Book review: The Urban Rehabilitation of Post-Disaster Scapes

reviewed by Muhammad Rizal Pahleviannur

28 Feb 2024, 9:08 a.m.

The Urban Rehabilitation of Post-Disaster Scapes book cover

Nerma Omićević and Bojana Bojanić Obad Šćitaroci, The Urban Rehabilitation of Post-Disaster Scapes, Singapore: Springer Nature, 2023; 165 + xi pp.: ISBN: 978-981-19-9505-7, £104.49 (ebk), 978-981-19-9504-0, £109.99 (hbk)


Environmental changes, climate change, land-use and natural resource degradation make communities more vulnerable to disaster impacts (Xu and Shao, 2020). This vulnerable condition is influenced by many factors such as improper land use, the construction of informal settlements with self-built water supplies, environmental degradation, rapid and unplanned urbanisation, poverty and climate change (McGranahan et al., 2023). Urbanscape alteration allows disasters to have a more serious impact, such as the organisation and design of structures within open space causing direct landslides; rapid and unplanned urbanisation leading to high population density; and expansion of the urban fabric in the form of informal constructions on slopes or landfills. Open public spaces can reduce the impact of a disaster during the disaster event phase and influence rehabilitation during the post-disaster phase (Choe et al., 2023). By considering the above, Omićević and Šćitaroci offer a comprehensive coverage that combines the domains of environment, natural resources, engineering, management and policy studies to address disaster risk and resilience in the green growth context in an integrated and holistic manner.

This book provides the first extensive examination and analysis of the use of the urbanscape during the disaster process, by connecting its elements throughout disaster phases: the pre-disaster phase, consisting of reduction in form of prevention and mitigation; the disaster event phase, consisting of the disaster impact followed by the disaster effects; and the post-disaster phase, consisting of the post-disaster recovery. The book consists of 12 chapters and includes the analysis of 18 disaster case studies, of which 12 are natural and six are within the man-made disaster category, from 1991 to 2022. The authors begin by mapping the problem and examining the literature in chapters 1 and 2 to discover the significance of the urbanscape during the disaster process, by using it and connecting its elements throughout disaster phases.

Chapter 3 presents an analytical overview of the case studies, examining the criteria for the selection of these natural and man-made disasters case studies as well as the criteria for the analysis of the disaster process case studies. Chapters 4–9 provide an overview of the comparative analysis of natural disasters, which include four main types, analysed through their subcategories: hydrological, meteorological, geophysical and climatological disasters. For the research, the comparative analysis of the man-made disasters includes the sociological and technological disaster types, analysed through its subcategories. Chapters 4–9 are based on the use of the urbanscape, through its built and natural elements: the urban pattern of the everyday life and the urban vulnerability during the pre-disaster phase; the direct urban impact during the disaster event phase; and the urban rehabilitation during the post-disaster phase.

Chapter 4 presents an analytical overview of selected hydrological disaster case studies from around the world that include floods, landslides, mudflows and avalanches. Within the hydrological disaster natural subcategory, the following disaster case studies are analysed: floods along the Gulf Coast of the USA (2005); floods and landslides in Switzerland (2005) and floods in Pakistan (2010). According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2017, Pakistan is the seventh on the list of countries most seriously affected by the impact of climate change. Over the last 70 years, the country has suffered from an increasing number of heavy rainfalls and an increase in average temperatures. Revealing the post-disaster urban rehabilitation model of developing geo-spatial maps could enable mapping to be conducted in terms of assessment of areas vulnerable to flood hazards, based on population density and vulnerability of areas, to develop hazard management maps, identifying possible shelter sites in the pre-disaster phase and the possibility of utilising flood water with the use of new channels for flood water diversion.

Chapter 5 presents an analytical overview of the selected meteorological disaster case studies that include storms, typhoons, cyclones, hurricanes, winter storms, tornadoes and tropical storms. The following disaster case studies are analysed within this subcategory: cyclone in Bangladesh (1991); cyclone in Australia (2017) and hurricane in the USA (2012). The north-eastern coastal region of the United States is highly exposed to the impact of tropical cyclones. These urban rehabilitation strategies were seen as an opportunity for housing reconstruction, restoration of energy and transportation infrastructure and developing coastline resilient projects that include rebuilding beaches and board walls as well as increasing coastal resilience to storm surges, by building up dunes and wetlands.

Chapter 6 presents an analytical overview of the selected geophysical disaster case studies that include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Within this subcategory, the following post-disaster case studies are analysed: volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines (1991); earthquake and tsunami in Japan (2011) and earthquake and landslides in Nepal (2015). Being positioned on the intersection of at least three tectonic plates brings Japan under continuous threat of earthquakes. The post-disaster urban rehabilitation after earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan includes relocation of land use, raising the base elevation of land and the height of the flood bank, the reconstruction of housing and redevelopment of urban infrastructure and facilities.

Chapter 7 presents an analytical overview of the selected climatological disaster case studies that include droughts, extreme temperatures and wildfires. Within the climatological disaster subcategory, the following post-disaster case studies are analysed: wildfires in Indonesia (1997); wildfires in California, (2017, 2018) and heatwaves and wildfires in Russia (2010). In 1997, Indonesia experienced the most severe wildfires worldwide. Due to the fire’s carbon emission from the affected peat lands, the disaster caused a thick haze over Southeast Asia and led to one of the worst environmental disasters of the century. The post-disaster urban rehabilitation from these wildfires in Indonesia included the availability of seeds for the development of the post-fire secondary forest and teaching the importance of natural regeneration through mixed planting of native species as well as raising awareness of the environmental importance of the secondary forests.

Chapter 8 presents an analytical overview of the selected sociological man-made disaster case studies, caused by intentional human actions, that include terrorism, conflicts of war and genocide. Within the sociological man-made disaster subcategory, the following disaster case studies are analysed: The Siege of Sarajevo (1992–1996); The Battle of Grozny (1994–1995) and The September 11 Terrorist Attacks in New York (2001). The Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre represented the landmarks of the everyday urban life within the city of New York. The buildings were a physical constant and a confirmation of the New York’s urbanscape, but they also reflected the changes within the city, exposing them as vulnerable to future disaster impacts. As such architectural and urban landmarks that dominated the New York skyline, they served as the main targets for the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The post-disaster recovery process consisted of rehabilitation strategies required rebuilding the World Trade Centre complex, which was reflected through the construction of different design projects, revealing the post-disaster urban rehabilitation model of rebuilding. The use of parks and green spaces in the aftermath of the disaster changed the interpretation of public spaces as renewed places of appreciation in search for healing and reflection in the design.

Chapter 9 presents an analytical overview of the selected technological man-made disaster case studies, caused by non-intentional human actions, that include technological or industrial disasters. Within the technological man-made disaster subcategory, the following disaster case studies are analysed: Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (2010); the COVID-19 pandemic (2019-Ongoing); and the Beirut Port explosion (2020). In urban history, pandemics were the catalyst for shaping the city and contributing to its urban development. Being an open and resilient system that it always under the impact of change, every disruption can be perceived as an opportunity to understand the city and to reshape it. The future urban strategies of post-COVID planning reveal the need for reshaping of the open public spaces within the city to be more acknowledged as places that can cope with possible pandemic outbreaks and to integrate more greenery within the city to make it more pandemic resilient, the research revealing the post-disaster urban rehabilitation model of urban regeneration.

Chapters 10 and 11 summarise the disaster processes of the selected case studies, and are based on the use of the urbanscape during the disaster process and the existing urban rehabilitation models, derived from the conducted comparative analysis of the natural and man-made disaster process case studies. The final chapter concludes the book. The analytical overview of these case studies was based on the use of the urbanscape, through its built and natural environment, reflected through the urban pattern of the everyday life and the urban vulnerability during the pre-disaster phase; the urban impact and urban resilience during the disaster event phase and the urban rehabilitation strategies used during the post disaster phase.

In general, this book succeeds in delivering a comprehensive discourse for scholars and professionals, helping to advance knowledge concerning the disaster resilience outcomes of green growth approaches. This book is highly recommended for researchers and students in academia, with a secondary audience of experts involved in the disaster management process, together with urban planners and architects.

The unique contribution of this work is seen in the development of its figures and tables. Each case study is graphically evaluated using a collage of three pictures that are merged in a diagrammatic style to illustrate all three disaster stages (pre-during-post disaster time). The writers chose to put the tables within the book chapters rather than as an appendix; yet, the tables retain their catalogue shape and significance. The cross-comparability and ability to study this book through its tables is very important for any future research of this type.

The strength of this book is that each chapter features case studies from various continents, both in developed and in developing countries. These can be used as a comparison on urban-based disaster risk reduction. However, there is no case study from the African continent, so this is one of the weaknesses, given that the African continent also has the potential for disasters due to climate change, hunger and sociological man-made disaster.

Overall, the book The Urban Rehabilitation of Post-Disaster Scapes provides a comprehensive scientific contribution, by presenting various points of view to bring out the latest research, approaches and perspectives for disaster risk reduction along with highlighting the outcomes of green growth approaches and including the science–technology–research–policy–practice interface, from both developed and developing parts. Furthermore, I believe that the book can make an important scientific contribution to future urban planning.



The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan (LPDP)/Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education.



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Xu J, Shao Y (2020) The role of the state in China’s post-disaster reconstruction planning: Implications for resilience. Urban Studies 57(3): 525–545. Crossref | ISI | Google Scholar



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