H. Alejandro Tardel Bustamante
Sustainability Considerations for the Post Earthquake and Tsunami Response in Chilean Coastal Communities: The Case of the Licantén Municipality
On 27 of February 2010, one of the strongest earthquakes ever registered struck the central-south regions of Chile. The earthquake generated a tsunami that resulted in the devastation of coastal cities and communities within the affected regions. Even though the tragedy faced by the communities will be difficult to overcome, it can also be seen as an opportunity to implement sustainable development initiatives, and attain less vulnerable and more resilient communities. With a focus on the costal communities of the Licantén Municipality (VII Region, Chile), the study analyzes the post-disaster assistance received and projected for the affected communities and identifies similarities with past international catastrophes. Furthermore, the study provides recommendations, based on lessons learned and coastal management principles, on matters to be attended to in order to achieve a sustainable development of the targeted communities. These recommendations should allow sustainability to be achieved not only in the built environment, but also in the process of assisting the reconstruction of the communities’ livelihoods, based on a balanced social, economical and environmental development. The study identifies issues in the different stages of the relief like the inequitable distribution of the emergency relief provided (even though it considered all and quality basic needs), the absence of an assessment of the environmental impacts of the tsunami over the sea bed which could have repercussions in small-scale fisheries livelihoods, the urgent need to rehabilitate the beaches in order to reactivate tourism and the fundamental necessity of local participation and consideration of pre-existent community problems as part of the re-development strategy. This and other matters are not novel and have been experienced in other post-disaster situations. Finally, the study highlights how an effective re-development process should consider a sustainability assessment of the programmes and specific initiatives being proposed and implemented, and how these require focusing not only in infrastructure matters, but also in the condition of the surrounding ecosystem, existent local institutions and economic activities among others issues.