PhD defence: Governing a Volcanic River Basin

Start date

Friday, 27 Sep 2019, 09:30

End date

Friday, 27 Sep 2019, 10:30

On the 27th of September, IHS PhD researcher Vicky Ariyanti will defend her PhD thesis, entitled: "Governing a Volcanic River Basin: A cultural sensitive inquiry into the current water resources management practices of Opak Sub-Basin, Indonesia".

For years now, Vicky focuses her research efforts on how to use and integrate old local wisdom of the indigenous people into water management activities that help protect the Javanese against the dangerous effects of volcanic eruptions. 

Her research was triggered by the 2010-eruption of Mt. Merapi volcano, one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in the world, located only 30km away from Yogyakarta. This event devastated and crippled the Javanese region for a month and resulted in five years of rehabilitation and reconstruction. After the eruption, inhabitants from the upstream region of Merapi fled to urban areas. Having found shelter, an adequate water supply was urgent. Clean water became scarce, due to ash rain, lahar floods in rivers (life-threatening mudflows created when lava comes in contact with a river or lake) and sulfur infiltration to groundwater.

That was the turning point where knowledge of the indigenous people came to aid. The indigenous provided an alternative way to manage water, based on historical experiences - for example, accessing a river’s base flow for drinking water, rather than waiting for water tanks. They knew how to avoid the use of water from wells due to sulfur infiltration by tasting the water, rather than waiting for laboratory results for water quality test and were aware not to cross the river when it rained to avoid lahar risk. They were able to listen to the type of flow coming in the river to know whether lahar was coming. In such conditions, local knowledge played a big role in the way people reacted to their natural surroundings. These facts triggered Vicky to study the theme of cultural-ecological knowledge in water resources management practices under volcanic conditions.

This research is not only valuable for the Merapi volcanic region, as Indonesia has over 150 volcanoes. All over the world, these inputs can be used for better water management projects that seek to incorporate cultural settings into technical approaches. Join Vicky's defence to hear more about the research.