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You are here: Home » Latest Issue » Volume 12, 2017 - Number 2 » ASSESSMENT OF SOCIAL VULNERABILITY TO NATURAL HAZARDS IN ROMANIA

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Ibolya TÖRÖK
“BabeĊŸ-Bolyai” University, Faculty of Geography, 5-7 Clinicilor Street, 400006, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, e-mail: ibolya.torok@ubbcluj.ro


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Over the last decades more and more households have had to face significant human and material losses due to extreme weather conditions and natural disasters. This issue has gradually underlined the need for determining and measuring social vulnerability, both from a local, as well as from a global perspective. Although a vast amount of scientific material has been produced on the topic, there is still a strong need to develop an in-depth and holistic approach for measuring social vulnerability which can later be adapted to different scales (individual, communities) and social categories. The purpose of the paper is twofold: first it strives to contribute to the ongoing research on vulnerability by quantifying the social vulnerability of Romanian settlements in the face of natural hazards. It represents a novel contribution to the advancements in this field since up to now there have been no attempts to delimit the most vulnerable areas in the country from this point of view. Second, it aims to facilitate decision-making processes and planning efforts looking to increase the resilience of local communities. Quantifying social vulnerability can not only help identify places which are most vulnerable, but also the pillars which are its key drivers. Within this study, by using data from the 2011 Census and applying the principal component analysis (PCA), the number of the initially selected indicators has been reduced to a total of 38. By summing up and rescaling the created factor scores, a Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) has been obtained for all settlements in Romania. Based on Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis (ESDA) I have managed to reveal the spatial pattern of settlements characterized by higher or lower levels of vulnerability. In general, high levels of vulnerability associated with low levels of resilience characterize peripheral rural areas, places which are further affected by natural hazards, especially by earthquakes and floods (rural areas found in the eastern and south-eastern parts of Romania). As the results of the study have confirmed, even the most developed urban areas can show signs of vulnerability (generally due to the high concentration of population and economic activities), indicating that highly developed urban centres do not necessarily have low levels of social vulnerability. Thus, the analysis is able to provide a more comprehensive overview on communities in desperate need of financial resources in order to diminish the negative impacts of natural hazards.

Keyword: social vulnerability, natural hazards, SoVI model, exploratory spatial data analysis, Romania

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