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The differential experience and socio-spatial distribution of flood risk in England: an example of environmental injustice?. Gordon Walker, Lancaster University Kate Burningham, University of Surrey Inequalities, Flooding and Water Resources Seminar University of Surrey, October 2006.

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The differential experience and socio-spatial distribution of flood risk in England: an example of environmental injustice?

Gordon Walker, Lancaster University

Kate Burningham, University of Surrey

Inequalities, Flooding and Water Resources Seminar

University of Surrey, October 2006


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Structure of flood risk in England: an example of environmental injustice?

  • Evidence

    • of social difference and inequality in the experience of the social impacts of flooding

    • of social difference and inequality in the distribution of flood risk

  • Question

    • Utilising this evidence, how can think about flooding in terms of justice principles?


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  • project funded by the Environment Agency “Addressing Environmental Inequalities”

    • five reports:

      • Flooding

      • Waste Management

      • River Water Quality

      • Cumulative Impacts

      • Wales: flooding, waste, river water quality

    • Lancaster, Staffordshire, Surrey, Birmingham, London School Tropical Hygiene and Medicine, Policy Studies Institute, University of Westminster


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  • Walker G, Burningham K, Fielding J, Smith G, Thrush D and Fay H, (2006) Addressing environmental inequalities: flood risk. Science Report SC020061. Bristol: Environment Agency

    [http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk Product number: SCHO0905BJOK-E-E]

    • Literature review on social impacts, inequality and deprivation (UK and international)

    • Workshop with stakeholders (Birmingham Feb 2005)

    • GIS data analysis of flood risk maps and Index of Multiple Deprivation


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Social impacts of flooding Fay H, (2006)

  • a wide range of social impacts

    • physical and psychological health

    • possessions and other economic assets;

    • household disruption

    • infrastructure and services disruption

    • loss of jobs and income

  • social impacts of flooding vary with the nature and magnitude of the flood event.

  • can be difficult to delineate as they are interconnected, cumulative and often not quantifiable


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Social impacts and deprivation Fay H, (2006)

  • limited research on the social impacts of flooding on deprived communities in the UK (existing research focuses vulnerability of types of individuals and households – not neighbourhoods)

  • though not all vulnerable individuals and households are deprived, deprived neighbourhoods do contain concentrations of vulnerable individuals.

  • levels of awareness of flood risk are low among those in the lower socio-economic groups - likely to be less well prepared to cope with flood and aftermath.

  • health impacts of flooding will be more extensive in neighbourhoods already characterised by poor health.


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Social impacts and deprivation Fay H, (2006)

  • those on low incomes less likely to have insurance (50% of houses in lowest income decile do not have contents insurance: ABI)

  • more deprived communities tend to have lower levels of social capital - and research suggests places with low levels of social capital cope less well in the aftermath of flooding.

  • overall, therefore deprived neighbourhoods are likely to be particularly hard hit by the impacts of flooding.

  • however, such neighbourhoods are not all the same and factors such as: the character of local social relations; ethnic and cultural make-up; age profile and housing type will all influence the degree of impact.


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Social spatial distribution of flood risk Fay H, (2006)

  • GIS analysis of EA flood map, deprivation data and household location data for England

  • Limitations of flood risk map


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Percentage of total population within zones 2 and 3 for Fay H, (2006) all types of flooding by deprivation decile(England)


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Percentage of total population for Fay H, (2006) river flooding by deprivation decile

Percentage of total population for sea flooding by deprivation decile


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  • Sea Flooding Regional analysis Fay H, (2006)

    • total England population at risk is concentrated in London (41% of total) and Yorks and Humberside (19%)

    • For the most deprived decile - 40% of people in Yorks and Humberside and 38% in London

    • Within each region also relative concentrations towards most deprived

    • in every region the lowest proportion of people at risk is found in the two least deprived deciles


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Percentage population in zone 2 for Fay H, (2006) sea flooding by deprivation decile for each standard region



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Accumulative, compounding evidence …. Fay H, (2006)

Unequal distribution

There is a concentration of people who are deprived living in zones at risk of sea flooding


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Accumulative, compounding evidence …. Fay H, (2006)

+

Unequal vulnerability

Unequal distribution

Deprived areas contain concentrations of particularly vulnerable people – who are typically less well prepared, less able to cope, less able to recover and more likely to suffer health effects than others

There is a concentration of people who are deprived living in zones at risk of sea flooding


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Accumulative, compounding evidence …. Fay H, (2006)

Severe & unequal impacts

+

Unequal vulnerability

Unequal distribution

=

If (when) a major sea flood happens (despite defences where they exist) the social impacts are, as a consequence likely to be of a greater scale & severity; and to be felt disproportionately by the worst off and most vulnerable

Deprived areas contain concentrations of particularly vulnerable people – who are typically less well prepared, less able to cope, less able to recover and more likely to suffer health effects than others

There is a concentration of people who are deprived living in zones at risk of sea flooding


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An environmental injustice? Fay H, (2006)

  • On what grounds can claims of injustice be made – and therefore calls for action (by government or others) be articulated?

    • N.B. Claims of injustice are not being made by deprived and vulnerable populations at risk – there is not a local or national EJ mobilisation focused on flooding

  • analytically it is not enough to focus only on distribution - on the existence of distributive inequality; multiple conceptions of justice are potentially needed

  • need to give attention to institutional conditions, processes and procedures which can, in some way, explain how inequalities are produced, reproduced and sustained (Young 1990, Scholsberg 2004)

    • treatment, opportunities, constraints, oppression, domination

  • justice principles or ‘tests’ for flooding could take various forms ….


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There should be an equal distribution of flood risk across different social groups (distributional)

Everyone should have the same degree of choice as to whether or not they live in a flood risk zone (process)

Everyone should have insurance to cover flood damage regardless of level of income (distributional)

Decisions taken as to where to invest public resources in flood protection/preparedness should be fully open and inclusive (process/procedure)

Investment of public resources in flood protection, preparedness and recovery should favour and be directed towards the most vulnerable areas/people (procedure)


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A suggestion … different social groups (distributional)

  • ‘Capabilities’ as the appropriate space for equality comparison – most ‘fruitful & ethically satisfactory’ (Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum)

    • Focus on what people do and are able to be

    • Seek after equality of capabilities

  • Have then to give attention to and address different circumstances that people are in, resources available and different means by which capabilities can be achieved

    • ethic of care; differentiation; focus on vulnerabilities

  • A productive way to integrate together social justice and vulnerability perspectives in analysis and in policy?

  • All people should have the capability to:

    • - Survive a flood

    • Recover their quality of life after a flood

    • Be involved in flood management decisions


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