International Geologiical Congress - Oslo 2008


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GHZ-12 Converting geosciences knowledge into action for natural hazard reduction: Lessons from multidisciplinary research


Las Cascadas: An organized and active community under the Osorno volcano, lake region, Southern Chilean Andes


Jorge Muņoz, SERNAGEOMIN (Chile)
Hugo Moreno, SERNAGEOMIN (Chile)
Fernando Muņoz-Carmona, MAP:GAC (United States)
Ines Segura, Civil Protection (Chile)
Viviana Portales, Department of Education (Chile)
Guillermo Buchorst, Las Cascadas Comite Local (Chile)
Rolando Cui-Cui, Las Cascadas Comite Local (Chile)
Egon Hoffman, Las Cascadas Comite Local (Chile)
Sergio Marquez, Las Cascadas Comite Local (Chile)


The village of Las Cascadas was built on the shore of the large Llanquihue glacial lake, which formed in the last glaciation, at the foot of the active Osorno volcano in what is now the Chilean Lake Region. The approximately 1,000 inhabitants are relatively poor and have an average of 6 years of education, but they are well organized and aware of what it means to live under an active volcano. Las Cascadas is situated on a lahar deposit (dated at 360±40 radiocarbon ybp) which is older than other debris flow deposits from the last eruption of the Osorno volcano. Since the early 1980s, inhabitants and local county authorities have been developing a civil defence system to protect people and the environment and to develop the village economy.

For the last four years, geoscientists representing the Multinational Andean Project: Geosciences for Andean Communities from the Geological Survey of Canada and the Chilean Geological and Mining Survey, have been systematically collaborating with the local county, Las Cascadas community, social organizations, regional and local government and private agencies to reduce the vulnerability to volcanic hazards for the 1,000 inhabitants. The main purpose of the collaboration was to transform social and geoscientific knowledge into real mitigative actions through a community communication programme.

Through the project, multidisciplinary technical and social working groups defined and implemented a number of mitigative actions such as a school-oriented education programme, the installation of evacuation signs, a socio-cultural database of inhabitants and zoning, the preparation of local leaders, the validation and practice of an emergency plan supported by the local and regional emergency agencies, the publication of brochures on response, the establishment of evacuation routes and education on volcanic processes. As a result of ongoing education, the language of geoscience has been made understandable and adopted by the community.

Most importantly, the community has increased their response capacity and resilience and is the best prepared, organized and active community in Chile and has reduced its vulnerability to the impact of potential future lahars. As a result, new government and private sector economic and social development projects and initiatives are currently in progress or planning to increase the quality of life of the people of Las Cascadas.


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