Adaptation and Extreme Events at the Local Level
Edited by E. Carina H. Keskitalo
Chapter 7: Experiences with an Arctic river - flood prevention in the town of Ivalo
The Ivalo River and its flooding in the municipality of Inari in Finnish Lapland is the major discussion topic among the those living along the river in the town of Ivalo every spring before and during the break-up of the ice. The river has always flooded, but the local responses to floods have changed during the past century. Before the second half of the twentieth century, flooding was one of the important factors for wellbeing among the residents of the town of Ivalo, for it meant fertile flood land. After the big flood of 1981 embankments were built around the town, marking a new period of “tamed floods”. However, signs of climate change, together with a major flood in 2005, opened up a new debate on flooding with the realisation that embankments can fail. The debate on prevention is intensifying and today those living along the river face an era of multidimensional options and threats from climate change. By using the approach of development systems theory (DST) together with the concept of niche construction (NCT), we firstly define the concept of Arctic flood memory, which is based on the life-world and history of river people (Finnish, joki-ihmiset). Secondly, different options for flood prevention that have been taken up in contemporary discussions are evaluated and analysed in the context of the river’s history and dynamics. The context-situated knowledge enables us to construct a picture of new possibilities for flood prevention. We argue that the ideas on contemporary flood prevention can be seen as reflecting either an engineering approach of “solving the isolated problem of flooding”, which is separated from life on the river, or living with the natural cycle of the river as “a green river”.
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