Geological, seismic and soil survey

Hydrogeological hazard and the remit of the SGSS

Definitions and schematic division of responsibilities as regards hydrogeological subsidence

Morsiano village in the foreground - Municipality of Villa Minozzo (RE). Picture by G.BertoliniHydrogeological hazard is the term commonly used to sum up the effects of a wide range of morphological processes which alter the natural landscape in a time scale ranging from relatively to extremely rapid, often with a negative or indeed disastrous impact on the local area and its inhabitants (towns, infrastructure, local businesses) and, as a result, significant social and economic repercussions. To define such phenomena as hydrogeological hazard and lump them all together under the label “degradation” is, however, inappropriate. In truth landslides (landslips and erosive processes accelerated on slopes) and fluvial processes (erosion of levees and floods) are largely natural phenomena; the same phenomena which over hundreds of thousands of years shaped the Apennines, built the Emilia-Romagna plain and channelled sediment to the Adriatic coast.

Man’s frequently-mentioned influence on these processes is not easy to quantify, although some direct changes to the natural landscape (deforestation and inappropriate use of soils) and others caused by global climate change may have intensified the processes. In an area such as the Emilian Apennines landslides in particular, which are numerous and widespread, are mostly attributable to the natural evolution of the landscape.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that the burden of cost borne by society for hydrogeological hazard is ever increasing. Cost considerations are therefore one reason why Emilia-Romagna regional authority invests heavily in subsidence research, forecasting, prevention and mitigation activities.

The Remit of the Geological, Seismic and Soil Survey

The Geological, Seismic and Soil Survey’s main areas of competence are as follows: the development of knowledge, in particular through data collection and ongoing mapping of slope instability; forecasting, in particular through evaluation of landslide hazard and risk across the region. This knowledge is then incorporated for the purpose of Prevention in the territorial and town planning tools of Basin Authorities (Basin Plans), Provincial Authorities (Territorial Coordination Plans), filtering down to Municipal Structural Plans. The SGSS promotes and actively participates in technical working parties at provincial level in order to pass on, update and share its territorial knowledge of hydrogeological subsidence. Preparation for and management of potential emergencies are coordinated at a regional level by the Civil Protection Agency, developed by provincial authorities in Provincial Programmes of Prevention and Forecasts of Risks and by municipal authorities in Emergency Planning. Mitigation and stabilization activities are generally dealt with by the combined efforts of the Basin Technical Services (ex Civil Engineering Dept.), the Mountain Communities, AIPO and land reclamation consortiums. Provincial and municipal authorities also carry out reclamation work, mainly when subsidence affects provincial or municipal road networks. Minor subsidence affecting only private property does not generally qualify for public intervention. Nonetheless, in many cases private individuals can obtain funding as long as they satisfy certain criteria (for example, mountain communities make funding available for agricultural entrepreneurs). In addition, funding is made available in the event of landslide events officially ascribed disaster status at government level.

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published on 2012/01/31 18:45:00 GMT+2 last modified 2015-02-25T17:20:00+02:00

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