£20m initiative to protect cities against natural disasters

A £20m research initiative has been announced to improve urban planning for natural disasters. Events like floods, earthquakes, landslides, cyclones, and volcanic eruptions have the potential to devastate unprepared cities.

The research, based in Kathmandu, Istanbul, Nairobi and Quito, aims to make the cities of the future smarter and more resilient.

The project, known as the UKRI GCRF Urban Disaster Risk Hub, has been selected as one of 12 to receive funding through UK Research and Innovation’s Global Challenge Research Fund.

Led by Edinburgh University, researchers from Northumbria’s Disaster and Development Network were invited to join the project due to their knowledge in disaster reduction, sustainable development, and resilience building.

Andrew Collins, Professor of Disaster and Development at Northumbria is leading the University’s involvement. He said: “We are very pleased to be a part of this UK Government investment into the integrated theme of disaster management and sustainability that we have championed from Northumbria for many years.

“In particular, this action orientated research will further strengthen the voice and capacity of urban poor to bring about the changes they wish to see. The Northumbria contribution will be focusing on action research for improved disaster risk reduction engagement, communication and impact.

The project takes place at a time when cities, particularly in developing countries, are expanding rapidly. Developed urban space is forecast to increase by 60 per cent by 2030.

More than two billion city dwellers in low-to-middle income countries face the threat of a range of human disasters, according to researchers. And this figure is expected to double by 2050 as cities grow and climate change increases the likelihood of extreme weather.

Incorporating disaster risk reduction measures into city planning could help meet Strategic Development Goals set out by the United Nations.

The five-year research project will bring together UK-based and international scientists, civil society groups, and a range of UN agencies to reduce disaster risk for some of the world’s poorest citizens.