The Impact of Hazards is more of a Problem for People in LEDCs. Discuss the Statement with Reference to a Range of Hazard Events. by Lucy Phipps

Impacts can be classified into social, economic and environmental categories. Impacts can therefore vary greatly both spatially and temporally and deciding whether some impacts are more of a problem than others is difficult precisely because of this variation. However, the perception of the extent of the impacts is often influenced by the wealth of an area - LEDCs have little capital to spend on the technology that is often more readily available in MEDCs, generally creating a more vulnerable population in the former. This still does not prevent hazards from occurring and cannot influence the magnitude, frequency or nature of the event; three factors which are crucial in causing and affecting the extent of the impacts.

The level of development in an area is an important factor that affects the impacts of natural hazards. Typically, LEDCs are seen to experience hazards with impacts considered worse than those in many MEDCs, even from the same hazard type. This is partly due to the fact that LEDCs often do not have the capital to invest in 'up-to-date' prediction and monitoring technology. They may even have a poor education system because of restricted capital, meaning that there are very few specialists in the country with the knowledge of hazards needed to prepare for them. Even in countries such as Mozambique that has modern and hi-tech meteorology prediction equipment, communication is often a problem. Poor infrastructure means that information about impending hazards does not always reach those who are to be affected, leaving little time to prepare or evacuate. This increases the vulnerability of the population and therefore the risk of problematic impacts. This occurred in the Mozambique floods in February 2000. Whilst there is an annual flood, and some forecasters knew there was to be a larger than usual flood, no one had experience of an event of such magnitude. Most of the local population living in remote rural areas simply did not have access to information and were caught unprepared leaving, according to BBC news articles of that date, 500 people dead and one million homeless. This is direct contrast to the floods in Britain in the winter of 2000 when homes and businesses at risk were notified and evacuated by local authorities, minimising the impact on human life.

Long-term and short-term impacts also have to be taken into consideration and can also be affected by the level of development. Short-term impacts are the direct impacts caused by the event such as flooding, loss of life, damage to buildings or infrastructure. Long-term impacts are more indirect and are related to factors such as disease, future farming prospects or rebuilding damaged areas. Long-term effects are often more devastating because of the wide ranging impacts and their lasting effects. MEDCs often have the capital to recover quickly and minimise the long-term effects. This is more difficult on LEDCs. Disease is a common problem after a hazard event. Once people have been evacuated they have to be housed in temporary accommodation and because of the lack of capital and adequate medical resources the camps often lack sanitation and clean water. After the El Salvador landslide in January 2001, 15,000 people were thought to need food supplies and three million people were believed to be without clean water. In these cramp and unsanitary conditions diseases such as typhoid and cholera can easily spread.

This does not mean that impacts are 'more of a problem' merely as a result of economic development. Impacts of hazards are influenced by many variant factors. One such factor is the spatial distribution of a hazard i.e. where the event occurs and the nature of the land such as land-use. For example, hurricanes hit both Bangladesh in November 1970 and in Camille, USA in August 1969. 4.7 million people were affected by the hurricane in Bangladesh whereas 1.9 million were affected in the USA. This may be because the Bangladesh hurricane hit a more rural area with a naturally lower population density than Camille. This idea is reinforced when looking at the type of damage that occurred; in Bangladesh crops, cattle and homes were the main areas to be damaged or destroyed; in Camille, houses were also destroyed but so was important infrastructure such as railways, main roads, vehicles and telephone cables. This type of damage reflects the economic development in each country (the USA is able to afford main roads and telephone cables whereas Bangladesh simply isn't) and it meant the damages cost was much higher in the USA. These facts and figures suggest the impact was worse in Camille than Bangladesh, but everything is relative. Those farmers in Bangladesh who lost their property lost their livelihoods and would find it much harder to replace than residents in Camille who would most likely have insurance. Also, whilst the damage in Bangladesh cost $64million compared to $1422million in Camille, it is a much larger percentage of Bangladesh's GNP and therefore will take them longer to recover.

Impacts also vary between MEDCs as well. This is often due to the magnitude of the event as technology or prediction techniques have no influence on the size of the event. Perception and attitude is also important. The Japanese view of hazards is that they can be prevented. In that vain money was invested in prevention and prediction measures. The USA focuses on managing the aftermath and accepts that hazards will occur. These different attitudes explain the enormously different impacts between the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, Los Angeles. Both events happened in the early hours of the morning. This is often more hazardous than an event that happens in the day because the majority of people are still asleep and not aware of any possible hazard warnings. This makes people generally vulnerable. Both earthquakes also had a similar magnitude; Kobe measured 6.9 on the Richter scale and the Northridge quake measured 6.7 on the Richter scale. Both hot built up areas and yet despite these similarities, 5,200 people died in Kobe compared to just 57 people in Northridge. In terms of the economy it cost $200 billion in damages in Kobe compared to $40 billion in Northridge. This example illustrates that the impact of hazards can be very problematic in MEDCs as well as LEDCs.

New Zealand is a country that experiences multiple hazards. Floods, volcanoes, coastal erosion, earthquakes and slips all occur across the country with different recurrence levels but they affect millions of people. The area is therefore considered a high-risk area. These hazards certainly present several problems and risks but whether it would be more of a problem in an LEDC is debateable because the frequency and diversity of the hazards creates an attitude of resignation and therefore money is invested in emergency services and management strategies.

In conclusion therefore, it is apparent that the impacts of all hazards are dependent on a range of factors, including the development of an area. This does not mean that all impacts are 'more of a problem for people in LEDCs.' Impacts can often be very problematic for MEDCs, as the Kobe earthquake illustrates. Impacts are not totally determined by technology or equipment affordable to MEDCs, magnitude and frequency are very important factors - if an event is of unprecedented magnitude, then very little can be done to ease impacts except when dealing with the aftermath. The Mozambique floods in 2000 illustrated that point but it also showed that impacts are partly affected by development because often the main difference between MEDCs and LEDCs in their ability to overcome natural hazards is their ability to respond and manage the impacts. MEDCs, more often than not have the money to invest in research, in education, infrastructure, emergency services and emergency strategies. This is the reason that MEDCs are perceived to be able to cope better with the impacts; they can overcome the long-term impacts much easier compared to LEDCs.

Lucy Phipps