Perception of flood and landslide risk in Italy: a preliminary analysis
Inundations and landslides are widespread phenomena in Italy, where they cause severe damage and pose a threat to the population. Little is known about the public perception of landslide and flood risk. This is surprising, as an accurate perception is important for the successful implementation of many risk reduction or adaptation strategies. In an attempt to address this gap, we have conducted two national surveys to measure the perception of landslide and flood risk amongst the population of Italy. The surveys were conducted in 2012 and 2013, and consisted of approximately 3100 computer-assisted telephone interviews for each survey. The samples of the interviewees were statistically representative for a national-scale quantitative assessment. The interviewees were asked questions designed to obtain information on (i) their perception of natural, environmental, and technological risks, (ii) direct experience or general knowledge of the occurrence of landslides and floods in their municipality, (iii) perception of the possible threat posed by landslides and floods to their safety, (iv) general knowledge on the number of victims affected by landslides or floods, and on (v) the factors that the interviewees considered important for controlling landslide and flood risks in Italy. The surveys revealed that the population of Italy fears technological risks more than natural risks. Of the natural risks, earthquakes were considered more dangerous than floods, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Examination of the temporal and geographical distributions of the responses revealed that the occurrence of recent damaging events influenced risk perception locally, and that the perception persisted longer for earthquakes and decreased more rapidly for landslides and floods. We explain the difference by the diverse consequences of the risks. The interviewees considered inappropriate land management the main cause of landslide and food risk, followed by illegal construction, abandonment of the territory, and climate change. Comparison of the risk perception with actual measures of landslide and flood risk, including the number of fatal events, the number of fatalities, and the mortality rates, revealed that in most of the Italian regions, the perception of the threat did not match the long-term risk posed to the population by landslides and floods. This outcome points to a need to foster an understanding of the public towards landslide and flood hazards and risks in Italy.