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14 de July de 2017Searching for cities that are better prepared for natural disasters
1img - Searching for cities that are better prepared for natural disasters

Latin America needs a new comprehensive approach that contributes to reducing the incalculable loss of human life and property damage caused by earthquakes, floods or hurricanes.

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Latin America is one of the regions most affected by natural disasters, such as earthquakes, storms or hurricanes, which can result in thousands of deaths and substantial property damage. In addition, the part of these events related to weather fluctuations is intensifying as a result of global warming.

In fact, between 2,000 and 2,013 hydro-meteorological phenomena (drought, floods, extreme precipitation and hurricanes) were the cause of over 13,000 deaths in South America alone. They also affected over 53 million people and resulted in losses of approximately USD 52,000 million, according to the University of Lovaina. These figures have placed Latin America at the top of the list of regions that suffer the highest economic damage due to natural disasters worldwide, evidencing the importance of the problem in regional economies.

The cities of the region suffer the worst consequences from natural disasters, as 4 out of 5 Latin Americans live there and they contain all the most important physical assets for domestic economies. 

Weak urban planning and management are part of the reason why many cities in Latin America are vulnerable to this type of phenomena. It is also exacerbated, for example, by an ever-growing urbanization process, leading to the occupation of areas which are not suitable for housing, or growing traffic congestion and atmospheric emissions.

"The trend is that disasters will increase in frequency and intensity, and cities should be prepared to face them with the best equipment. Financial assets will not be the only resources needed. An adequate governance structure for comprehensive natural disaster risk management will also be required throughout each of the stages; from identification, assessment and prevention, to the final stage of reconstruction and rehabilitation from the damages caused by such disasters," states Pablo López, Urban Design Specialist of CAF Development Bank of Latin America.

In this regard, the general consensus is that cities across Latin America must make better arrangements when preparing for natural disasters. The following are among the main aspects to keep in mind to bring about these cities' resilience to natural disasters:

  • Better management of urban land use
  • Design and construction of a more suitable infrastructure
  • Comprehensive treatment of urban basins
  • Improved management of garbage collection services and drainage infrastructure
  • Promoting community engagement in defining actions or developing information at a local level

"In order to achieve resilient cities, we must move from a reactive approach to a preventive one, as preventing or reducing disasters is more efficient in terms of costs and results than responding to them," said Lopez.

 

In this regard, it is essential that civil society and local and regional governments work together.

 

Modern urban planning must also consider a comprehensive approach to risk management that includes building infrastructure, green and open spaces, roads, and a community equipped to effectively respond to future climatic events.

 

CAF works in the development of resilient and low-carbon footprint projects in Latin American countries, including the design of infrastructures resilient to natural disasters, in order to prevent and mitigate the effects of river basin overflows, as well as the development of sustainable transport, among other actions. The institution foresees a 30% approval rate of green projects by 2020, with a likelihood of increasing to 50% by 2050.

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