Natural hazards: towards an integrated approach

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Measuring the impact of disasters at the global scale requires an integrated approach. However, progress at the national and local scale remains limited, with policies and institutions across sectors demonstrating uncoordinated and uneven capacity for monitoring the impact of natural hazards.

Zehra Zaidi, CMCC researcher at the RAAS Division presents the results of her study on the impact of small-scale disaster events carried on in the framework of the SMALLDIS project.
Extensive risk or small-scale hazards are recurrent, small-scale, low severity events; they are mainly but not limited to flash floods, landslides, urban flooding, storms, fires, agricultural and hydrological drought, etc. Driven by inadequate urban development, environmental degradation, poverty, inequality, weak governance, lack of access to risk transfer and local protection, these events provide a low contribution to mortality and direct physical impact but significant economic, social and environmental costs.

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Zehra Zaidi has got a PhD in Political Ecology and in the past she focused her studies on how people take decisions in the context of risks and environmental conflicts while exploring the role of cultural identity, politics and individual interests.
Zehra’s research addresses the role of institutions and social behaviour in mediating vulnerability and resilience to disasters in the context of climate change. She is particularly interested in decision-making and learning processes around adaptation and resilience for disasters.
She argues that, in the context of disaster risk reduction (DRR), some challenges can be attributed to a lack of clarity about the classification of disasters and the epistemology of their impact. A bias towards studying and accounting for predominantly extreme events has also contributed to missed opportunity to connect DRR with the topics of (sustainable) development and climate change. She suggests also that an improvement of loss accounting mechanisms and a refocusing on extensive forms of risk, that is a risk associated with low-severity, high-frequency events, mainly but not exclusively associated with highly localized hazards, can offer new possibilities for developing a more integrated path towards disaster risk reduction and sustainable development.

The SMALLDIS project is focused on the impact of small-scale disaster events. The general objective of the project are: 1) to realize a conceptual assessment of mechanisms for capturing data on disaster losses to analyze how definitions impact data accuracy for measuring extensive risk; 2) examining how disaster management institutions and communities respond to small scale and recurrent disasters, and if such events trigger changes in risk perception, disaster management, and learning at both institutional and community levels.

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