University of Western Ontario

Flood Resilience – Safer Communities

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Project Summary

Over the past 2 decades, more than 2 billion people around the globe have been impacted by floods, with dramatic increases in the number of deaths and socio-economic losses, which disproportionately affect marginalized people. Climate change has caused and will lead to even more hazardous storms, floods and sea level rise with more hazardous water risks. Actions are needed to solve one of the world's most critical social challenges. Our Project: Flood Resilience – Safer Communities, building on our expertise from successful projects, will work with selected communities in Africa and Asia, to optimize the actions to lower communities’ exposure and vulnerability to safe lives and reduce societal impacts. The Solution will be implemented and optimized with the full participation of communities so they gain the benefits and the methods can be most effectively expanded to the global community, enabling global flood resilience for safer communities for all.

Problem Statement

The UN 2018 Report (1998-2017) documents that floods caused most (43%) disasters with storms next (28%). Floods affected over 2 billion people, the highest number, and storms impacted over 700 million people. The recorded climate-related disaster losses, as a % of GDP, were 4 times higher for low income people compared to high income people and losses of low-come peoples are underestimated. Addressing water disasters impacts will reduce the losses and suffering as well as provide an opportunity for creating the foundation for sustainable socioeconomic development, national security and prosperity. The needed investments are small in proportion to the post-disaster costs. It is essential to reduce the loss of lives and costs and be able maintain an acceptable level of functioning. The usage of data, science and technology, and innovation is key to effectively addressing the issue of water-related disasters. The solution is a systems approach and building resilience through the creation of interdisciplinary groups that analyze, catalyze, communicate and support disaster risk reduction systems. Disaster risks depend on hazardous events and very importantly on the exposure and vulnerability of communities being impacted. Many of the killed and highly impacted people are marginalized, living in riverine, coastal and other exposed areas. Use of social media and education informing right actions and, when appropriate, impending risk warnings will build community support and where needed, demands for actions. Both hazards and especially exposure-vulnerability are changing with implications for sustainability. More substantive global actions through governments and communities working together are necessary

Solution Overview

Forming a global transdisciplinary expert team and building on scientific and technologically successful approaches, our solution, through a systems approach, will bring together individuals, organizations, society and the environment, working with communities and their governance, to implement the optimum solutions to lower the exposure and vulnerability of people and infrastructure . Full community partnerships, with local people, including youth, to higher levels of governance and national and international assistance agencies, will enable moving from a limited number of sites, for testing and adaptation across communities, to a broader network of communities to achieve global reach and benefits. It is important to have the most effective ways of communicating information on risks through social media, education and other approaches. Actions will be taken to develop a quantification of benefits scorecard and information system that: 1) establishes criteria for 'success' in light of community's needs and culture; and 2) evaluates the benefits by quantifying the success. Risk communications will integrate conventional technology-driven information and community-specific way of risk communication and warning systems of impending hazardous events, using cell phones, messages on popular social media and other means. Inexpensive structural and nature-based measures to improve housing conditions, such as structure of buildings and reduced impacts, are important for water disaster risk reduction. We will motivate and assist communities in their implementation for transformative change through community-specific actions that will be extended and implemented through a systems approach leading to global actions to make flood resilience for safer communities. Marginalized people will be major benefactors.

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Project Funders

  • Canadian funding Councils and International Development Assistance Agencies. 2015 - 2020
  • Insurance companies 1997 - 2019
  • Public Works Research Institute of Japan 2006 - 2019

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