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Building resilience to natural hazards

DEV Key Contacts: Roger FewCarole WhiteClare Shelton

Project Dates: 2016 - 2017

Project Status: Open

Funders: Global Challenges Research Fund

     

This project is testing the idea that ‘all hazards’ approaches to building resilience will be more effective if placed within the particular historical and cultural contexts that land use and human settlement patterns were established. Looking at this across centuries, can demonstrate how risk to natural hazards like storms and volcanoes is created and disaster risk management responses evolve. This project is interdisciplinary, bringing together social scientists, historians, geologists, hydro-meteorologists and geographers from UEA and other universities and institutes in the UK, Caribbean and Pacific regions.

The research area focuses on Dominica and Vanuatu. Both countries experienced devastating storms in 2015, Tropical Storm Erika in Dominica and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. In addition to storms, these countries face multiple threats from volcanoes, flooding, tsunami and earthquakes. In each location we analyse existing data for time periods when social, political or cultural changes coincided with multiple hazardous events to better understand exposure at that time. By comparing exposure during historical periods with that of today we question whether there are ‘root’ drivers of exposure related to historical processes and events. These insights can be used to inform future consideration for managing risk to multiple hazards.

Fieldwork in Dominica in March 2017 involved interviews and community workshops attended by over 50 people across two communities, and fieldwork in Vanuatu was completed in May 2017, including one community workshop attended by 30 people. Workshop participants shared the history of their own community and were able to discuss past, current and future challenges for their communities. In addition to interviews and workshops, this research also involves archival research including colonial documents from the British and French, diaries from missionaries and newspaper records.

Project Director: Overseas Development Institute, London

Research Partners:

  • School of Environmental Sciences, UEA
  • School of History, UEA
  • CEFAS, UK
  • University of South Pacific
  • University of the West Indies