Jeddah Floods and Adaptation Strategies in the City of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Subject: Environment
Pages: 8
Words: 2320
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD

Today, the issue of both natural and man-made disasters has become a considerable problem that requires attention. For example, economic development results in overuse of the natural resources and the increase of the average global temperature, which causes serious climate change and induces disastrous events in the areas where they previously were rare (DeNicola, Aburizaiza, Siddique, Khwaja, & Carpenter, 2015; Hallegatte, 2011). If the problem of global climate change and disasters is left unaddressed, it may pose serious danger to individuals, as well as to cause considerable property damage and the disruption of various processes (Masson et al., 2014). Clearly, this demands that such adaptation strategies and mechanisms are implemented that may permit for lowering the potential damage caused by these disasters, or mitigating their adverse impact on individuals or property (Momani & Salmi, 2012). It is important to investigate the possible ways of using such adaptation strategies in the Middle East, for example – in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, because it became a victim of floods several times over the last decade (Sowers, Vengosh, & Weinthal, 2011), whereas the literature on these issues in the Middle East is limited.

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The problem of floods and other disasters, and the need to respond to it can be explained using several theoretical models. For instance, such a need may be understood because floods pose danger to the human life, so a humanistic approach could be taken; it can be discussed from a social point of view, stating that these disasters, for instance, exacerbate social problems; it also may be considered from an economic viewpoint, discussing the adverse economic outcomes of this disaster. In any case, regardless of the theoretical approach that is used, it is clear that the consequences of floods are highly adverse, and that measures should be taken which would be aimed at addressing the negative impact of these natural disasters, for instance, by lowering it to a minimum, or by helping to mitigate the negative consequences of a flood that already took place (Hunt & Watkiss, 2011).

Therefore, this paper will investigate the following research question: “What other adaptation strategies are adopted by the community in Jeddah city?” Consequently, the paper will review several adaptation strategies that have already been used, to a certain extent, in the city of Jeddah, and comment on their viability and applicability in that city. It should be noted that answering this research question can be instrumental in providing a contribution to the field of emergency management because little literature exists on the given problem, and it is paramount to possess a good understanding of the possible methods of dealing with emergency situations to be able to address them appropriately and minimize the loss of human life, as well as the damage to property and assets.

Thus, this paper will provide a review of academic literature pertaining to the topic of adaptation to floods in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. First of all, the need for such an analysis will be justified. After that, a theoretical framework for analyzing this issue will be selected (Levina & Tirpak, 2006). This will be followed by the analysis of the various methods of adaptation to floods and their viability and applicability in the city of Jeddah. Finally, some conclusions will be made with respect to the potential effectiveness of the discussed adaptation strategies, and the manner of their implementation in Jeddah that will seem the most appropriate will be offered.

Review of Literature

Floods: A New Threat to Jeddah That Requires Analysis

In general, the rapidly changing climate may provoke extreme weather conditions that pose a considerable danger to certain regions and areas; among such areas is the place where the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is located. For instance, over the last decade, the city of Jeddah has withstood several disastrous flood events, thus suffering from severe damage. Some of the largest of these floods took place in 2009 and 2011, causing considerable harm to the city’s infrastructure and property, resulting in deaths of large numbers of people, and disrupting the city’s life for considerable periods of time (Ameur, 2016; Elfeki, Ewea, & Al-Amri, 2011; Youssef, Sefry, Pradhan, & Alfadail, 2016). The major losses that the city and its inhabitants suffered from corroborate the need for the creation and implementation of effective systems and methods that would allow for minimizing the loss of human lives, as well as for decreasing the property and infrastructure damage, and also for reducing the time during which the operations that are to take place in the city remain disrupted (Nabaz & Masayu, 2015). This means that it is paramount to consider which methods for preventing or dealing with flood damage may be appropriately implemented in the city of Jeddah with the greatest level of effectiveness (Youssef, Pradhan, & Sefry, 2015a).

Because of this, it should be useful to consider several ways which could permit for addressing the problem of floods (including flash floods) in the city of Jeddah by adapting the local population to the climate risks, and evaluate these ways using the theoretical framework which investigates in detail their effectiveness and viability within the city in question. For example, a method such as the relocation of individuals and assets may be assessed with respect to its effectiveness in minimizing the damage caused by floods, the capability of its being implemented in Jeddah, and the possible cost of its utilization (Alfieri, Feyen, & Di Baldassarre, 2016). Such an estimate may be utilized in order to formulate the hypotheses about the most appropriate methods for adapting to the risk of floods in the city of Jeddah.

The Viability of the Ways of Adapting to Floods in Jeddah

Generally speaking, there exist numerous ways in which the population of a certain region or area might be able to adapt to the risks posed by the climate and climate change, including the danger of floods. For example, the following different methods of adaptation to floods can be taken into consideration: 1) creating places which can be flooded in a controlled way when the amount of water rises to risky levels – for instance, reservoirs, sustainable urban drainage systems, and land management projects such as the creation of forested areas; 2) relocation of individuals and assets to areas in which the risk of flooding is low or negligible; and 3) lowering the vulnerability of the populated area by introducing such measures as systems of early warning, floodproofing, and so on (Alfieri et al., 2016; Qari, Jomoah, & Mambretti, 2014). These methods may be highly effective in decreasing the magnitude of the adverse impact of floods in a given highly populated area, therefore allowing for considerably lower rates of property damage, loss of human life, and disruption of activities (Youssef, Pradhan, & Sefry, 2015b). Therefore, it is critical to assess their effectiveness and the possibility to use them as a method of adaptation to the potential floods in the city of Jeddah.

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When it comes to the option of relocating individuals and assets to the areas that are less vulnerable to flooding, it might be possible to argue that this variant could be implemented in the city of Jeddah, although it may be rather expensive and inconvenient. For example, relocation of buildings and assets that are situated in areas of low altitude could, in certain cases, require an abandonment or demolition of these buildings or other assets, which is associated with considerable costs (Dawod, Mirza, & Al-Ghamdi, 2012). However, as for creating new buildings and facilities, it seems clear that these should be built in places in which the potential danger from floods would be negligible (Alfieri et al., 2016). Therefore, it is possible to utilize the modern techniques of mapping so as to identify areas in which the danger from floods would be lowest in Jeddah, and use these areas for further building and development (Vincent, 2003); on the contrary, the facilities that are located in the areas of low altitude, which are in the greatest danger during the floods, could be moved to higher areas. This can be done over an extended period of time, for doing this suddenly might not be practically accomplishable (Abdulaal, 2012; Dawod, Mirza, & Al-Ghamdi, 2011). As the lower areas gradually become free, it may be possible to reconstruct some of them for further utilization as water reservoirs for the case of flood; during the rest of the time, these areas might be utilized as, e.g., public gardens (although potential safety concerns should be taken into consideration) (Lawler, 2009).

The named solution of relocation, as has been seen, is related to the creation of places that can be flooded in controlled ways. For instance, the areas of low altitude could be freed of buildings, infrastructure and assets that are currently located in them; instead, small public gardens may be created, as has been previously proposed (Alfieri et al., 2016; Gill, Handley, Ennos, & Pauleit, 2007). As for the drainage systems, these are currently not sufficient to be able to drain water from the lower areas of Jeddah during a flood, and require further development (Al Saud, 2010; Alfieri et al., 2016). Therefore, organizing such gardens may allow for the creation of areas that would not be damaged by floods (at least significantly), but which will instead work as reservoirs during the floods, draining water from areas in which flooding could cause danger to individuals or severe harm to various assets (Dawod & Koshak, 2011). In this respect, it should also be noted that such reservoirs (i.e. low areas) could also be created artificially. Clearly, the creation of these reservoirs will take less financial resources in cases when these are not occupied with some valuable assets; however, digging reservoirs will still require some additional investment (Momani & Fadil, 2013a). Nevertheless, the creation of such reservoirs appears to be a relatively simple way to adapt to the environmental risks and divert water from critical areas in the case of floods.

Of course, the option of decreasing the vulnerability of lower areas by creating systems of early flood warning, as well as by flood-proofing various buildings and assets, also appear to be a useful and viable solution for the city of Jeddah. For example, the warning systems could be installed in the areas which are situated at low altitudes, therefore permitting individuals located in these places to move to areas that should be safer during the floods, and, possibly, to also move some of their assets (such as cars) (El-Hames & Al-Wagdany, 2012). In addition, flood-proofing may be used on buildings that are located in endangered areas; this might be effectual in protecting the people and assets found in these buildings, as well as for preserving the building themselves (Eisenack et al., 2014). On the whole, early warning systems may play a crucial role during a flood, permitting individuals to get ready to the dangerous event, and to move to places in which their lives would not be endangered (Haggag & El-Badry, 2013); creating such systems may be a relatively cheap way to minimize the potential danger of floods.

In addition, the threat of flash floods means that it is necessary to train emergency response professionals who would be able to respond quickly in the case of floods, and to provide people who are in danger with assistance. For example, emergency response teams may be necessary when there is a need to rescue individuals who were trapped in areas of low altitude, or in flooded buildings, and whose lives may be in danger. Generally, such professionals may be highly effective in the situations when human lives are endangered due to floods (Hijji, Amin, Iqbal, & Harrop, 2015). However, they need specific training and equipment to carry out these duties in an optimally effective manner (Hijji et al., 2015).Therefore, it is paramount to create and train emergency response teams who would be able to assist endangered individuals during a flood (Abosuliman, Kumar, & Alam, 2013). This option is also economically viable, and there is an agreement that further training for emergency response teams is needed (Abosuliman et al., 2013).

Finally, the members of the population of Jeddah also require knowledge and training which would allow them to adequately respond to the dangers of a flood and effectually help themselves and other individuals if this natural disaster comes (Maghrabi, 2012). For instance, such training programs could be developed by governmental structures and implemented via the educational institutions for schoolchildren and students, and via various businesses/employers – for adult individuals (Momani & Fadil, 2013b). This is important due to the fact that appropriately trained individuals who have the knowledge on how to act during a flood should be more likely e.g. not to panic, or not to act in ways which could put them in danger (e.g., attempt to recover some endangered property, such as a car, from a heavily flooded area), instead focusing on their survival, as well as on the survival of those around them (Abosuliman et al., 2013), which also makes this option viable and potentially highly efficacious. In addition, special training may also include methods using which would permit volunteers to organize themselves and help the victims of floods after the threat is gone (Alamri, 2011).


On the whole, all the proposed flood adaptation strategies appear viable and effectual when it comes to decreasing the adverse impact of a potential flood. For instance, creating reservoirs will minimize the danger for higher areas, whereas training may prevent individuals who found themselves in lower areas from engaging in risky behaviors, and instead to choose an adequate course of action. It is also noteworthy that for maximal effectiveness, these strategies should all be utilized, for the lives of many individuals trapped during a flood may be at stake. However, the implementation of the projects that are more long-term might require a considerable amount of time and investment of resources.


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