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Landslides increasingly threaten the world’s poor

A landslide in the Durban area of ​​South Africa caused by the April 2022 rainfall. Credit: Kierran Allen

In the past fifty years, disasters caused by landslides and floods have become ten times more frequent, despite landslides being significantly underreported in global databases. Globally, an average of 4,500 people are already dying each year, and the risk of landslides will increase further in the future under two increasing trends: climate change and urbanization. More than 80% of deadly landslides occur in the tropics, mainly caused by heavy rainfall during cyclones and monsoons.

The rapid pace of urbanization in many tropical countries, especially low- and lower-middle-income countries, will put more people on the path of landslides. “Human modifications to slopes are more likely to fail,” said Dr. Ugur Öztürk, a civil engineer and lead author of the manuscript. “Chopping down slopes, for terraces or to make room for houses, makes them steeper and therefore more unstable. Removing vegetation and adding water due to poor drainage or leaking pipes also makes landslides more likely. So does mining and construction. of infrastructure such as roads.”

Current approaches to assessing landslides based on correlations in historical data are insufficient when landslide data is poor or even lacking, as is common in many low- and lower-middle-income countries. Quantifying the interactions between the natural environment, changing rainfall patterns and informal urbanization is increasingly possible thanks to advances in remote sensing, data collection and modelling. The study combined data and models of urban landslides and climate change to identify likely future hotspots of landslide risk in five representative cities in the tropics: Freetown in Sierra Leone, Antipolo and Baguio in the Philippines, Port au Prince in Haiti and Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. from Congo.

Prof. dr. Thorsten Wagener, a co-author of the study, argues that “urbanization and climate change are putting the poorest at risk. We currently have an opportunity to act before this risk increases significantly. The path we propose will empower researchers, policymakers and landslide practitioners.” to come together to identify hot spots early and develop policies that can prevent the worst.”

The research was published in Nature.

Urban areas are more likely to experience precipitation-induced landslides, exposing growing populations to sliding hazards

More information:
Ugur Ozturk et al, How Climate Change and Unplanned Urban Expansion Cause More Landslides, Nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/d41586-022-02141-9

Quote: Landslides increasingly threaten the urban poor (2022, Aug. 10) retrieved Aug. 10, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-landslides-increasingly-threaten-world-urban.html

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