Saturday, April 1, 2017

Disaster Resilience

Every second, one person is displaced by  disaster. This amounts to three to ten times more displaced people than that which is caused by conflict and war worldwide [14]. Meanwhile, many families are not willing to leave their homes even when a disaster is imminent, fearing their insecure land and property rights may prevent them from later reclaiming their land.

A key factor that influences the magnitude of a disaster is the “exposure” of populations to the threats of the natural event. For instance, floods and severe storms in coastal areas can cause landslides and other disasters. If large populations are settled in these areas, then there is a probability of many casualties [15].

In urban settings around the world, there is high demand but limited availability of land in safe areas. This may result in more disadvantaged and lower-income populations settling in high risk areas or illegally occupying land to build their homes. These may be places where local governments are not willing to provide basic services such as drinking water, sanitation, or electricity. Add to this the lack of secure land tenure, which deters households from investing in upgrades and maintenance. The totality of these circumstances dramatically inhibits the resiliency of these communities.

Furthermore, when a disaster strikes, people living in illegal settlements often do not receive government support, or even support from some aid organizations. Secure land tenure often becomes a criteria for selecting beneficiaries of aid, even when this criteria may be unfair or against humanitarian principles.

A city that is inclusive for all households must ensure access to safe land for current inhabitants and for those who will arrive in the near future. It requires land management and urban planning that seriously takes into consideration environmental issues, hazard mapping, livelihoods and gender issues.

In areas that are prone to a moderate risk of disaster, there may be adequate technical solutions for mitigating this risk, such as the development of infrastructure, sea walls, river embankments, or resistant, elevated, anti-seismic buildings.

These solutions necessitate “real” sustainable development: sustainable development that considers human rights and  socioeconomic and environmental impacts. Sustainable and inclusive cities can ensure better access to land, public services and infrastructure. A primary goal sustainable development is to assist households and communities to be more resilient to natural disasters.

Security of tenure and sound land management and information systems are key to reconstruction, essential elements of resilient settlements.

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