Risk Driver

  • Print

  • Email sent!

    An email has been sent to the email addresses provided, with a link to this content.

    Thank you for sharing!

    OK

Poorly planned and managed urban development

Whether or not disaster risk is factored into investment decisions in urban development will have a decisive influence on the future of disaster risk reduction (UNISDR, 2013)

A new wave of urbanisation is unfolding in hazard-exposed countries and with it, new opportunities for resilient investment emerge.

People, poverty and disaster risk are increasingly concentrated in cities. The growing rate of urbanization and the increase in population density (in cities) can lead to creation of risk, especially when urbanization is rapid, poorly planned and occurring in a context of widespread poverty. Growing concentrations of people and economic activities in many cities are seen to overlap with areas of high risk exposure.

Estimates suggest that by 2050, urban population exposed to cyclones will increase from 310 million to 680 million while exposure to major earthquake will increase from 370 million to 870 million (World Bank, 2013b). Urban development investment is also set to increase from US$7.2 trillion in 2011 to US$12 trillion by 2020. (UNISDR, 2013)

In 2015 the World Economic Forum identified urban planning failures as a distinct risk factor. The significance of this risk is underlined by the fact that in 2012, more than 60% of the area projected to be urban in 2030 was yet to be built. (UN Habitat, 2015)

City regions are becoming increasingly exposed and are creating new patterns of intensive risk; at the same time, poorly planned and managed urban development has generated new hazards and extensive risk (UNISDR, 2013):

  • Urban development and hazards

    Urban development can change the environment or ecosystem through, for instance, the expansion of paved, impermeable areas, which prevent rain from being absorbed by the soil thereby increasing flood hazard, particularly in low-lying areas.

    Inadequately planned and managed cities also create new risks which threaten to erode current development gains. The lack of adequate infrastructure and services, unsafe housing, inadequate and poor health services can turn natural hazard into a disaster. For example, poor solid waste management can cause blockage to storm water and sewage networks that can lead to waterlogging and flooding. Destruction or damage to infrastructure can lead to water scarcity or contamination. Lack of access to safe housing with good provision for water, sanitation, health care and education affects the capacity of urban residents to recover.

    There is also the potential for the creation of man-made hazards through poor regulation of construction and industrial practices in urban areas (e.g. the 2013 garment factory collapse in Bangladesh), or inadequate provision of services such as waste management (e.g. the garbage slide killed that over 200 people in an informal settlement in Manila, the Philippines, Reuters-AlertNet, 2000).

  • Urban development and exposure

    The growing concentration of people and assets in high-hazard areas, along with the marginalisation of the urban poor in particularly unsafe areas drives exposure. This also means disasters are affecting more urban dwellers with increasingly harmful consequences for employment, housing and critical infrastructure, such as roads, power and water supplies. Economic or political reasons for city expansion often outweigh considerations of risk (UNISDR, 2009b).

  • Urban development and vulnerability

    There are numerous characteristics of current urban planning and development that drive vulnerability including the fact that disaster risk is rarely taken into account in investment decisions. Weak regulation, for instance the lack of enforcement of building codes, planning permission and regulatory investment, often linked to corruption, allow the transfer of risk from construction companies to those who live and work in the buildings (adapted from UNISDR, 2015a). The most vulnerable groups, typically living in poverty, tend to settle and build homes in unsafe (informal) locations and are without adequate provision of infrastructure and critical services. The urban poor are particularly vulnerable to climate change and natural hazards due to their location within cities, and the lack of reliable basic services.

STORY

Urban Apia, Samoa at risk from floodplain flooding.

Samoa

Apia, Samoa is located in a floodplain that exposes urban population and infrastructure to frequent flooding.

SOURCE: Biukoto and Bonte-Grapentin, 2008.

STORY

Marikina City in the Philippines exposed to sea-level rise and flooding.

Marikina River, Manila, Philippines © Marlon Malabanan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Philippines

Cities located in low-altitude estuaries such as Marikina City, Philippines are exposed to sea-level rise and flooding.

SOURCE: Biukoto and Bonte-Grapentin, 2008.

Urbanization mirrors economic growth, so rapid urban development contributes to the concentration of people and assets in hazardous locations, including tropical cyclone and tsunami-prone coastlines and river basins (UNISDR, 2015a). However, in many cities and countries that have successfully attracted economic investment, investment in disaster risk reduction and the capacities to implement have often lagged behind (UNISDR, 2013). As a consequence, new patterns of intensive risk have emerged.

Disaster risk may be increasing faster in rapidly growing small- and medium-sized urban centres than in either rural areas or larger cities (UNISDR, 2011)

As cities grow wealthier, investments in infrastructure and services tend to reduce extensive risks. By contrast, in most low and middle-income countries, urban development is driving new patterns of both extensive and intensive risk, particularly in informal settlements, along with high levels of environmental degradation (UNISDR, 2015a). Urban development in these countries is socially segregated, characterized by unequal access to urban areas, infrastructure, services and security (Mitlin and Satterthwaite, 2013). Low-income households in particular are often forced to occupy exposed areas with low land values, with deficient or non-existent infrastructure and social protection, and high levels of environmental degradation (UNISDR, 2015b). The result is a pattern of spatially and socially segregated disaster risk (UNISDR, 2015a).

Up to 90% of people in urban areas in low-income countries live in unsafe, exposed housing (UNISDR, 2015a)

Historically, much urban growth in low and middle-income countries has occurred through informal mechanisms of land acquisition, building and infrastructure provision (UNISDR, 2015a). Urban informality, both in the informal economy and in informal settlements is often associated with low pay and high exposure to environmental hazards (Brown et al., 2014). Mortality and extensive risks are consequently disproportionally concentrated in low and middle-income countries. However, the living and working conditions those in the informal sector find themselves in reflect broader issues of poverty and inequality (Brown et al., 2014). Likewise, growth in informal settlements is not so much related to a rate of a city’s population growth, but instead to the quality of governance (Tacoli et al., 2015).

STORY

The Italian floods: shaping, building and exhausting floodplains

Flooding in Venice in 2010 © A. Currell CC BY-NC 2.0

Italy

Although physical factors such as climate, topography and morphology contribute to flood hazard, the way river basins have been intervened (for example, canalising rivers) has been an important factor contributing to current flood risk.

SOURCE: UNISDR (2013) [GAR13]

STORY

The 2005 Mumbai flooding

Can Tho City, October 2014 © Mack Male CC BY-SA 2.0

Viet Nam

Over the last few decades, rapid economic growth has been accompanied by rapid urbanisation in Viet Nam, which has led to development in areas previously zoned as subject to flood risk.

SOURCE: Sudmeier-Rieux et al. (2012) in UNISDR (2013) [GAR13]

Opportunities for building resilience

Rapid urban development may increase disaster risk to unsustainable levels (UNISDR, 2015a). It is highly likely that new urban growth in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and other regions will magnify and exacerbate disaster risk (Mitlin and Satterthwaite, 2013). But as a new wave of urbanisation unfolds in exposed countries, so too do new opportunities for building resilience.

As a formal business sector, urban development involves a range of stakeholders from landowners, to investors, insurance companies, utility providers and regulators (UNISDR, 2013). Within urban development, there are a number of opportunities reducing risk from pre-project design (design of brief and site), pre-construction (developing proposals, tender documentation and procurement) to post-completion (including operation and maintenance) (UNISDR, 2013). Whether decisions are taken to reduce risk reflects the stakeholders involved and the influence on their actions, including risk awareness (UNISDR, 2013). Approaches for lessening and managing disaster risk in urban development include:

  • Investment and public regulation, e.g. enforcing safety enhancing regulations including building codes and planning rules (UNISDR, 2011)
  • Resilient infrastructure development, e.g. earthquake resistant infrastructure development (UNISDR, 2011)
  • Adequate service provision, e.g. provision and maintenance of electricity, water supply, and drainage systems in urban environments can reduce flood risk, but also increases the vested interest in protecting assets (UNISDR, 2013)
  • Risk transfer, e.g. a cross-subsidised insurance scheme which provides poor households with catastrophe insurance cover
  • Effective risk governance, e.g. integrating disaster risk reduction into city regulations, making it an integral part of local development

Building codes, zoning and land-use planning have been central to addressing existing urban risk and the accumulation of new urban risk (UNISDR, 2015a).

Infrastructure investments at the scale required to meet sustainable economic and development goals will increasingly rely on private sector engagement, particularly in low-income countries where the infrastructure needs cannot be met through public expenditure (UNISDR, 2013). Incentives for private urban developers to invest in disaster risk management initiatives already exist. For instance, developers who own and or manage buildings after construction will have a vested interest in protecting profits from losses, including those associated with disasters (UNISDR, 2013). Green building is increasingly being mainstreamed in cities’ efforts to develop more socially and environmentally sustainable living spaces (Carpenter, 2013). Real estate developers increasingly market aspects such as energy-efficiency, social space (Carpenter, 2013) and low environmental impacts as factors of competitiveness (UNISDR, 2013).

Resilient urban development requires including and cooperating with both formal and informal sectors.

In many low and middle-income countries, the informal sector accounts for a significant proportion of many urban areas and therefore engaging, including and cooperating with those involved in the informal economy and living in informal settlements is essential to building resilience. The informal economy is growing and how it evolves will be critical to the possibilities of a transition to a more inclusive, resilient and green economy. The challenge is to improve upon the existing informal economy - initiatives should look to encourage those segments of the informal sector that promote inclusion or provide urban resilience and green public benefits, such as well-run water vending (Brown et al., 2014). Many governments now have policy frameworks in place to upgrade and regularise informal settlements, which may include the installation of risk-reducing infrastructure such as drainage and slope stabilization. In other contexts, policy still focuses on eradication or relocation, which may further exacerbate risks and vulnerabilities (UNISDR, 2015a).

Resilient urban development goes hand in hand with poverty and inequality reduction, environmental management and climate change adaptation

Because urban development has a direct influence on environmental degradation, which in turn exacerbates hazards and vulnerability, strategies for building resilience include investment in drainage and water management and the prevention of development in low-lying areas. Ensuring these strategies are implemented in turn relies on good urban and local governance. Although greater progress has been made in adapting cities to climate change than reducing disaster risk, these efforts have given rise to innovative urban practices with risk reduction benefits (UNISDR, 2015a).

Strengthening urban governance to involve and empower citizens and build partnerships with civil society and the private sector is probably the most important factor in addressing urban risk (UNISDR, 2015a).

The Pocket 2015 Global Assessment Report highlights that higher-income countries and some larger cities in middle-income countries have made sound progress in building risk sensitive urban development during the Hyogo Framework for Action. Some of the most promising developments in recent years are cases where cities have been able to regain control of their planning and management and strengthened their urban governance through innovative partnerships between local governments, households and communities (UNISDR, 2015a). Over 2000 cities have signed up to the UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign.

Urban and local governance influences not only how and where cities develop, but in particular, whether the urban poor have access to safe land, housing and the essential infrastructure and services required to live in security (UNISDR, 2009b). Many low and middle-income countries have lacked the capacities to plan and manage urban development in an appropriate and risk-sensitive way, in particular in small urban centres. As a consequence, urban disaster risks have grown at a faster rate than they have been reduced (UNISDR, 2015a). However, in all income geographies, there exist notable exceptions of well-governed cities that have managed to provide infrastructure and services for their populations (UNISDR, 2015a).

STORY

Social and green cities in low-income countries

Bhutan

In the city of Thimpu, Bhutan, the local government has begun to develop an urban planning process that takes account of the interrelationship between environmental sustainability, effective disaster risk management and human well-being.

SOURCE: Government of Bhutan, 2004; IIED, 2012a both in UNISDR (2013) [GAR13]

STORY

Upgrading versus eradicating informal settlements: experiences from Bangalore and Harare

India and Zimbabwe

Upgrading informal settlements in Bangalore (India) provided residents with greater access to water and reduced their reliance on illegal connections. In contrast, the destruction of informal settlements in Harare (Zimbabwe), people homes and livelihoods were destroyed when informal settlements were eradicated, leaving them more vulnerable.

SOURCE: Modified from Satterthwaite and Mitlin (2014) in UNISDR (2015a)

STORY

Mainstreaming Community-Based Mitigation in City Governance

A focus group discussion in Barangay Lasip Chico © CDP

Philippines

In 2006, the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) – an NGO working on disaster risk reduction – implemented a mainstreaming CBDRM into city governance in order to highlight and address the vulnerability of residents to hydro-meteorological hazards thorugh increased stakeholder engagement.

SOURCE: Adapted from Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) (In partnership with ADPC) in UNISDR (2007)

Related

Components of Risk

Disaster Risk
Risk is a forward looking concept, so disaster risk can be understood as the likelihood (or probability) of loss of life, injury or destruction and damage from a disaster in a given period of time (adapted from UNISDR, 2015a).
Hazard
A dangerous event that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, as well as damage and loss to property, infrastructure, livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption and, or environmental damage is known as a hazard (UNISDR, 2009b).
Exposure
The presence and number of people, property, livelihoods, systems or other elements in hazard areas (and so thereby subject to potential losses) is known as exposure (UNISDR, 2009b and IPCC, 2012).
Vulnerability
The name given to the set of characteristics and circumstances of a community, system or asset that make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard is vulnerability.

Risk Drivers

Climate change
Climate change can increase disaster risk in a variety of ways – by altering the frequency and intensity of hazard events, affecting vulnerability to hazards, and changing exposure patterns.
Environmental degradation
Environmental degradation is both a driver and consequence of disasters, reducing the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological needs.
Globalized economic development
Globalized economic development can lead to increased exposure of assets in hazard-prone areas, leading to further increases in intensive risk if not managed.
Poverty & inequality
Poverty is both a driver and consequence of disasters, and the processes that further disaster risk related poverty are permeated with inequality
Poorly planned urban development
Whether or not disaster risk is factored into investment decisions in urban development will have a decisive influence on the future of disaster risk reduction.
Weak governance
Governance of disaster risk management must be improved, not only through specialized and stand-alone sectors, but also through strengthened governance arrangements across sectors and territories in order to address disaster risk.

Key Concepts

Capacity
Capacity refers to all the strengths, attributes and resources available within a community, organization or society that can be used to achieve agreed goals.
Deterministic & probabilistic risk
Deterministic risk considers the impact of a single risk scenario, whereas probabilistic risk considers all possible scenarios, their likelihood and associated impacts
Direct & indirect losses
Direct disaster losses refer to the number of people killed and the damage to buildings, infrastructure and natural resources. Indirect disaster losses include declines in output or revenue and generally arise from disruptions to the flow of goods and services.
Disaster risk reduction & disaster risk management
DRR is the policy objective of anticipating and reducing risk. Although often used interchangeably with DRR, DRM can be thought of as DRR implementation, since it describes the actions that aim to achieve the objective of reducing risk.
Intensive & extensive risk
Extensive risk is used to describe the risk of low-severity, high-frequency disasters, mainly but not exclusively associated with highly localized hazards. Intensive risk is used to describe the risk of high-severity, mid to low-frequency disasters, mainly associated with major hazards.
Resilience
Resilience refers to the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner.
Sovereign risk
Sovereign risk is the economic impact a government would face in the event of a disaster.

Models

Risk modeling
We need data on hazard, exposure, vulnerability and losses in order to understand and assess disaster risk.

Datasets

Datasets
Data and statistics are important in understanding the impacts and costs of disasters.
Data Viewers
Open access, online data viewers present hazard, disaster, and risk data in an easily accessible manner.

EDITED 12 NOV 2015 BY: PREVENTIONWEB EDITOR