Poor urban neighbourhoods in Latin America frequently experience events such as landslides due to heavy rain.
In 2011, for example, floods, landslides and mudslides in the state of Rio de Janeiro resulted in 903 deaths and over 2,900 people had their homes destroyed. Similarly, in the Colombian city of Medellín, accelerated urban growth since the 1950s has given rise to settlements on land exposed to hazards, significantly increasing landslide risk among low-income populations. In both cases, and across many developing countries, recently built settlements growing up steep hillsides are particularly exposed to landslide impacts. The situation in both of these major Latin American cities demonstrates the urgent need to improve the resilience of such communities against rainfall-related geohazards. Latin America has undergone accelerated urban growth in the past 50 years and it is presently one of the most urbanised areas of the world. One consequence of this trend is the proliferation of marginalised urban neighbourhoods which are not only disproportionately exposed to natural hazards, but also have less economic and social capital to adapt and respond to their consequences.
This has led to several initiatives designed to anticipate and manage risk more effectively to reduce the impact of disasters. However, a noticeable implementation gap in the delivery of equitable resilience is evident. This is not only attributable to a lack of resources but also highly complex social, economic, political and institutional reasons.
The Understanding Risks & Building Enhanced Capabilities in Latin American cities (URBE Latam) project seeks to expand and refine the understanding of risks, vulnerabilities and potentialities associated with rain-related geohazards in Latin America.
The highly-skilled, multi-disciplinary research team will adopt a dialogic co-production approach to citizen-generated data that relies upon well-established partnerships with community-based initiatives for local development, education and disaster risk reduction in Rio de Janeiro and Medellín, and with governmental agencies involved in disaster risk reduction and local planning and development.
Aims and Objectives
URBE Latam seeks to expand and refine the understanding of risks, vulnerabilities and potentialities associated with rain-related geohazards in Latin America by rethinking how environmental risk data is produced, how it is used, and how it might enable transformations that close the implementation gap in delivering equitable resilience for marginalised communities. The project will be based on two case studies focusing on specific areas of Rio Janeiro, Brazil and Medellín, Colombia; however, the findings and methods developed during the research will be widely transferable to other places and environmental contexts.
This overarching goal will be achieved through the pursuit of five main objectives:
- Dialogically engage citizens in marginalised communities to promote awareness and generate data about local vulnerabilities and potentialities.
- Develop a digital platform and mobile app that will underpin the processing and analysis of the data produced by the citizen engagement programme.
- Understand how local government authorities, and other agencies involved in the management of environmental risk, currently collect and monitor data to enhance resilience.
- Integrate the new forms of citizen-generated data with conventional data sources to recalibrate risk management practices, in ways that enable pathways for transition to sustainable development whilst also supporting more equitable decision-making and policy-making on development and resilience.
- Develop and promote communication and knowledge exchange between stakeholders of various agencies - both governmental and non-governmental - that are currently working to improve local development of marginalised neighbourhoods in these major Latin American cities and their resilience to rain-related geohazards.
The central premise of URBE Latam is that equitable resilience can only be achieved with the empowerment of residents of disaster-prone urban poor neighbourhoods through the co-production of enhanced, context-specific understandings of the risks that they face, and moreover, the integration of the resulting data into decision-making procedures in disaster risk reduction and sustainable development monitoring.
This will be enabled by the main project outputs:
- A deeper and far more nuanced understanding of the local risk factors and potentialities of vulnerable neighbourhoods gained from citizen-generated data
- Co-designed recommendations to improve the socio-spatial inclusiveness of resilience and sustainable development governance at the institutional level through transformed data practices
- Co-designed recommendations of community-based strategies that combine risk reduction and development, improved landslide susceptibility maps and locally contextualised exposure maps
- Methodological guidelines for co-produced risk understandings to be integrated into SDG monitoring.
The process of advancing these outputs will further enable capacity development in local communities and the governments of Rio de Janeiro and Medellin; a process that will be augmented by improving the awareness of stakeholders in other Latin American cities and countries through broader dissemination. As an overarching outcome, the project will enable the transformation of practices, improve knowledge among a diverse range of stakeholders and enhance capacity to promote equitable resilience.
The expected long-term impact of this outcome is a contribution towards the targets of: reducing the number of deaths and people affected by water-related disasters and reducing direct economic losses caused (SDG 11.5); and increasing the number of cities and human settlements adopting integrated policies and plans towards resilience to disasters and holistic disaster risk management (SDG 11.B).
This project was conceived so that the intended transformative impact is embedded by design in its structure and activities. To this end, key stakeholders and end-users are directly involved in the co-production of methods and outputs of three of the work packages. Furthermore, the project contains one work package which is expressly intended to promote dialogue and accelerate knowledge exchange to transform practices and perceptions of key stakeholders based on the results achieved.
Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
The expected long-term impact of this project is a contribution towards the SDG 11 targets of:
- Reducing the number of deaths and people affected by water-related disasters and reducing direct economic losses caused (SDG 11.5)
- Increasing the number of cities and human settlements adopting integrated policies and plans towards resilience to disasters and holistic disaster risk management (SDG 11.B).
Principal Investigator: Professor João Porto de Albuquerque
- Professor Jon Coaffee, University of Warwick, UK
- Professor Camilo Ernesto Restrepo- Estrada, University of Antioquia, Colombia
- Dr Alejandro Builes- Jaramillo, Institución Universitaria Colegio Mayor, Colombia
- Professor Edna Margarita Rodriguez Gaviria, Institución Universitaria Colegio Mayor, Colombia
- Professor Henrique Cukierman, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Dr Victor Marchezini, CEMADEN, Brazil
- Dr Marcio Andrade, CEMADEN, Brazil
- Emma Bee, NERC British Geological Survey, UK
- Dr Claire Foster, NERC British Geological Survey
- Julio Lana, Geological Survey of Brazil (CPRM)
Research Assistant: Philipp Ulbrich
Funded by a UKRI Collective Fund Award.