12 October 2011

Building resilience to landslides in mountain communities

Posted by Dave Petley

Summary: The Powerpoint file for a recent presentation on Building resilience to landslides in mountain communities is available for download in this post.

On Monday I gave a seminar with the above title to the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience at Durham University.  The abstract was as follows:

Building resilience to landslides in mountain communities

David Petley

In many upland areas, landslides represent a substantial threat to both human wellbeing and economic development. In many of the more economically developed countries, great progress has been made in reducing loss of life from landslides, and in managing and mitigating their economic and social impacts. Hong Kong presents the most extreme example, having reduced its losses from landslides from about 50 lives per year on average in the mid-1970’s to less than ten per decade now. In general, such successful efforts have at their core very large-scale, resource-intensive engineering approaches. However, the economic cost and environmental impact of such schemes is very large, as Hong Kong demonstrates. In less developed mountainous countries, especially in Asia and Central America, the scope of the problem and the lack of economic resources renders wide-scale engineering approaches impractical. Thus, in these areas an alternative approach is needed.

In this seminar, a tentative framework for such an approach is presented. First, data are used to demonstrate where and when the greatest losses from landslides are occurring, illustrating the magnitude of the problem in less developed countries in particular. Thereafter, three approaches for considering the development of resilience to landslides are explored, based upon concepts of scale, adaptation and structure. It is shown that where successful landslide management programmes have been developed, a combination of these approaches has (often inadvertently) been adopted, and that in many cases it has been the non-engineering approaches that have yielded the most efficient results. However, current approaches in less developed countries tend to focus on only small components of this overall picture, and often concentrate on elements that are impractical and/or inefficient in that environment. It is suggested that the development of this revised framework, and its application in a coordinated way, potentially allows better targeting of appropriate mitigation and management techniques that will permit more effective landslide management to be achieved.

The seminar consists of a review of landslide occurrence worldwide, including some new maps of landslide occurrence in South Asia, SE. Asia, E. Asia and Central America / the Caribbean.  It then goes on to illustrate a deficit in our understanding of landslides before highlighting a new approach to managing landslide risk.

The Powerpoint file can be viewed below and can be downloaded from Authorstream.  We will be making an audio file of the presentation and slides available on the IHRR website soon.

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