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From natural hazard to disaster: academic to discuss the impact of poor urban planning at public talk

An expert on sustainable and resilient urbanism from Loughborough University will be discussing why there is nothing natural about ‘natural disasters’ at an event in Leicester next week.

The public talk, titled ‘Disaster Risk Reduction or Disaster Risk Production? Urban drivers of disasters’, will take place at the Central Baptist Church on Thursday 9 August.

The event is being led by Dr Ksenia Chmutina from the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering.

Dr Chmutina researches whether cities can be sustainable and resilient under the pressures of urbanisation and climate change.

She argues that labelling disasters as ‘natural’ allows people to accept poor urban planning, which results in increased socio-economic inequalities, poorly regulated policies  and a lack of proactive adaption and mitigation to avoid detection of  future natural hazards.

Of the upcoming event, Dr Chmutina said: “In this talk, I will explain how natural hazards - such as floods, earthquakes or storms - turn into disasters, and what cities should consider in order to increase their resilience.

“This talk will not provide any technical solutions and silver bullets.

“Instead, I am hoping to encourage the audience to understand that poverty, political ideology, class and power relations are the root causes of vulnerabilities that turn natural hazards into disasters, making some more vulnerable than others.”

The talk will also feature a presentation from Jonathan Vann, Managing Director of Riverscape Environmental Consultants.

Jonathan will be providing a more localised perspective, giving an insight into the recent infrastructure investments in Leicestershire which plan to reduce the risk of flooding and improve the overall flood risk management.

He will also be exploring the wider benefits of introducing landscape elements such as trees, shrubs and ponds in urbanised environments such as cities for biodiversity enhancement, public access and riverside generation.

The talk is part of a series by Leicester Urban Observatory - a collaborative project between urban practitioners at Leicester City Council and academics from Loughborough University, De Montfort University and University of Leicester that aims to establish and develop a combined centre of excellence in urban studies and planning for Leicester.

The event is free to attend and will take place from 5:30pm-7pm. Those interested in attending can register on the dedicated event webpage