Vranes, K, Czuchlewski K. “Integrating complexity of social systems in natural hazards planning: An example from Caracas, Venezuela”. (2003). Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 84(6), 55-56.

grayscale photography of crucifix
The image above shows the aftermath and destruction of an earthquake on a church in Venezuela.  

According to the authors, with the help of geologist and Columbia University New York Graduate School of Architecture, (Planning and Preservation- in their urban planning and design group) describe a case study involving infrastructure in Caracas, Venezuela. Caracas, built on the junction of the South American and Caribbean Plates is under enormous threat to “seismological hazards” like the 1967 magnitude 6.5 earthquake that killed roughly 300 people and destroyed 4 modern structures that were “built for earthquake resistance”. Along with earthquakes, which have been aggressively attacking the country for the past 400 years, the latitude of Caracas places it in a place where there is constant rain fall and without proper measures, this leads to “triggered landslides, mud-flows, and debris flows” which in one instance in 1999 killed an estimated 25,000-250,000 people in only a 72-hour period. This is significant to know because the current infrastructure is not built to hold a population of this size (5 million) with only less than a day worth of water being stored in the city, and only 3 fragile pipes running along the fault lines to bring in outside supply; however, neither the Caracas nor the Venezuelan government has any urban planning projects in the works, or even any studies that take into account natural hazards.

This becomes important to the subject of human rights because, as such an urbanized country, the Venezuelan government has not taken any initiative in making sure its people is safe. Caracas is only a case study but this affects more than just one city. The authors of the article make sure to highlight this abandonment like situation in which the people are at risk and the state turns their head, as well as the severity of the situation with references to the country’s history and scientific evidence. Both authors, who are PhD scientists at Columbia University, also note that in previous years scientists, among other professions, and communities have come together to form public works groups to try and see what can be done. Recommendations to improve infrastructure have been shared and scientists are working hard to monitor and figure out just how dangerous future disasters could be.

One could extract a lot of information regarding Venezuelan infrastructure from this article. Within that one can see that the basic human right to life is in danger and something as simple as drinking water could be an earthquake away from being taken away from millions of people.   

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