Lili Ilieva, PhD
Specialist in climate change adaptation
Of all climate hazards, floods are by far the most frequent one in Latin America, taking the most significant share (more than half of all disasters) in the past 15 years (2002 - 2017). It is reported that floods caused an estimated US$ 19 billion of losses in the region, affecting more than 27 million people and claiming more than 6 000 lives (1).
Policy makers can choose from a wide range of interventions to reduce disaster risk including policy frameworks, built infrastructure or choose solutions based on conserving, managing or restoring important ecosystems. Among these alternatives, infrastructure-based options are often by far the most common solution. However, there is an increased recognition of the role ecosystems play in providing critical services to reduce and mitigate flood risks (2).
Healthy ecosystems, including forests and wetlands, can play a critical role in river basin management. In the context of flood risks, ecosystems can act as natural infrastructure that mitigates disaster impacts by reducing physical vulnerability and strengthening the resilience of communities.
Nature-based solutions to disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) and climate change adaptation (EbA) are a good strategy for the integrated management of land, water and biodiversity. According to the Partnership on Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR), “Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction is the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to reduce disaster risk, with the aim of achieving sustainable and resilient development” (3). They are increasingly recognized and adopted as part of disaster risk reduction strategies (4). Lessons learned from experiences in Latin America highlight (5):
· Nature-based solutions provide an opportunity to better integrate the agendas of climate action, disaster risk reduction and biodiversity conservation into a coherent and holistic approach.
· Ecosystems can provide benefits for flood risk reduction. Nature-based solutions should be part of broader disaster and climate risk management strategies, complementing other measures such as land use planning and built infrastructure.
· Building back safer and greener promotes resilience in future scenarios that face high levels of risk.
· Nature-based solutions can offer decentralized mechanisms that are managed by and for communities, and that require collaborative, participatory and multilevel governance across sectors and procedures.
· Local actors play a leading role in promoting and implementing nature-based solutions. Technical capacity building is critical to enable them to promote the approach.
· Improved scientific knowledge and effective communication on nature-based solutions has the potential to strengthen decision-making and mobilize resources for implementation.
This is an excerpt of the working paper: Adopting nature-based solutions for flood risk reduction in Latin America.
(1) EM-DAT: The Emergency Events Database - Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) - CRED, D. Guha-Sapir - www.emdat.be, Brussels, Belgium.
(2) Nel, J. L., Le Maitre, D. C., Nel, D. C., Reyers, B., Archibald, S., van Wilgen, B. W., & Engelbrecht, F. A., 2014. Natural hazards in a changing world: a case for ecosystem- based management. PloS one, 9(5).
(3) Estrella, M. and N. Saalismaa. 2013. Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR): An Overview, In: Renaud, F., Sud- meier-Rieux, K. and M. Estrella (eds.) The role of ecosystem management in disaster risk reduction. Tokyo: UNU Press.
(4) Sudmeier-Rieux, K., & Ash, N. 2009. Environmental guidance note for disaster risk reduction: healthy ecosystems for human security. IUCN.
(5) Ilieva, L., McQuistan, C., van Breda, A., Rodriguez, A.v., Guevara, O., Cordero, D., Podvin, K., Renaud, F. 2018. Adopting nature-based solutions for flood risk reduction in Latin America. Practical Action / WWF / IUCN CEM