Table of Contents
- Types of Urban Hazards
- Literature search strategy and Required Sources
Over the past few decades, the world population has seen an increase in the percentage of urban population. More and more people around the world are migrating to the urban centers, where the urban population is mainly concentrated. More than 60% of the world’s population now resides in urban areas and this process of urbanization has put immense pressure on the available urban resources and infrastructure. Increasing population, rising population densities in high disaster prone areas, exploitation of land resources, unplanned urban growth and violation of developmental planning norms are some important contributing factors that result in increasing disaster risks in these urban areas.
Thus, urban hazards could be understood as a phenomenon caused by greater exposure to environmental risk as a result of physical processes within the earth’s crust in addition to social vulnerability of the low-income group population to these increased disaster risks. Rapid urbanization, population movement and population concentrations substantially increase disaster vulnerability, particularly of low-income urban dwellers. The world has also been a witness to recent disasters such as hurricane Florence in America and Tsunamis in the Indonesian Islands. These natural phenomenons are aggravated by the man-made exploitation of nature, thus increasing the disaster vulnerability of the urban poor.
Today, most of the world cities around the world are concentrated in the river basins or are close to the coast. Urban poor or the low-income population group migrate from these small towns and cities, and live in unhealthy vulnerable environments of these river basins. So this is the population group which is primarily affected in the event of any man-made or natural disaster. And cities being the “engines of economic growth” suffer physically, socially, economically and environmentally in the case of such events. Hence the study of Urban Hazards has occupied a significant role in the various fields of research and developments occurring around the world.
The developing nations are the main target areas for most of the research on ‘Urban Hazards’ as these are the hinter-grounds for growing population of urban poor. But the recent occurrence of urban hazards in the United States, one of the developed nations around the world, has surprised the researchers and scientists who were concentrating their attention and resources only on the developed nations. But these occurrences clearly show that urban hazard as a phenomenon can affect any city, state or nation around the world, irrespective of their world economic status. So these phenomenons should be studied in the context of individual towns, cities or urban centers.
Types of Urban Hazards
People living in towns and cities (especially, the urban poor) across various nations face a large number of urban hazards. These may be
- Physical (e.g. fire, floods, landslides, earthquakes, cyclones, droughts),
- Chemical (e.g. polluted water, indoor and outdoor air pollution from fires, chemicals, industrial processes and vehicles, garbage and hazardous wastes),
- Biological (e.g. diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation),
- Socio-political (e.g. politically organized violence, social tensions and conflicts, criminality and gangs and terrorism).
Urban Vulnerability and Risk Assessment
Poverty, class, caste, gender and ethnicity are some of the main factors contributing to urban vulnerability. Poor and marginalized people are more likely to live in unhealthy and unsanitary neighborhoods and housing, which lacks basic infrastructure (clean water, drains, paved roads, power supplies and health facilities) and sanitary systems. This exposes them and thus makes them more vulnerable to a variety of environmental hazards, than other income-group people living in the same towns or cities. High housing and population densities also magnify the effects of such hazards in these areas.
Urban risk assessment is the process of identifying, quantifying and prioritizing (ranking) the risk (vulnerability) in an urban system. Such assessments are carried out frequently across various towns and cities as part of Disaster Risk Reduction planning, as part of a strategy implemented by UNISDR, often using similar assessment approaches and tools. In recent years, more thought has been given to developing approaches specifically for urban contexts, for example by including infrastructure and urban services in addition to the areas covered by conventional assessments.
Literature search strategy and Required Sources
For the topic of ‘Urban Hazards’, I mostly searched for academic journals and books on the subject in the library and online databases. The real-time data and analysis provide by various international organizations, such as World Bank, United Nations, Asian Development Bank are helpful in accessing the real picture on the ground and give an overview of some authentic researches that are made in this field. It would thus help me to investigate further on these issues. Some of the databases used by me are enlisted below:
- Academic Search Premiere
- Avery Index
- JSTORI also accessed other web resources such as Google Scholar, Hathi.