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Vulnerable communities face a higher risk of socioeconomic injustice due to flood hazards

According to a new study published in Environmental Research, socially vulnerable groups are more susceptible to climate-change-caused flooding due to systemic disadvantages.

The study also reveals that racial or ethnic, economic, social, and demographic factors at the neighbourhood level play a significant explanatory role in the distribution of flood risk across Canadian neighborhoods.

In collaboration with other Waterloo researchers, Liton Chakraborty, a researcher at the University of Waterloo’s Partners for Action, discovered that traditionally-recognized socially vulnerable groups in Canada, such as females, persons living alone, Indigenous, South Asians, the elderly (age 65 and over), other visible minorities, and economically insecure residents, bear a disproportionate burden of inland and coastal flood risks.

“This research fills a gap in the literature by analysing and addressing flood-related socioeconomic disparities while considering divisibility aspects of flood hazards,” Chakraborty said.

The study used national flood hazards datasets, residential address points, census of population, and census tract (CT)-level cartographic boundaries to identify flood-vulnerable neighbourhoods and the number of residential properties exposed to river, periodic rainfall, and coastal flooding across 4,458 CTs in Canada.

The study indicates that statistical associations between periodic rainfall-related flood risk exposure and the proportion of Black, Indigenous, and other visible minority populations are positive and significant by examining whether the types of flood hazard zones influence the observed relationships between flood exposure and racial, ethnic, and other socio-demographic characteristics of Canadian residents.

“Our study demonstrates how the spatially varying distribution of flood hazards and socioeconomic deprivation, or social vulnerability indicators, could inform Canada’s equitable flood management approach, which complements the Federal Government’s Gender-based Analysis Plus priorities in flood-related disaster and emergency management policies across Canada,” Chakraborty said. “As a result, the findings of this paper advocate for a socially just flood risk management approach that emphasises the need to recognise socioeconomic heterogeneity within various racial, ethnic, and socio-demographic groups.”

The researchers propose that when developing flood risk management strategies that optimise scarce resource allocation, policymakers should take into account the uneven distribution of racial or ethnic and socio-demographic covariates.


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