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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Landslide risk index mapping for Lebanon

PI: Grace Abou-Jaoude (, Lebanese American University
U.S. Partner: Joseph Wartman, University of Washington
Project Dates: October 2015 - March 2017

Project Overview

Landslides threats have traditionally been considered in the context of hazard (the likelihood or annual frequency of occurrence) rather than risk, which is a function of both hazard and the resulting consequences. This project will develop risk-based landslide maps, thus advancing the state of the practice in regional-scale landslide assessment. Products from the U.S. Government-supported partner’s current work on landslide vulnerability will applied in this internaitonal collaborative effort. Specifically, the research team will quantify the effects of landslide damages on residential and commercial structures based on the outcomes of the U.S. partner’s research. These are expected to include the fragility relationships relating landslide characteristics to building, community, and infrastructure damage, as well as risks to life-safety. Modifications will be made to these vulnerability characteristics as appropriate for building styles and construction practices in Lebanon. This research will drive the shift from currently employed qualitative assessment procedures to modern risk-based methodologies. The assessment techniques of the US project consider the combinations of landslide failure mode, topography, and building type that result in loss-of-life and capital losses. As part of this new collaborative PEER project, these techniques will be applied for the first time over regional scales in Lebanon using spatial databases of geology, topography, and building styles.

Conducted by the same Lebanese-U.S. team, PEER Project 1-163 (June 2012-May 2015) focused on generating a co-seismic landslide hazard map of Lebanon. The team developed the understanding that hazard mapping alone is not sufficient. Landslide-risk assessment will provide public officials, policy-makers, and geotechnical engineers meaningful information for directly estimating human and capital losses. The landslide risk maps will serve USAID’s work on Urban Programs by helping cities to identify areas with high natural risk potential and develop proper urban growth planning. This will also link to the unplanned temporary camps that are rapidly expanding in Lebanon in response to the crisis in Syria. As “temporary” camps, the settlements are unplanned, so traditional land-use measures have not been employed. However, experience in Lebanon has repeatedly shown that such “temporary” camps usually become permanent settlements. The explicit life-safety risks posed to residents of the settlements (as well as other long-established part of the country) are unknown. In this new project, the impact of precipitation- and earthquake-induced landslide events on people and structures will be evaluated. At the end of the project, the developed maps will be disseminated to urban planners, policy-makers, geotechnical engineers, non-governmental organizations, and the Disaster and Risk Management Unit in Lebanon. The maps will highlight the zones that are prone to the highest risks of danger and will prompt officials to take the necessary mitigation actions. The project’s broader impact will be to prevent damage and save lives due to landslide disasters by providing a basis for properly managing urban growth away from the identified critical zones. This should ultimately help in preserving the country’s economy when facing such devastating natural hazards.

Summary of Recent Activities

At the end of 2016, this project team conducted debris flow and rock wedge failure analyses, and they are now at the stage of verifying their results and generating the rainfall-induced landslide hazard map. The researchers have also completed runout calculations for identified landslide hazards and generated a draft risk map.

Following the presentation that the PI Dr. Abou-Jaoude made to the special sub-committee on natural hazards at the Lebanese Parliament (July 12, 2016), she submitted a request for data pertinent to the analysis, and the sub-committee chair forwarded the request to the concerned entities in the government. The PI met again with the secretary of the sub-committee in order to identify the requested data clearly, but no reply was received as of the end of the year. However, the team was successful in contacting the president of the Order of Engineers, and they asked him to help organize an outreach meeting with key stakeholders (Order of Engineers, Ministry of Public Works, and the Disaster Risk and Management Unit) in March 2017.

The research plan for the upcoming months is to generate the final rainfall-induced landslide hazard map and the final landslide risk index maps for earthquake- and rainfall-induced scenarios. Field verification will take place during the visit of the U.S. collaborator scheduled for March 2017, and amendments to the maps will be made as necessary. The PI and project research assistant will also be attending Geotechnical Frontiers 2017 in Orlando March 12-15, 2017.

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