Syndicate content


Informality and Disaster Vulnerability

Ashna Mathema's picture

Unlike the more developed nations where catastrophes typically happen when a major disaster strikes, in the developing countries, even small disasters result in disproportionate loss of life and property. Apart from the increased frequency of these events resulting from climate change, there is also an escalated risk associated with an urbanizing world: urban areas in developing country cities are commonly characterized by high population densities, old and deteriorated infrastructure, poor environmental conditions, concentrated poverty in informal settlements and slums, unplanned and often unregulated growth,  and inadequately prepared local institutions, which makes them especially vulnerable. (Photo by Lecercle)

A commonly cited problem attributed to much disaster-related damage in developing countries is the use of inappropriate building codes, poor zoning by-laws, and more generally, the lack of enforceability of the same. This is particularly the case for earthquakes, because unlike other types of natural disasters, casualties and fatalities from earthquakes are associated almost entirely with collapse or failure of manmade structures. The saying “earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do” is as true today as it was when it was first coined.

Hence, the importance of these regulations—and more importantly, their enforceability—cannot be over-stated. But what of those households for whom these regulations do not apply?