Impacts of Floods and Landslides on Socio Economic Systems

Although floods are natural events in ecological and agricultural systems, they may cause considerable damages, including mainly loss of people lives. Serious damages are also due to the impact on houses and industrial structures of debris

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Year

Fig. 2.1 Number of landslides in Europe from 2003 to 2009 (from Spizzichino et al. 2010)

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Year

Fig. 2.1 Number of landslides in Europe from 2003 to 2009 (from Spizzichino et al. 2010)

or voluminous material violently transported by water, and to diseases spread by contamination of drinking waters. The latter may become extremely dangerous especially if toxic substances accumulated in sediments are released during floods in concentrations larger than those acceptable for human risk (Munich Re 1997). Violent floods can seriously affect agriculture through crop destruction, loss of livestock, and enhanced surface soil erosion in cultivated areas. Disruptions in transport and damage to civil infrastructure, as well as tourist and recreational areas, may hamper relief helpers and rapid return to normal conditions.

Landslides are more localized phenomena and hit smaller areas, thus causing less monetary damages than floods. For the 2003-2009 period, 61 landslides were recorded in the whole Europe (Fig. 2.1).

In the last 80 years, 5,400 floods and 11,000 landslides occurred in Italy (ISPRA 2011c). Because of the high impact of these events on landscape and human health, the Italian Ministry of Environment decided in 1997 to acquire a complete and homogeneous knowledge on landslides distribution throughout Italy, by funding a 4.1 million € IFFI Project (Inventario dei Fenomeni Franosi in Italia -"Italian Landslide Inventory"). In 2004, the Agency for the Protection of the Environment (APAT), now ISPRA (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale), conferred 650,000 € to complete the databank. Up to December 31, 2007, the inventory had surveyed 482,272 landslides, covering an area of 20,500 km2 (about 6.8% of Italy). The region where most landslides occurred is Lombardy, with 132,533 landslides (Fig. 2.2).

Landslides are complex dynamic phenomena encompassing different types of mass movements, based on which ISPRA classified the landslides events occurred so far in Italy: (1) 32.5% of total landslides were caused by rotational/translational movements, (2) 15.3% by slow mass flows, (3) 14.6% by rapid debris flow. In the IFFI Project, the relationship between landslides and slope steepness has been also analysed and it was found that slopes instability does not increase with slope angle, while only a specific range of slopes was statistically responsible for most landslides. The instability of a slope is often due to the interaction of several natural

50000

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Italian regions

50000

Fig. 2.2 Number of landslides per Italian region (elaboration from ISPRA 2008)

and/or anthropogenic causes. However, intense and short, as well as prolonged rainfall events are the most important factors for triggering slope instability phenomena (ISPRA 2008).

The socio-economic effects of landslides are similar to those of floods on agriculture, in terms of crop and livestock losses, and land subtracted from productivity, although the overall ecosystem disruption results smaller than for floods (Bigano and Pauli 2007).

According to APAT, Italy has funded 447.36 million € until 2006 to fight the flood risk and 667.88 million € to prevent landslides (Bigano and Pauli 2007), while it is documented (ISPRA 2011c) that Italy invested 2.81 billion of € to study and remediate landslides from 1990 to 2010 (Fig. 2.3).

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