Risk, resilience and spatial planning
The capricious relationship between water and civilization is aptly reflected in Sir Alan Herbert’s poem, which elegantly highlights two key themes relevant to this book: first, that water should be managed to support both human and ecological needs; and second, that society should reconnect with nature and design cities appropriate to their geo-climatic context. The line ‘Nature is blamed for failings that are Man’s’ provides a degree of simplistic clarity that resonates with the results of contemporary reviews of recent natural disasters. Actors, agencies and governance frameworks have all been perceived to be culpable by either causing or exacerbating the impact: disasters may have a natural origin, but a manufactured effect, a notion that essentially raises concerns about how we manage risk in society. It should be noted that there will always be extreme environmental events, from prolonged droughts to flash floods to earthquakes, as our planet is subject to ranges of volatile behaviour demanding judgements on acceptable risks and managerial intervention to protect cities and citizens. With regard to water we do have clear opportunities for reducing uncertainty by gathering data on hazards and using this to better predict the future risks. For example, using precipitation and hydrological records we can calculate with a degree of certainty which regions, cities or even which specific localities are more likely to be exposed to risks, thereby providing an evidence base for future intervention. The way risks are interpreted and the subsequent manner in which these events may be managed may not be effective however
blurring the distinction between what are ascribed to be natural or man made disasters.