There’s no place like home. But millions of people around the world live in the almost certain knowledge that theirs will be destroyed at an unknown time in the future by a natural hazard. Extreme events such as cyclones, floods, earthquakes and fires leave hundreds of millions of people homeless every year. Many of the climatic events are increasing in frequency and population growth coupled with migration towards coastal economic centres is causing many more people to become vulnerable. In this episode of Connect Quentin Cooper asks what science and engineering can offer people whose houses are built in some of the most hazardous places on earth.
A rural house in Bangladesh collapses after stormy weather
Bangladesh experiences more natural hazards than any other country. In 1991 a cyclone drove a seven metre high wave of water inland across the flood plain from the Bay of Bengal. On its way back out to sea the water took with it over 130,000 people and the homes of millions of people. Since then other milder cyclones have struck Bangladesh and every time it’s the poor rural populations who suffer most.
Now engineers at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology are working to improve the hazard resistance of the country’s rural housing. The task is enormous and they are discovering that the best solutions are not the hi-tech designs offered by remote “experts” but simple practical improvements based on sound engineering principles coupled with the dissemination of knowledge of hazard resistant building techniques. They are developing perhaps the only approach that will bring protection to vulnerable communities across the globe whose livelihoods and homes are at risk.
A row of newly built quake resistant houses in Lakhapar Pakistan