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Sarno Basin

Project: CLICO
Country: Italy
Size: 500 km²


Floods are a serious human security concern in Italy. The last disastrous flood-landslide event in the Sarno Valley in May 5-6 1998, cost the lives of 155 people and livelihood and economic damages of an estimated 500 million Euros. Floods have been a recurrent hydrological feature of the Sarno river basin but extremes are expected to intensify with climate change. The basin is an inland area along the Italian Apennines, where Mediterranean climate patterns (alternate dry summers with torrential autumn rain) combine with geology (pyroclastic-alluvial soils, prone to mud-slides), economy (intense deforestation-industrialization-urbanization), and politics (corruption and institutional inefficiency) to create an environment of high economic value coupled with high environmental and human vulnerability.

This study will adopt an historical research perspective focussing on past events, the archival record and long-time hydro-climatic series to reconstruct how proneness and vulnerability to floods are related to the complex, evolving mix of climatic, geological, cultural and political-economic factors. The study will analyse in depth the interaction among three key variables: 1) political economy (appropriation; social costs), 2) climate change (precipitations, melting glaciers), and 3) culture (individualism vs. cooperation; ecological consciousness), and how changes in those and their interaction, at both the national and the ultra-national scale, affected particular landscapes and in turn local people's security and lives. The enclosure of water rights and the displacement of social costs between groups will offer key (historical) explanatory entry-points for understanding the evolution of social vulnerability and human (in)security to hydro-climatic hazards in the region.

The Italian case-study will offer CLICO not only information from an additional hazard-geographical context (i.e. floods and landslides in a less developed southern-European region), but will also enrich the methodological toolkit (historical analysis) and shed light on the dynamic and diachronic inter-dependencies between the systems depicted in the CLICO model.


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