Awotona Speaks at the National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment
February 19, 2013
McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies
At the invitation of the National Council for Science and the Environment, Professor Adenrele Awotona, the founding director of the Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies was a panelist at the “13th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment: Disasters and Environment: Science, Preparedness, and Resilience”. The conference took place from January 15-17, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Participating in the session “Cities and Disasters,” Awotona and other experts explored the unique challenges of densely populated cities and how they respond to disasters.
Adenrele Awotona’s presentation on “Cities, Disasters and the Urban Risk Divide” examined the discrepancy between “well-planned and well-built wealthy cities” and urban slums regarding disaster mitigation, preparedness, and risk reduction.
In a recent interview discussing his presentation, Awotona shared some sobering statistics. According to a recent United Nations publication, approximately one billion urban dwellers now live in crowded slums in the developing world — a figure which the Red Cross says will rise to 1.4 billion by the end of the decade. A 2010 report by the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) noted that 28 per cent of Brazil’s urban population lived in slums in 2007. The corresponding figures for India in 2010 were 32.1 per cent; for Jamaica, also in 2010, 60 per cent; for Kenya, 54.8 per cent; and, for Nigeria, 64.2 per cent.
Awotona explains that these individuals are oppressed — economically deprived, socially excluded, and politically powerless. They continue to be ignored, disregarded, and forgotten in the disaster planning process. As a result, slum inhabitants are extremely vulnerable to the impact of disasters and have few choices and resources for reducing their vulnerability.
“This population is the most vulnerable — and often the worst-affected ¬— to disasters because their living conditions are characterized by intolerable and overcrowded housing, absence of land use planning and building codes, lack of basic services and critical infrastructure like sanitation, potable water, and electricity. Their homes are often located on unhealthy and perilous land.”
With the goal of improved environmental decision-making, Awotona looked at some of the major barriers to reducing disaster risks in slums and offered specific recommendations on how to make them resilient. At the end of the session, Awotona and other urban planning experts developed strategies for enhancing the resilience of cities and for supporting them in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and during a longer-term recovery.
The Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters is the only institution of its kind dedicated to raising awareness and possessing the expertise necessary for long-term sustainable reconstruction. With partners at Boston Architectural College and Roger Williams University’s School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation, Awotona is planning a conference next spring on the role of architectural, planning, and engineering education. The conference, “Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Sustainable Reconstruction” will take place at UMass Boston on May 8-9, 2014. Through the university's College of Advancing Professional Studies, the center offers four certificate programs in post-disaster reconstruction.
Social justice and serving the disadvantaged are common themes at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School. Next month, another conference sponsored by the McCormack School’s Center for Social Policy looks at post-disaster Hurricane Katrina victims. The conference, “Breaking the Silence of Extreme Poverty” based on the book, Not Meant to Live Like This: Weathering the Storm of our Lives in New Orleans, examines poverty policy in relation to health, education, violence/safety, housing, and sustainable development and features a guest lecture by renowned Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson.
Posted by PAUL ONYEBUCHI OBI | Monday, February 25 2013 at 2:44 pm
Our stakeholders in urban planning need this topic escalated, to adjust and approach our built environment with best practice management.