The 7 February 2009 bushfires in the peri‐urban region to the north of metropolitan Melbourne heralded what many have called an entirely new epoch in terms of weather‐related disasters in Australia. A total of 173 people and 2000 properties were destroyed and, as with the 1939 fires in Victoria, a Royal Commission was subsequently instituted to inquire into the causes and responses to the fire. The Royal Commission has heard much evidence about alleged failings of fire response, communication and administration. It also considered land use planning issues and the associated regulatory framework. Using the Shire of Murrindindi as a case study, this paper argues that the location of population growth, and associated regulatory failure, are contributory, yet under‐researched, factors associated with life and property losses. The adoption of more robust planning tools which incorporate climate change considerations, we argue, is essential to anticipate and minimise the impacts of disastrous natural events such as bushfires. In the latter part of the paper, attention is drawn to a recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision which is groundbreaking in its use of the precautionary principle to prevent dwelling construction in an ‘inappropriate’ location as well as to some major inconsistencies between planning for flood and bushfire threats.
a b s t r a c tThis paper investigates the nature and causes of vulnerability to bushfires in the Wulgulmerang district of East Gippsland, Victoria, in south-eastern Australia. In 2003 bushfires devastated the small population of this isolated farming district, destroying homes, agricultural assets and public infrastructure. The fires also adversely affected the health, livelihoods and social lives of many local people. The paper examines: (i) how and why people were exposed to hazards during the bushfires; and (ii) how and why people were differentially capable of coping and adapting to the fires' impacts. Qualitative methods were primarily used to investigate these questions, including semi-structured interviews with residents and landholders of the district and others who responded to the fires in an official or unofficial capacity. Vulnerability is shown to arise from the circumstances of people's everyday lives, which are shaped by factors both within and beyond their control. Local pressures and challenges e such as drought, declining farm incomes, depopulation, and the inaccessibility of essential services e are shown to increase people's exposure to hazards and reduce their capacities to cope and adapt. The paper demonstrates the fundamental importance of sustainable livelihoods and regional economic vitality to the long-term goal of vulnerability reduction.
The findings are largely supportive of the key premise underlying selective primary health care interventions - that packages of basic services can be effectively mounted nationally in poor countries and have a significant impact over a short time period. In Niger, less than optimal implementation of VHT appears to have reduced the magnitude of the impact achieved.
In a world where climate change is a ‘given’, the concepts of vulnerability, resilience and risk are now pivotal in public policy debates in many countries. Within this context, planning controls are designed to facilitate safe, sustainable and prosperous communities. In line with March's (2007, 11) observation that ‘one important “reason to plan” is the reduction of risk’, Victoria's Wildfire Management Overlay (WMO) was developed with the aim of mitigating wildfire risk through the identification of high risk areas and ensuring that minimum fire protection measures are implemented. The need for such an Overlay is becoming increasingly apparent as climate change contributes to the growing frequency and intensity of bushfires in Australia. Empirical research has found that, by following WMO prescriptions, the risk of a dwelling igniting from direct flame or radiant heat generated in a one in 50‐year fire event can be greatly minimised. Yet not all local Councils in Victoria have built the WMO into their land use planning processes and schemes. Barriers to adoption include: lack of political will, a distrust of ‘over‐regulation’, lack of training and mentoring of planning staff, and potential conflicts with vegetation conservation objectives.
This study examines the relationship between severe diarrhoeal disease and maternal knowledge and behaviours related to hygiene and sanitation. Some 107 paediatric cases admitted to two hospitals in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1988 were matched on age and nearest-neighbour status to 107 controls. Personal interviews and observational methods were used to assess knowledge and behaviours related to hygiene and sanitation. Cases and controls had equivalent socioeconomic status, demographic profiles and access to water and sanitation facilities. However, cases generally exhibited lower levels of knowledge and less sanguine sanitary practices than did controls. Of particular interest was the finding that very specific behavioural items distinguished cases from controls. The disposal of the child faeces and household garbage and mother's knowledge that poor caretaker cleanliness was a cause of diarrhoea in children showed the strongest associations with risk of diarrhoea. There was an exponential relationship between the number of these items a mother answered incorrectly and the odds of diarrhoeal disease. The risk attributable to these three variables was as high as 70%. These findings provide further support for the view that focused educational interventions may have a substantial impact on the occurrence of severe diarrhoeal disease in low-income countries.
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