A recent study by researchers at the University of Waterloo examines flood risk as a climate change effect and its complex connection to socio-economic and population factors (or “social vulnerability”) in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada. The study concludes that while the percentage of Indigenous and non-Indigenous residences exposed to flood hazards is roughly the same, the numerous challenges facing Indigenous communities, as an impact of land dispossession and colonization, means “the overall risk of Indigenous communities is higher.”
The peer-reviewed study compares “flood risk between Indigenous communities on 985 reserve lands and other Canadian communities across 3701 census subdivisions” and integrates an analysis of “socio-economic, demographic, ethnic, and cultural characteristics.” Eighty-one percent of the Indigenous communities in the study were exposed to flood hazards which would impact either their land and residences or the overall population.
Typically, flood hazards are categorized as primary, secondary, or tertiary. Primary hazards are associated with flooding where there is direct contact with water (e.g., erosion of soil, buildings, and other infrastructure; water damage to buildings; flooding of farmlands resulting in crop loss; human and animal drownings). Secondary flood hazards are the result of the primary hazards and can include toxic pollutants released by garbage and backed-up debris in sewage drains (i.e., the debris being a primary effect), as well as numerous health effects and service disruptions. Tertiary flood hazards are the long-term effects of primary and secondary flood hazards.
By Leela Viswanathan
(Photo credit: Justin Wilkens, Unsplash)