An atmospheric river has led to flooding across Metro Vancouver on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (Shane MacKichan)

An atmospheric river has led to flooding across Metro Vancouver on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (Shane MacKichan)

Vulnerable populations in B.C. more at risk to flooding: study

Flood mitigation plans must take demographics into account

  • Aug. 29, 2022 10:40 a.m.

Socially vulnerable groups, especially in B.C., are at greater risk of flooding because of systemic disadvantages, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo.

B.C. and the prairie provinces rank the highest in terms of vulnerability, and the study focused on urban areas subject to pluvial flooding like Vancouver and Victoria.

In an era of climate change, more communities will be dealing with flooding. The study found that women, persons living alone, seniors, visible minorities, and economically insecure residents bear a disproportionate burden of inland and coastal flood risks.

One of the authors of the study Liton Chakraborty from the University of Waterloo’s Partners for Action, said that engineers often do not take into account social components into risk assessment procedures.

“When they disclose the risk exposure information, they mislead the people about the flood risk,” he said. “The risk is not just based on the physical environment, the risks could be the characteristics of the families and households in the neighborhood, for example, low income households.”

To combat this risk, the study suggests policymakers must consider racial and socio-demographic characteristics when designing flood risk management strategies.

Among other suggestions, Chakraborty suggested implementing more stringent rules in residential planning, promoting community led strategies and increasing flood awareness.

He emphasized that the vulnerable need to be advocated for, especially in an era of climate change.

“Somebody put all their savings into property, and they don’t know that it could be flooded in 20 years. This should be information readily available to them.”

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