The Knowledge Societies Division of UNESCO hosted the annual project meeting of the Landslide-EVO (Environmental Virtual Observatory) project, which is an international, collaborative research project to build ICT and citizen science enabled resilience to natural hazards in Western Nepal.
Disaster risk reduction involves systematic efforts to analyze and reduce the causal factors of disasters. This is carried out by reducing exposure to hazards, reducing vulnerability for people and property, carefully managing land and the environment, improving preparedness and providing timely warning.
Within this context, ICTs play a catalytic role by enhancing linkages between science and various socio-economic processes. Improved access to ICTs secures citizens’ role as a partner in scientific inquiry rather than simply as beneficiaries of scientific studies. ICTs provide enhanced learning opportunities by offering flexible learning pathways, and address uneven access to scientific information that can help in achieving sustainable development.
Moez Chakchouk, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO said, “The value of ICT-enabled citizen science projects is immense for accomplishing education and conservation science. I am sure that upon its maturity, the Landslide EVO will add another milestone to help utilize ICTs and engage citizens in scientific inquiries to better detect the socio-ecological triggers of Landslide.”
The L-EVO project brings together scientists from Nepal, UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria, with other partners including UNESCO. Together they develop science driven and ICTs supported methods and tools to generate information about landslides and flood risk in the Karnali river basin. The project explores ways to use this information to enhance disaster resilience at various policy levels, from local village committees to national and international fora. ICT-enabled citizen science is a key element of the programme. It supports active incorporation of local communities in the knowledge co-creation process.
The design of the Landslide EVO project enhances to-and-fro information sharing and offers a unique advantage for all stakeholders to make informed decisions while acting to reduce disaster risk in a cost-efficient manner. After the COP21, environmental considerations were strongly mainstreamed in the development processes. As a result, there is a stronger call to address key challenges concerning environment and development within the context of larger social-ecological systems. The call is primarily to foster better understanding on how people perceive environment around them and offer solutions to improve services that they derive from it.
The 4-year project is entering its 3rd year of implementation, and has already achieved several milestones. These include the development of a landslide risk map at unprecedented resolution, installation of sensors and equipment to measure rainfall, and participatory mapping of human vulnerability with local communities. Next year, the project aims to set up an ambitious schedule of citizen science activities in schools, to educate children on the natural processes that trigger landslides, and how they can be measured with scientific tools. The project also aims to work closely with the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology of the Government of Nepal, to improve operational weather and flood forecasting.
Landslide-EVO is part of the SHEAR research programme on natural hazards in South Asia and Africa, and is funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).