Community participation in natural risk prevention: Case histories from Colombia



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More than 75% of Colombia's 42 million people live in urban areas located in the mountains and are exposed to numerous natural hazards: floods, flash floods, landslides, earthquakes and volcanism. The Armero disaster of 1985 triggered the creation of the National System for Disaster Prevention and Relief. National, regional and local committees started to operate across the country, accompanied by education commissions that produced diverse audiovisual materials to help educate people living in these areas. The experiences of working with local committees gained during the last two decades are presented here. Case histories are from cities such as Pereira, Manizales and Medellín, where the local committees are run by people with little or no formal education but who understand that they must participate as a group to prevent or mitigate the effects of natural disasters. The co-operation between technical experts and trained residents represents an outstanding example of good communication and co-operation for urban populations living in dangerous areas. Although many problems have yet to be resolved, these case histories show that this type of organization seems to be more effective than direct intervention from national government agencies. The models of community participation and communication developed and refined here may have application to similar social environments in other countries. © 2008 Geological Society of London.


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