Disaster Perception and Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction in the Mata Atlântica in Brazil

August 2017 (VOL. 35, NO. 2)

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In the Mountain Region of Rio de Janeiro State in Brazil natural disasters such as landslides and flooding are recurrent. While these events are of natural origin, anthropogenic influences contribute significantly to disaster risk in this area, making community participation essential for the success of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DDR). The objective of the presented case study, conducted in the municipality of Teresópolis, was to assess the perceptions of the local population regarding their disaster vulnerability, their responsibility, and their opportunities to contribute to reducing disaster risk. The paper compares perceptions across three different income groups, placing a special focus on low income (or economically marginalised) residents who are typically most severely affected by disasters. Qualitative data analysis revealed that members of all income groups share a similar perception of their risk of exposure to natural disasters, even though disaster sensitivity and self-perceptions of adaptive capacity differed. Based on their views of ecosystem services, low income residents felt less responsibility, and perceived fewer opportunities, to contribute to disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change compared with members of higher income groups. The implications of these findings for policy are discussed in the conclusion.