Landslide and flood hazards and vulnerability in NW Rwanda: towards applicable land management and disaster risk reduction

Rwanda is often affected by severe cases of landslides and floods. It is also one of the most densely populated areas of the world. This context of strong demographic pressure has led to significant land use / land cover (LULC) changes which are likely the cause of an increase in landslide and flood occurrences, particularly in the mountainous regions of NW Rwanda near the Volcanoes National Park. Nonetheless, the impacts of LULC and its changes on the occurrence of these natural hazards remain difficult to predict and quantify. As a result, the development of suitable land management strategies (striking a balance between minimizing the impacts of these hazards and the high population pressure) remains highly challenging. This is especially so in the light of climate change.

This project therefore aims to study the effects of LULC and its changes over the past 60 years on the magnitude and frequency of landslides and floods, as well as the impacts of these hazards on the population. Our research will focus on two river basins in NW Rwanda with similar topographic and climatic characteristics but very different levels of LULC change. The expected results of this research are improved insights of the physical and anthropogenic factors controlling these two hazards and a better understanding of the population vulnerability facing these hazards. The outcomes of the project will be (1) an increased research capacity to conduct scientific risk assessment, integrating specific hydrogeomorphic hazards and associated risks with the human dimensions of risks; (2) the ability to make up-to-date assessments of these two hydrogeomorphic hazards which will be used to raise awareness and identify suitable mitigation and resilience strategies with exposed communities and all relevant stakeholders involved in disaster risk reduction; (3) a strong partnership from the beginning of the project with local and national stakeholders involved in disaster risk reduction, for a better integration of scientific insights into natural hazard and risk management policy.

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