PAMIR - Background and objectives

Mountain communities in border areas are facing specific development problems. Old trading relationships were destroyed by new frontiers impressed from outside (for example in the Wakhan Corridor) so that the communities are peripherized and cut off from trade. Such communities are particularly vulnerable to disturbances like natural disasters since the resources for geo-hazard mitigation are limited. Presently these communities on a daily basis are faced with multiple risks impacting their overall economic developing including food security issues, underdeveloped water-irrigation resource management, increased natural hazard threats, deteriorated access to markets, depleted healthcare and education systems, physical isolation, lack of micro-insurance, extreme poverty and others.

Effective interventions have to address all dimensions: environmental, social, institutional - but so far mainly sectoral interventions (hazard assessment, environmental protection, poverty alleviation) are implemented which do not account for interconnectedness of all dimensions. Impact chains and impact hypothesis have to be formulated, in order to avoid that interventions will have outcomes or impact neither intended nor desirable (e.g. overuse of land to promote food security, forced resettlement of communities in areas at risk of remote geohazards). In order to develop policy recommendations on effective and multi-dimensional measures, transdisciplinary research is necessary focusing on linkages between disaster risk, environmental degradation and poverty. Research results and indicators have to be practicable (sufficient, simple) to be effective in communicating recommendations to political decision makers and other stakeholders. It is necessary to raise awareness on mitigation measures. While pilot projects may be used for testing of innovative approaches and awareness-raising, the scale of environmental problems calls for up-scaling of mitigation measures. Therefore, the feasibility of large-scale mitigation measures needs to be examined (giving priority to cost-effective solutions and taking into account poverty reduction strategies). Mountain communities of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan should be empowered to reduce the risk from and vulnerability to the natural hazards they face through better and more accurate information.

Our multi-step approach first seeks to identify risks through the application of community-based natural hazard and vulnerability risk assessments (HVRA) which marry both scientific and indigenous knowledge. The second step of this approach generates risk knowledge by taking assessment information and applying risk mapping and risk modelling as a means to determine priority villages as well as reproducable and impactful risk reduction interventions. Finally, once the priority villages are identified and risk reduction interventions determined, we then disseminate the risk information by applying a suite of activities to build capacity, reduce vulnerability and, where possible, even reduce the physical risk of hazards threatening local communities and authorities.