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Perceptions of natural hazards in mountain landscapes; awareness, anticipation and mitigation in post-earthquake Beichuan, China.

By MARY HARRIET TOMLINSON

Abstract

The impact of earthquakes in developing countries is widely observed to be increasing. This trend can be seen as a result of a combination of factors, including rising population density, the loss of traditional protective building practices and low levels of hazard education. Rural China is experiencing all of these changes, and was severely impacted upon by the catastrophic May 2008 earthquake. Despite widely acknowledged seismic risk, the social aspects of earthquakes within China have received little attention in academia. This thesis therefore adopts an interdisciplinary approach to investigate and explore the levels of seismic risk awareness and anticipation amongst the Beichuan community within China, which was close to the epicentre of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.\ud This research adopted a bottom-up approach through the use of participatory methods, which investigate the following research questions: (1) How aware are local households of earthquake risk?; (2) To what extent is seismic risk anticipated?; and (3) How prepared are local communities for earthquake events? This study addresses these questions to explore risk perceptions from the perspective of the ‘at risk’ individuals themselves. An improved understanding of local risk perceptions can then lead to more appropriate hazard management implementation, through involving local populations in the development process.\ud The findings reveal that a lack of risk awareness inherently leads to low levels of seismic anticipation. This lack of anxiety associated with earthquakes prevents a willingness to adhere to mitigation practices. The experience of a large devastating event can act to raise awareness levels, however this does not necessarily lead to greater prevalence of ‘seismic culture’, as there are often simply more pressing everyday livelihood concerns that are more significant. The findings additionally suggest that although governments must play a key role in encouraging mitigation, the hands on roles must be at the local level in order to promote sustainability and enhance local capacity. The significance of the findings is related to previous studies, upon which recommendations for future research are made.\u

Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:3198
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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