to UNESCO in early 2021 includes no climatic factors discussed, and the designated area of the cosmological axis proposed to UNESCO has not included the river or water issues in the discussion and the proposal.  The designated area mainly focuses on the historical building with economical values at present.

This research thus explored on how to build a resilient community that relates to its heritage value, also on how far policy making (regulations) consider local level community heritage values.

A cultural centre

The Special Region of Yogyakarta is located in the southern part of the island of Java, directly adjacent to the Indian Ocean. Yogyakarta is one of the well-known destination cities for tourism and education in Indonesia. Yogyakarta is a city and also a provincial area. As a province, it is known as Yogyakarta’s “special” province or Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta due to its significance in Javanese history and national identity. The morphological layout of Yogyakarta has a cultural concept called Hamemayu (Memayu) Hayuning Bawono, which means to manage the earth (environment) wisely to maintain sustainability.

Given its geographic location the city is prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods and droughts. Hazards and their risks have been historically taken into account and shared by the people of Yogyakarta in their daily life based on experiences, stories, and written knowledge. The knowledge has evolved and developed into the concept of the symbiotic character of humans responding and reacting to nature.

Catastrophic changes in the natural physical environment resulting from climate change, such as flooding, rising sea level, and its associated coastal impacts, and landslides can have great impacts on cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Yogyakarta, as one province in Indonesia, faces several hazards due to its physical features and anthropogenic factors. Changing climate trends and weather hazards are gradually impacting rural areas on the outskirts of Yogyakarta and within the city of Yogyakarta. Agriculture and ecosystem-based tourism sectors annually experience hydrometeorological hazards with potential risk and disaster. In the urban area, the climatic factors disrupt daily urban activities, particularly for the tourism sector dependent on visitors to monuments, landmarks, and the cultural landscape of the City of Yogyakarta.

Vulnerability for cultural heritage needs to take into account the aspects of the heritage itself, both intangible and tangible.

Climate Profiles

A long term warming trend across Asia has accelerated since 1970 and drought and floods are of major concern across every region in Asia (IPCC- AR6). Heat waves are becoming more frequent, longer- lasting and more intense across most of Southeast Asia (Li, 2020).

Average monthly rainfall in Java fluctuates similar to the Australian monsoon pattern throughout the year, with highest rainfall occurring in December and January (350 mm/month) and the lowest in August (80 mm/month). Precipitation related hazards, such as drought and floods are of major concern across every region in Asia (IPCC AR6). Average monthly rainfall in Java fluctuates similar to the Australian monsoon pattern throughout the year, with highest rainfall occurring in December and January (350 mm/month), and the lowest in August (80 mm/month) and low between June and September. Precipitation is higher in the southwest and central Java. Annual rainfall in Yogyakarta is relatively high compared to the rest of Java, and appears to be increasing in more recent years (Faradiba., 2021). 

Changes in precipitation are often a result of weather patterns such as the El-Niño and La-Niña (Berliana et al., 2021). The arrival of an El-Niño such as in 1997 and 2015, resulted in a prolonged dry season, whilst La-Niña, such as in 1999/2010 and 2016, causes an increase in rainfall and sea level surges which caused flooding across Indonesia, especially along the coast (Handoko et al., 2021). Drought and flooding affected a reduction in crop production, as well as the potential to significantly alter groundwater and drinking supplies (Hohl et al., 2020 and Susanti et al., 2021). Future projections note that although precipitation may decrease leading to drought and water shortage, monsoonal rains and extreme rainfall associated with tropical cyclones may increase. These extreme rainfall events could lead to flooding and remobilization of volcanic material (lahars) within the Yogyakarta river systems.

The coastal areas of Yogyakarta are at risk of sea-level rise such as the Galur district being abraded by more than 350 square metres, whilst Srandakan grew by 270 square metres between 2000 and 2018 (Susanti et al., 2021).

Future sea level change is likely to continue and exceed current rates in the oceans around Asia ranging from 0.3-0.5m under SSP1-RCP2.6, to 0.7-0.8m under SSp5-RCP8.5 for 2081 to 2100 relative to 1995-2014 (IPCC AR6). Sea temperatures and coastal floods are also estimated to increase (IPCC AR6).

The heritage landscape of Yogyakarta

The city is connected to the volcano Mt Merapi, in the north and the Indian Ocean in the south via a series of river systems. This is know as the cosmological axis of Yogyakarta and it links a series of tangible and intangible heritage assets including the volcano together with the Sultan’s Palace, and the Parangtritis coastal area.  Along this route are many heritage sites of signifcant national value including Prambanan Temple (a World Heritage Site), Malioboro Street, Tuga Monument, and Kotagede.

The Indonesian Charter for Heritage Conservation (2003) stated that 1) The heritage of Indonesia is the legacy of nature, culture, and saujana (landscape and livescape); 2) Cultural heritage includes both tangible and intangible legacies; 3) Heritage, bequeathed from the generations that precede us, is a vital foundation and initial capital for the development of the Indonesian nation in the future, and for these reasons, must be conserved and passed along to the next generation in good condition, without loss of value, and if possible with an enhanced value, to form heritage for the future.

There is a strong interconnectivity between the community and the cosmological axis. The rivers shape the whole landscape as part of the axis that connects Merapi volcano, the Sultanate Palace, and the Parangtiris coast. These locations symbolize human and the spiritual aspect (God) connections. This philosophical heritage is repeatedly introduced to visitors spending their time in Yogyakarta.

There are gaps in understanding the influence of climate change and current political decisions on heritage management.

In this area the value of the River Code varies considerably from national to local government and their drive to propose the cosmological axis as one World Heritage Site, and the local people who live and interact with the river and it’s hazards. This research therefore aimed to explore the river as heritage, and understand the local and regional narratives associated with heritage and natural hazards.

The river as a tool for connecting people and their heritage

With a backdrop of dynamic environmental conditions in Yogyakarta, there are  historical landmarks that were placed alongside several geographical icons such as mountains, rivers, and oceans. Those icons do not stand alone, but they are parts of a constellation of cultural sites and the cultural values have been continued to bind, live, and interpreted in various ways by the people of Yogyakarta.

For example, indigenous knowledge and cultural memories relating to Merapi volcano, such as beliefs, livelihoods, and the kinship of the people who live around volcano will always be there, even if one day the tangible heritage disappears. This indicates that Yogyakarta has cultural value through the intangible heritage which is constructed around the landscape and provides  guidance to the way people protect and interact with their environment.

The River Code’s inhabitants, for example, held regular and annual events or ceremonies to build public awareness in the conservation of the Code River existence as part of valuing cultural ecosystem services. Merti Code is one of the traditional knowledge areas regarded as ecosystem service based on human and environmental connections. Merti is a Javanese word that means “taking care of something”. The Winongo river inhabitants held the merti river, similar to the Code River community. Such behaviour, knowledge, and daily practices have shaped the cultural landscape of Yogyakarta.

Traditional warning systems are being lost. For example, environmental folklore relating to lahar warnings are now not being passed through generations because of the changing communities alongside the river.

Dynamic change

Cultural heritage in this region is always changing, it reacts to changes in the landscape through floods, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and to globalisation. Since, the 1970s the river banks have become slum areas, with new immigrants seeking cheap lands to populate. The Code River banks have become densely populated and this has caused a sever decline in water quality. What was once a source of drinking water and regarded as healing waters are now polluted. The city itself has also taken advantage of the river systems, with an increase in tourist facilities such as hotels, hostels, restaurants, souvenir shops, markets, offices.

In some areas there is hope, with local residents forming their own community groups to protect the river, share their knowledge but also ensure local people can take advantage of relevant tourism.

Here heritage provides a significant source of livelihood in the city and yet some ancient heritage is threaten by pollution, loss of traditional knowledge that focuses on the protection of the environment and how to live alongside nature. The UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the city provides economic benefits but questions remain about how will this benefit those living in the city? Are we seeing yet another shift away from local value of heritage to something ‘global’ and sanitised? And how can we protect these sites if natural hazards are not considered within the planning of cultural urban spaces?

Final recommendations

  1. Climatic factors should be included into heritage management and development planning.
  2. Re-introduce climatic factors to all stakeholders and the communities alongside the cosmological or philosophical axis of Yogyakarta to create a mitigation and adaptation awareness culture.
  3. Strengthen the role of the community and cultural value with environmental preservation, and as the main driver in the management and development of the Code River.
  4. Implement Nature Base Solutions t to protect the philosophical values of the Yogyakarta axis

Click here to explore more about Kali Code: Heritage landscapes in Indonesia

This is one of the ArcGIS story map series from the CRITICAL project. Dr Kate Crowley set up the story map from the Indonesia case study provided by Dr Arry Retnowati, Esti Anantasari and Indriya Parahita.

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