Combining criteria for delineating lahar- and flash-flood-prone hazard and risk zones for the city of Arequipa, Peru
Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, is exposed to many natural hazards, most notably earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, lahars (volcanic debris flows), and flash floods. Of these, lahars and flash floods, triggered by occasional torrential rainfall, pose the most frequently occurring hazards that can affect the city and its environs, in particular the areas containing low-income neighbourhoods. This paper presents and discusses criteria for delineating areas prone to flash flood and lahar hazards, which are localized along the usually dry (except for the rainy season) ravines and channels of the Río Chili and its tributaries that dissect the city. Our risk-evaluation study is based mostly on field surveys and mapping, but we also took into account quality and structural integrity of buildings, available socio-economic data, and information gained from interviews with risk-managers officials.
In our evaluation of the vulnerability of various parts of the city, in addition to geological and physical parameters, we also took into account selected socio-economic parameters, such as the educational and poverty level of the population, unemployment figures, and population density. In addition, we utilized a criterion of the "isolation factor", based on distances to access emergency resources (hospitals, shelters or safety areas, and water) in each city block. By combining the hazard, vulnerability and exposure criteria, we produced detailed risk-zone maps at the city-block scale, covering the whole city of Arequipa and adjacent suburbs. Not surprisingly, these maps show that the areas at high risk coincide with blocks or districts with populations at low socio-economic levels. Inhabitants at greatest risk are the poor recent immigrants from rural areas who live in unauthorized settlements in the outskirts of the city in the upper parts of the valleys. Such settlements are highly exposed to natural hazards and have little access to vital resources.
Our study provides good rationale for the risk zoning of the city, which in turn may be used as an educational tool for better understanding the potential effects of natural hazards and the exposure of the population residing in and around Arequipa. We hope that our work and the risk-zonation maps will provide the impetus and basis for risk-management authorities of the Municipality and the regional government of Arequipa to enforce existing regulations in building in hazardous zones and to adopt an effective long-term strategy to reduce risks from lahar, flash flood, and other natural hazards.