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Risk Assessment for Sustainable Urban Development Planning

The integration of natural hazard risk assessment into the urban development planning is demonstrated by IABG, in cooperation with the United Nations University. Monastir, Tunisia serves as a pilot city in this EU-funded project. The study contributes to the mitigation of future damages caused by urban flash floods and leads towards a sustainable urban planning.

(Web-based information platform for sustainable urban planning (Source: IABG)
Global megatrends such as increasing urbanization and the associated socio-economic change as well as climate change lead to an increased disaster risk worldwide. Recent heavy rainfall events with severe flooding in Tunisia and Mallorca in October 2018 dramatically bear witness to this trend. Loss of life and damages amounting to millions are the consequences. According to the latest figures published by the African-Arab Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), annual losses only in Tunisia are estimated at up to 140 million USD. In particular, natural disasters such as drought, flooding and storms are increasing in frequency and intensity. Therefore, the assessment of current and future disaster risk is essential to support risk-based and preventive urban planning in order to strengthen the resilience of cities against flash floods and other natural hazards. The project “Urban Disaster Resilience Through Risk Assessment and Sustainable Planning (UD-RASP)”, which is carried out in Tunisia, aimed to improve urban resilience against multi-hazards as part of disaster prevention. A methodology was developed to integrate the results of a risk assessment into sustainable urban planning and thus reduce the urban disaster risk (DRR) and support the implementation of the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals 9 and 11. A process that can be applied locally, regionally and nationally, especially in North Africa, was developed in the project.

The project was carried out by the project partners IABG (project management and focus on remote sensing / geoinformatics / modelling), United Nations University – Institute EHS (scientific partner with focus on risk analysis and assessment, scenario analysis) and the city of Monastir (Tunisia) as a pilot city in the period January 2017 – October 2018, and co-financed by the European Commission / DG Echo.
The main objective of the project was to create the technical and methodological prerequisites for integrating risk assessment facing natural hazards and capacity building in risk management into the future urban planning process. For this purpose, a web-based platform was created which will be centrally accessible to stakeholders for the respective subject-related decision-making and will present all information relevant for planning purposes in a spatial context. Through a continuous participation of stakeholders and decision-makers of the Monastir region and higher authorities, the sustainable application and acceptance of the project was ensured by means of workshops and interviews. Due to the inhomogeneous and incomplete data situation, especially of digital, spatial data, an extensive data collection was carried out. Missing information was supplemented and processed with remote sensing methods. Based on a standardized geo-database, which also integrates the land use and development plan (Plan d’ Aménagement) obligatory for North Africa, further evaluations and analyses were realized: identification and localization of hazard prone areas (focus on urban flash floods and coastal erosion), analysis of exposure (population, infrastructure) as well as vulnerability in the affected urban areas. In the subsequent risk analysis, affected zones were identified and evaluated. To support sustainability in urban planning, a scenario analysis was applied to identify and visualize potential urban risk areas urban flash floods up to the year 2030. This task required a retrospective analysis to simulate future urban development (urban growth modelling). In addition to the simulation of precipitation events (e.g. 100-year flood event HQ100) to locate exposed areas, socio-economic data for the modelling of vulnerability were considered and included in the risk assessment as well as further local specific parameters, which could significantly influence future urban development (e.g. economic data, legal situation).

In the course of the project, all participants were sensitized to the complex issues of remote sensing and risk analysis and their possible applications in sustainable urban planning. Extensive workshops and training courses for municipal staff will ensure the practical application of the project results in the future.