Connecting People and Nature: Challenges and Potentials for Reducing Vulnerability through an Ecosystem Based Approach

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 48
Oral Presentation
Lea DÜNOW , Centre for Rural Development, Humboldt University, BERLIN, Germany
Wolfram LANGE , Centre for Rural Development, Humboldt University, BERLIN, Germany
Anja SCHELCHEN , Centre for Rural Development, Humboldt University, BERLIN, Germany
Christian PIRZER , Centre for Rural Development, Humboldt University, BERLIN, Germany
In January 2011 the population in the mountain region of Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, suffered once again from an environmental disaster: excessive rainfall in a short time provoked landslides and floods which caused more than 900 fatalities and led to a major material damage. Generally, those events are natural because of the rugged topography and vulnerable geology and soils, but anthropogenic land degradation and informal housing contribute to disaster risk. Due to scarcity of inhabitable land, lack of public transport and social infrastructure poor people are increasingly forced to live in high risk areas.

In order to reduce the risks for the population, an integrated disaster risk reduction approach is needed. Apart from “grey” infrastructural measures and relocation of the most vulnerable inhabitants, it is essential to implement “green” measures such as using ecosystem services to achieve a more feasible and cost-effective reduction of vulnerability.

An important precondition for the inclusion of all levels of society into risks reduction strategy is the assessment of social perception regarding options and constraints for actions.  The focus of our study is the potential for the valorization of ecosystem services through the participation of the population via preservation and recuperation of nature.

The paper presents a case study in the municipality of Teresópolis where quantitative and qualitative data collection has been conducted in order to assess the perception of the local population of environmental risks and the potential for reducing vulnerability through the valorization of ecosystem services. This analysis is an essential basis for developing a sensitization strategy for ecosystem based measures for disaster risk reduction.

Especially the poorer strata of the population perceive a lack of possibilities and empowerment. Sensitization measures have to be adapted to the special needs of the target group in order to ensure their contribution on community level.