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Title: A political ecology of urban flood hazard and social vulnerability in Guyana.
Author: Pelling, Mark.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 1997
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During the 1990s vulnerability analysis has brought political ecology into the study of hazards, and in so doing allowed the study of risk in society/environment relations to engage more directly with broader issues of social science interest. This approach acknowledges that hazards are the product of risk and vulnerability but focuses primarily on the ways in which social organisation influences the distribution of hazard impacts; when and where risk becomes hazard, who is affected. if and how people respond and the extent to which hazard events may provide opportunities for, as well as constraints on, society. The vulnerabilities approach rests upon two key conceptual tools, the Pressure and Release Model and the Access Model, which were designed for use in exploring a wide variety of stressful events. Their utility in an urban flood hazard context is, however, limited because of a lack of meso-level conceptual tools and models. This weakness was overcome by bringing in a range of tools from the urban management literature which can also be combined within a political ecology frame. For the 90% of the Guyanese population, resident on the Atlantic coastal plain. flood hazard as a consequence of episodic and everyday events is an ongoing problem manifesting in collective and individual vulnerabilities, and a problem which is likely to become more acute as a consequence of global climate change. This project sought both to identify superficial experiences of hazard and vulnerability, and the deeper human and physical processes producing risk and vulnerability. National level experience and vulnerability indicators were gathered from a review of secondary data from the press, consultants' reports and government and academic publications. Following this, the first stage of primary field research identified the extent to which vulnerability indicators were associated with observed vulnerability and flood impact in both urban and peri-urban case studies. The second stage of field research examined local social/political-economic relations and their role in directing the flow of resources for environmental management and, consequently, in shaping distributions of vulnerability within the case study areas. For households in peri-urban and urban neighbourhoods economic and social assets are shown to be equally important for shaping the distribution of vulnerabilities; however, for low-income groups, and for squatter communities in particular, social assets are often the key to mitigating vulnerability. The importance of social assets at the household level contrasts with the weakened condition of social capital locally, and within Guyana as a whole. Locally, the low level of social capital was seen in a withdrawal of households from communal activity and a preference for investing in flood adaptation mechanisms within the household or extended family, and by topdown constructions of community and unrepresentative and unresponsive leadership serving to deepen dependency and alienation from the decision-making process. At a national level, government and public institutions are weak and ineffective, the private sector and civil society are undeveloped with few inter-sectoral linkages being maintained. Failures in social development and the low level of social capital are identified as key determinants in the production of vulnerability despite democratisation and structural adjustment which has promoted both privatisation and the funding of community sponsored development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Geography Geography