While the rain is falling, it may be too early to talk about reconstruction, but it is essential that we start designing strategies in the face of recent climate disasters. In recent weeks, several Brazilian cities were partially or totally destroyed by the rains, characterized by some experts as extreme events, given the atypical intensity and volume resulting from climate change. That is, from global warming that incurs changes in water volume, temperature, soil composition, etc.
Thousands of people saw their homes and belongings flowing through the waters of rivers that quadrupled in volume. In recent days, with the truce, a portion of affected residents have already returned to their homes.
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Amidst the devastation, the question that remains is: where to start over? A question that also needs to be answered by the public authorities, as the prevention of similar events in the future requires coordinated and direct action by municipal, state and Federal Government administrations.
In this sense, it is worth returning to a very recurring theme in this column, climate adaptation, which was, more precisely, the subject of the text “We need to prepare a transport system for extreme weather events”, published in July 2021.
As I wrote on that occasion, adaptation actions aim to “reduce people’s exposure and vulnerability to the inevitable effects of climate change”, which requires the realization of evidence-based predictions, that is, concrete data on social impacts. , environmental and economic, for the purpose of making estimates and forecasts.
Citing a specific example, after the rains in southern Bahia, a bridge was completely swallowed by the Rio dos Frades, located in the municipality of Porto Seguro/BA, leaving countless villages completely isolated. The boat remained the only option for transporting people and goods, but as the days went by, the volume of the river was reduced and, little by little, sections of the road reappeared, making it possible for 4×4 cars, experienced motorcyclists and brave people to pass. foot.
Among the crossing options, certainly, the option for the boat continued as the alternative with less risk, guaranteeing the people of the region the return home and the transport of goods and everything else that is necessary to ensure the maintenance of life. The rumor circulates among residents that the city hall is already prepared to rebuild the road, now submerged, this time 1 meter higher so that the tragedy does not happen again.
The need to talk about the challenges in the Buffalo Valley comes from the demand to rebuild and restore the living conditions of the affected populations. However, without forgetting the urgency of adapting the infrastructure in order to make it more resilient to extreme weather events so that disasters of the same magnitude do not happen again, which probably requires more than increasing the height of the bridge.
In other countries that have gone through tragedies associated with floods, the approach was no different, since the application of intensive resources in the reconstruction of cities was not accompanied by the incorporation of climate adaptation measures.
However, in an emerging economy such as Brazil, or in a developing one, reducing the time between extreme weather events will make the task of reducing social distances even more difficult and challenging, given the disproportionality of the effects of natural disasters on the most vulnerable people, in mostly women, black, indigenous and impoverished people.
All this puts on the table the need to reduce the sensitivity of urban infrastructure to climate events, making them resilient to rising sea volumes, recurrent floods, intense storms, heat waves and other already announced effects.
As far as urban mobility is concerned, this can be unfolded in changes in constructive characteristics, resizing of drainage systems, reallocation of transport systems and readaptation of land use and occupation, for example, by removing houses from risk areas .
With the increased resilience of the infrastructure, perhaps people like those who live around the Buffalo Valley can once again enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep while the rain falls outside, without trauma.
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