Technologies such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have raised great expectations as potential means of coping with natural disasters, including landslides. However, several misconceptions on the potential of GIS are widespread. Prominent among these is the belief that a landslide hazard map obtained by systematic data manipulation within a GIS is assumed to be more objective than a comparable hand-made product derived from the same input data and founded on the same conceptual model. Geographical data can now be handled in a GIS environment by users who are not experts in either GIS or natural hazard process fields. The reality of the successful application of GIS within the landslide hazard domain seems to be somewhat less attractive than current optimistic expectations.
In spite of recent achievements, the use of GIS in the domain of prevention and mitigation of natural catastrophes remains a pioneering activity. Diffusion of the technology is still hampered by factors such as the difficulty in acquiring appropriate raw data, the intrinsic complexity of predictive models, the lack of efficient graphical user interfaces, the high cost of digitisation, and the persistence of bottlenecks in hardware capabilities.
In addition, researchers are investing more in tuning-up hazard models founded upon existing, often unreliable data than in attempting to initiate long-term projects for the acquisition of new data on the causes of catastrophic events. Governmental institutions are frequently involved in risk reduction projects whose design and implementation appear to be governed more by political issues than by technical ones. There is an unfortunate general tendency to search for data which can be collected at low cost rather than attempting to capture the information which most readily explains the causes of a disaster.
If the technical, cultural, economic and political reasons for this unhealthy state cannot be adequately tackled, the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction will probably come to an end without achieving significant advances in the prediction and control of natural disasters.
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Carrara, A., Guzzetti, F., Cardinali, M. et al. Use of GIS Technology in the Prediction and Monitoring of Landslide Hazard. Natural Hazards 20, 117–135 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008097111310
- GIS technology
- natural hazards
- predictive models