Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): They analyze keys to reduce the risk of floods


In the fourth conference organized by the chair, the academic from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Félix Francés, explained that floods are the natural disasters that occur most frequently and affect the largest number of people on the planet, and delved into those aspects that are most relevant to carry out an adequate evaluation and management of the risk they represent.

With active public participation, the conference “Flood Risk Assessment and Management” was held, organized by the Antofagasta Minerals Chair in Water Sustainability. On the occasion, Dr. Félix Francés, an academic from the Polytechnic University of Valencia , addressed the essential aspects that influence the correct management of floods, which are one of the natural catastrophes that cause the greatest damage on the planet.

The activity, which brought together audiences from countries such as Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico, was presented by Jorge Gironás, director of the Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering of the UC School of Engineering and academic director of the chair, an initiative that began his work at the end of 2020 with the contribution of Antofagasta Mineralsand whose objective is to strengthen the multidisciplinary research carried out at the Catholic University in matters related to water management and climate change. In relation to the specific topic of this meeting, Professor Gironás stated that “here in Chile the topic has been important; We particularly remember the mudslides in the Atacama, the rise that the Mapocho River experienced recently and a whole history that precedes us, where mudslides and floods have been a very relevant issue”.

“Here in Chile the issue has been important; We particularly remember the floods in the Atacama, the rise that the Mapocho River experienced recently and a whole history that precedes us, where floods and floods have been a very relevant issue” – Jorge Gironás, UC academic

Risks: key element
Dr. Francés focused his talk on two main topics: first, he introduced the concepts of danger and flood risk, while showing a methodology for estimating them. On this basis, he proceeded to delve into the possible actions for risk management and their selection within a Flood Risk Management Plan.

Thus, in the face of the emergency of this type of catastrophe, the Spanish expert was clear: “What can we do? It must be clear that the objective is risk reduction.” For this, he explained that it is important to identify the type of actions that are being carried out. Thus, there is the “how”: if the risk is being reduced by reducing the danger, vulnerability or exposure; the “when”, that is, if it acts preventively, during the emergency or afterwards with a focus on recovery, and also from the point of view of the environmental impact that each of the actions may have.

“Education is essential. Learning to live with the river helps us to implement individual emergency measures that make the damage less. Public flood mapping contributes to this”- Félix Francés, academic at the Polytechnic University of Valencia

Although each case must be analyzed in particular, Francés pointed out that “by far, the most important risk reduction method is the zoning of uses: do not build where there is danger.” Likewise, he highlighted the relevance of community outreach: “Education is fundamental. Learning to live with the river helps us to implement individual emergency measures that make the damage less. The fact that the flood mapping is public contributes to this”.

UC Endowment Chairs
This is the fourth meeting held by the Antofagasta Minerals Water Sustainability Chair. Previously, Sergio Vicente Serrano, a researcher at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology-CSIC, referred to drought in his presentation “Observed Changes and Future Projections of Drought on a Global Scale”; while Dr. Ellen Wohl, from Colorado State University, referred to the role of spatial heterogeneity in the sustainability of river ecosystems in her talk “Messy rivers are healthy rivers”.

For his part, Professor Giuliano di Baldassare, from Uppsala University (Sweden), spoke at the seminar “Deciphering the interaction of water and society: current state and perspectives”, where he reflected on the constant relationship between hydrology and society.

The chairs are part of the UC Endowment, an endowment or reserve fund established on the basis of donations. Its main characteristic is that the fund, which is invested in various financial instruments, remains intact, dealing only with the returns, or rather part of them, which allows the impact of the donations received to be long-term. As the chairs are inserted in this initiative, the operating scheme is the same, which guarantees the long-term financial sustainability of the project; In this line, the income from the endowment will allow the hiring of expert professors in the subject of the chairs, and support the development of activities related to the subject of the chair. There are currently three chairs:Antofagasta Minerals Water Sustainability , Entel Sustainable Digital Development and CMPC Biodiversity and Sustainable Development.

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