Medellín, Colombia

Type: Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Resilience Foundation Awards made available by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Academic Research
Contract value:
Completed October 2017
Heriot-Watt University, The University of Edinburgh, Universidad Nacional de Colombia sede Medellín
Toward negotiated mitigation of landslide risks in informal settlements: reflections from a pilot experience in Medellín, Ecology and Society ( 2020)

This is a joint Heriot-Watt University/The University of Edinburgh/Universidad Nacional de Colombia project that is piloting community-based monitoring and mitigation of landslide risk in an informal settlement in Medellin, Colombia, as a basis to inform negotiated strategies for risk management at the city level.

Urbanisation continues to drive the growth of informal settlements on land exposed to hazards, increasing risk particularly among low-income populations, and heightening the need to improve the resilience of such communities. Informal settlements growing up steep hillsides and ravines are particularly exposed to landslides, which are a major cause of death in developing countries. In order to reduce disasters, we need to anticipate these through managing risk. Many ways of managing landslide risk are known, ranging from building physical protection barriers to raising awareness to prepare communities. However, in developing countries these measures are often difficult to implement, not only because of lack of resources but also due to complex social, economic, political and institutional reasons.

This project aims to explore the scope for, and acceptability of, landslide risk-reducing strategies for informal settlements from the community and state perspectives; to understand the barriers to landslide risk-reducing strategies; and identify politically and practically viable approaches to landslide risk-reducing strategies within a wider and more complex context of social and physical risk. We will explore these issues in the city of Medellin, Colombia, which has received many accolades for its urban planning and design and has become a ‘model’ for cities elsewhere. Despite the city’s successes, informal settlement growth on land at risk of landslides continues to be a major problem due to its topography.