|Guidelines for Settlement Planning in Areas Prone to Flood Disasters (HABITAT, 1995, 186 p.)|
According to the Centre for Short-Lived Phenomena (CSLP), from 1964 to 1973, there were 430 natural disasters in the whole world, an average of one disaster every 8.5 days, which resulted in 3.5 million deaths, 400 million victims and US$11 billion in damage. Recent studies suggest that these figures are increasing and that, in general, developing countries are progressively sustaining higher losses. Three main factors explain why developing countries are becoming more vulnerable to natural disasters. The first is rapid population growth and its increasing concentration in large cities. The second is increasing poverty, which has made large numbers of people more vulnerable to the vagaries of nature. The third is environmental degradation, resulting from damaging land-use practices, which has aggravated the frequency and extent of natural hazards and thus increased the numbers of people at risk. In the urban areas of developing countries, these factors are frequently manifested in the rapid spread of squatter and slum settlements over hazardous areas, many of which are susceptible to floods. The marginality and poverty characterizing such settlements means that their level of preparedness to deal with disasters is often very limited.
Vulnerability to natural disasters partly depends on the physical characteristics of the elements at risk, including shelter. Shelter improvement can therefore significantly minimize risk and mitigate the impact of flood disasters. This involves planning and building human settlements in areas where there is less risk, use of appropriate building materials, adoption of appropriate building designs and use of appropriate construction methods. To be really effective and sustainable, flood disaster mitigation activities must become part and parcel of the human settlements planning and management process at the national, regional and local government levels.
This publication, which focuses on developing countries, offers detailed policy guidelines on the mitigation of flood disasters: firstly, through appropriate physical land-use planning and management within human settlements; secondly, through use of appropriate building materials, shelter design, and shelter construction techniques/methods; and, thirdly, through innovative and responsive institutional arrangements for flood disaster control and management. It is the first in a planned series of guidelines for settlement planning in disaster prone areas. Future issues are expected to focus on other types of disaster, including earthquakes, tropical cyclones and so on.
The publication was conceived in response to General Assembly Resolution 44/236 of 22 December 1989 which proclaimed the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, as well as Chapter 7 (Human Settlements) of Agenda 21 which addresses, inter alia, the issue of settlement planning and management in disaster-prone areas. In addition, this publication is a contribution to one of the two themes of the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) (Istanbul, Turkey, June 1996), i.e. "Sustainable Human Settlements Development in an Urbanizing World". It is my hope that this manual will assist human settlements planners and managers in formulating and implementing effective planning and management mechanisms for areas prone to river and coastal flood disasters, thereby contributing towards the reduction of loss of life and damage to property in these areas. I wish to acknowledge, with gratitude, the contribution of Mr. David Oakley who prepared the draft on which these guidelines are based, and Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, the UNCHS (Habitat) staff member who developed the research framework and edited the draft guidelines for publication.
Dr. Wally N'Dow,
Assistant Secretary-General, UNCHS (Habitat)
Second United Nations Conference on
Human Settlements (Habitat II)