8-14 August 2014 #719

Mitigating disaster

A global warming mitigation plan has reduced the chance of landslides in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.
Thelma Mejia in TEGUCIGALPA

For some 250,000 shantytown-dwellers in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, fear of dying or losing their home due to a landslide or other weather-related event has been reduced, thanks to a global warming mitigation plan that has carried out small infrastructure works in 180 ecologically and socially vulnerable neighbourhoods.

The 100×100 Plan is part of a climate change risk mitigation project financed by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) with a 26-million-dollar credit granted on concessionary terms. “Before the bridge was built, this area would be cut off when it rained,” Xiomara Castellanos, who lives in the poor neighbourhood of Mololoa, told IPS. “We used to come down the hill barefoot to cross the river, which rises a lot in winter, and has even swept away several houses.”

The more than 100 small projects are scattered all over Tegucigalpa, which is home to 1.8 million of Honduras’s 8.5 million people. The capital, located in a chain of mountains that reach 1,300 metres in height, was among the most affected parts of the country when Hurricane Mitch left at least 11,000 dead and 8,000 missing in 1998, besides causing enormous damage to infrastructure.

Julio Quiñónez, assistant director of Honduras’ Municipal Emergency Committee, told IPS that environmental vulnerability is high in many parts of Tegucigalpa, but “mitigation works, large and small, have now reduced the levels of risk.”

One of the projects involved construction of a small bridge (pic, above) and the strengthening of the banks of the river in the Mololoa shantytown, on the northeast side of the city, where local residents are now able to get in and out of their neighbourhood and to evacuate in case of a storm.

Johan Meza, in charge of mitigation projects in the 100×100 Plan, told IPS that the small infrastructure works include the construction of ditches, gutters, stairways, evacuation routes, pedestrian bridges, and storm water drains.

A few metres from one of the city’s main roads, in the east, is La Villanueva, one of the most populous slums in Tegucigalpa. It is highly prone to landslides and the collapse of the homes that line the hillside.

Pointing to the new stairways for which residents waited three decades, community leader María Elena Benítez told IPS: “We used to climb down the hill on all fours, to reach the bus; when it rained this was all mud, you can’t imagine how hard it was for us.”

“The aim is for no one to die in weather-related incidents,” Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Álvarez told IPS.

The next phase of the 100×100 Plan involves climate change adaptation, which includes an intense programme of training and provision of equipment in the areas that received assistance, so people are prepared and know how to use the evacuation routes in case of disaster.

www.ipsnews.net

Read also:

Calculated risk, Editorial

Coping mechanisms, Ashutosh Tiwari

A flood of floods, Kunda Dixit

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