Volcanoes, hazards and community engagement

I have recently(ish) returned from two weeks of fieldwork in Ecuador and Colombia. These two countries are threatened by a variety of different volcanic hazards (and seismic hazards, too, of course), and this was the motivation for our trip.

The visit was part of the STREVA project – an interdisciplinary research project combining volcanologists and social scientists. The overall aim of the project is to produce plans and protocols that reduce the vulnerability of people and their livelihoods during volcanic eruptions. This includes development of hazard maps, community engagement, risk assessments and improving monitoring strategies.

During this trip we spent a large amount of time meeting with local communities in areas affected by volcanic hazards. We particularly spoke to them about our work on ash and lahars, and collected their feedback both on how they have been affected, and more importantly, how they are managing these issues. By learning how one community has adapted to a certain hazard, we can disseminate these ideas to other affected areas on different volcanoes and in different countries.

Community workshop in Guayabal, Colombia.

Community workshop in Guayabal, Colombia.

Another way to build resilience against future volcanic eruptions is to learn from past experiences. This point has been captured perfectly (I think so, at least) by a series of short videos produced by the STREVA project. They honour the memory of the Armero disaster in 1985 in which over 20,000 people lost their lives to a lahar from the Nevado Del Ruiz volcano. The trilogy takes you through the heartfelt and sombre memories of some survivors, how they have since moved on and now live with the volcano, to the work of the Servicio Geologico Colombiano, who monitor the volcano for future activity. We had the pleasure of showing these videos to a number of communities in pop-up-open-air-cinema style, and they were very well received. Tears, laughs and applause all round.

One of the public viewings of the Nevado Del Ruiz STREVA films.

The videos are now available on YouTube through the STREVA channel, and you can also catch them showing this week at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly who have their very own ‘GeoCinema‘. You will not be disappointed.

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