Other current projects

Geo-hydrological Hazards triggered by rain in Tropical Africa: a demonstrator for Rwanda to document the effects of Climate Change (GeoHaTACC / 2022-2025 / Space Climate Observatory)

GeoHaTACC aims to detect and inventory hydro-geological hazards in tropical environments and to document the consequences of climate change on these hazards. An operational toolbox combining various sources of information, the demonstrator is being implemented in Rwanda, an African country particularly impacted by these events, with a view to eventually being transposed to other territories. 


GeohazarDs in AfricaN CitiEs: patterns, rates and sustainability in urban sprawling contexts (GuiDANCE/ 2020-2024 / FED-tWIN)

Africa today faces multiple challenges involving economic development, population growth, environmental issues, and climate change, to name but a few. Faced with these challenges, rapidly expanding cities in Africa generate large concerns in terms of the increasing impacts of geohazards such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, local subsidence, ground collapse and gully erosion. Although significant progress has been made in establishing institutions and regulations for risk reduction in Sub-Sahara Africa over the last 10 years, knowledge on hazards and capacities to design and implement adequate risk reduction remains extremely limited. The short term (5 years) general scientific objective of this FED-tWIN project is to gain insight into baseline patterns/rates of geohazards in urban sprawling contexts. The research will focus on the study of geohazard patterns/rates that occur under natural conditions as well as the way in which humans have affected these processes or their exposure to these processes therefore increasing the level of risk.
The specific objectives are (1) estimating the surface distribution of ground deformations associated to geohazards in Sub-Saharan urbanized contexts; (2) documenting active geohazard processes using a range of techniques to identify the most suitable strategies for operational monitoring of these events using a combination of data (ground-, air- and space-borne)/platforms and analytical techniques; (3) exploring the interplay between natural (climatic, geomorphologic, seismic conditions) and human-induced parameters (urban expansion, urban infrastructure, land use change) controlling the dynamics and frequency-magnitude relations of these processes in these environments. The long-term scientific objective (10 years) is to develop specific expertise in the field of remote sensing and geohazards in Africa and with Africans around a strong collaboration between the VUB Department of Geography and the RMCA Department of Earth Sciences to tackle the challenges related to Disaster Risk Reduction. The project builds upon the unique existing expertise and networks of collaborators of both institutions. During the first two years of the project, the FED-tWIN researcher will get familiar with new techniques and skills that he/she is expected to master (additional to the ones he/she already has experience with); capitalising on RMCA/VUB expertise in the key techniques to be used.
The recent advent of high frequency satellite data acquisition (e.g. Sentinel-1 and -2, Planet imagery) opens the scope for systematic data analysis for a large series of urban targets using state-of-the art methods. Radar remote sensing techniques are a priority method for the FED-tWIN candidate. A key aspect will also be the integration of the RMCA collection of historical aerial photographs in the research, as it has the potential to reveal key information on the state of the environment from the mid of the 20th century till today. It is expected that the FED-tWIN researcher becomes a leader in his/her field with a large autonomy developing new synergies, partnerships, external project funding, and student (PhD and MSc) supervisions. These key challenges are in line with the current R&D strategies of the two institutions. 


Landslide and flood hazards and vulnerability in NW Rwanda: towards applicable land management and disaster risk reduction (LAFHAZAV / 2020-2024 / ARES)

Rwanda is often affected by severe cases of landslides and floods. It is also one of the most densely populated areas of the world. This context of strong demographic pressure has led to significant land use / land cover (LULC) changes which are likely the cause of an increase in landslide and flood occurrences, particularly in the mountainous regions of NW Rwanda near the Volcanoes National Park. Nonetheless, the impacts of LULC and its changes on the occurrence of these natural hazards remain difficult to predict and quantify. As a result, the development of suitable land management strategies (striking a balance between minimizing the impacts of these hazards and the high population pressure) remains highly challenging. This is especially so in the light of climate change.
This project therefore aims to study the effects of LULC and its changes over the past 60 years on the magnitude and frequency of landslides and floods, as well as the impacts of these hazards on the population. Our research will focus on two river basins in NW Rwanda with similar topographic and climatic characteristics but very different levels of LULC change. The expected results of this research are improved insights of the physical and anthropogenic factors controlling these two hazards and a better understanding of the population vulnerability facing these hazards. The outcomes of the project will be (1) an increased research capacity to conduct scientific risk assessment, integrating specific hydrogeomorphic hazards and associated risks with the human dimensions of risks; (2) the ability to make up-to-date assessments of these two hydrogeomorphic hazards which will be used to raise awareness and identify suitable mitigation and resilience strategies with exposed communities and all relevant stakeholders involved in disaster risk reduction; (3) a strong partnership from the beginning of the project with local and national stakeholders involved in disaster risk reduction, for a better integration of scientific insights into natural hazard and risk management policy. 


Prevention and mitigation of urban gullies: lessons learned from failures and successes (PREMITURG / 2018-2023 / ARES)

Intense rainfall, inappropriate city infrastructure and lack of urban planning lead to the formation of large gullies in many Congolese cities. These urban gullies are often formed in a matter of hours due to the concentration of rainfall runoff. Once formed, they mostly continue to expand during subsequent years. Given their nature and location in densely populated areas, they often claim casualties, cause large damage to houses and infrastructure and impede the development of many (peri-) urban areas. These problems directly affect the livelihood of perhaps more than a million of mainly poor people in DRC and may strongly aggravate as a result of rapid urban growth and climate change. Several initiatives already exist to stabilize existing gullies, but an estimated 50% of these measures fail. Furthermore, prevention receives very little attention. This project aims to contribute to the prevention and mitigation of urban gullies by strengthening the research and decision-making capacity of Congolese universities and members of the national Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) platform. For this, we aim to (i) study the factors controlling this erosion process; (ii) identify the most effective/efficient prevention and mitigation measures (iii) study the societal and governance context of urban gullies and its influence on the prevention and mitigation of urban gullies; and (iv) valorize and appropriate the obtained research results. This will mainly be done by the training of 3 MSc from DRC trained in Belgium, three MSc trained in DRC and 2 PhD students of DRC trained in Belgium and DRC. Their research will focus on urban gullies and prevention and mitigation initiatives in Kinshasa, Bukavu and Kikwit. In Kinshasa, also the societal context of urban gullies will be investigated. Apart from the training of these students, the project will support local MSc studies and provide a range of prediction tools, field manuals, trainings, seminars and workshops to assist decision makers and other stakeholders in addressing this issue.


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