How climate change and unplanned urban sprawl bring more landslides –

by | Aug 8, 2022 | Climate Change

The first half of 2022 was one of the deadliest on record for landslides. In January and February, cities across South America were hit by devastating soil, rock and mud flows — burying at least 14 people in their homes at Dosquebradas in Colombia, and killing 24 people in Quito, Ecuador, and at least 220 in Petrópolis, Brazil. In April, May and June, hundreds more were killed in Pilar in the Philippines, Durban in South Africa, Recife in Brazil and across Bangladesh.That’s fast approaching the roughly 4,500 people who are killed on average worldwide each year by landslides1. Economic damages from these events amount to US$20 billion annually2, which is roughly one-quarter of those resulting from floods.Over the past 50 years, disasters caused by landslides have become ten times more frequent3. And landslide risk is set to escalate, owing to two increasing trends — climate change and urbanization. Now, researchers need to assess where and to what extent such risks will rise.More than 80% of fatal landslides occur in the tropics1. They are triggered mainly by heavy rain, often during cyclones and monsoons. Climate projections show that, on average, the intensities of tropical deluges could double by the end of the century4. But it’s hard to say what will happen in any given place.The rapid pace of urbanization, especially in low- and lower-middle-income nations in tropical regions, will put more people in the path of landslides. For example, the population of Freetown in Sierra Leone has nearly doubled, to more than 1.2 million, since 2000. Many people arriving in the city end up living in poor or informal settlements on hills and floodplains at the city margins. Informal housing practices such as unregulated deforesting, slope cutting and household water drainage, can increase the chance o …

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