Social impact assessment for natural disaster management
"Forest, Environment and Society" -Centre for Competence University of Joensuu Joensuu, Finland
Natural disasters always have a social dimension and, whatever their cause, their effects are invariably rooted in societal processes that render certain groups or individuals particularly vulnerable to their impacts. The problem which often lies over the disaster management practices is that social dimensions of disasters are badly identified and assessed. This paper discusses this problem and offers social impact assessment (SIA) as a one tool for the uses of environmental disaster management. Here, the main questions concern following issues:
The main targets for making the SIA in the conditions of disaster are the following:
? To understand how a disaster changes the life and welfare of residents, communities and regions (direct and indirect impacts).
? To understand the potential impacts of a disaster for gender and various social, ethnic and age groups (vulnerability of various population groups).
? To develop mitigation, adaptation or compensation measures for the harmful social impacts (adaptive capacity).
? To alert planners and decision-makers to likely social change (planning tool).
? To help communities cope with the impacts of disaster and the post-disaster conditions (community empowerment).
When assessing the social impacts of natural disasters we have to understand and take into account the difference between direct and indirect impacts, the questions of social vulnerability and resilience, and also the various phases of disaster development. Concerning the latter, we can talk about timescales (i.e. happenings before, during and after the disaster) and responses of different actors (capacities of adaptation, mitigation of adverse impacts, reconstruction). In addition, impact assessment must not be restricted itself to the description of direct or indirect impacts, but it should be developed also towards understanding the dynamics of social and community changes.
Around the world there exist various modes of social and community assessments concerning conditions of natural disaster. In this paper, some of these applications such as Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA), Community Risk Assessment (CRA) and Community (Environmental) Assessment, are shortly introduced and compared.