Adapting Social Impact Assessment to Flood Risk Management
2. Conceptual Principles of SIA Adaptation
- Constructivism: this approach, in addition to acknowledging the physical dimension of the impacts caused by flooding, embraces the subjective nature of the impact experience; that is, how social actors individually perceive the meaning of the consequences of the disaster. Thus, this paper concurs with Vanclay’s  (pag. 191) definition of a social impact: “social impact refers to the impacts actually experienced by humans (at individual and higher aggregation levels) in either a corporeal (physical) or cognitive (perceptual) sense.”
- Participation: in recognising the subjective nature of the meaning of impacts, this study also advocates the broadening of the assessing community by the inclusion of social actors in impact identification and assessment. This participatory format, widely adopted in SIA [74,75,76], enables us to (a) capture the diversity of perspectives on impacts, and (b) empower social actors for a deeper knowledge of flood risk, disaster impacts and recovery paths .
- Diachrony: this approach sees social impacts as the result of a complex combination of generative and modulating forces responding to long-term social, economic and cultural processes . These processes shape (a) socio-territorial development models, which determine exposure to flood risk, and (b) drivers of social vulnerability, on the basis of which the adaptive conditions of exposure units are built [78,79]. This causative complexity also affects the evolution through time of social impacts, which, far from being static, can undergo long-term transformations and reshape the population’s adaptive conditions, thereby creating acquired vulnerabilities in the face of new hazards  and setting off processes of social change .
- Socio-environmental justice: disaster impacts, since they depend directly on social, economic and cultural structures, have an uneven social distribution in line with social class differences , ethnicity  and gender . These distinctions require the inclusion and recognition in SIA of an ethical perspective oriented towards socially balanced impact management, particularly sensitive to vulnerable social groups and including environmentally sustainable criteria .
- Development of the publications: the scientific literature on social impacts and disasters is an emerging research field. A percentage of 62.9% of the scientific documents in the sample were published between 2016 and the present, with a clear tendency towards growth. These data showed the promising nature of the research field.
- Concept of social impact: the topics most often discussed in the analyses applied to social impacts and disasters were: deaths [87,88], effects on health [89,90]; infrastructure service destruction [91,92]; disruption of normal life [93,94]; and damages to economic activities [95,96]. Other studies, with lower frequency, encompassed additional areas of social impact with greater depth, which included intangible factors such as psycho-social effects [97,98], trust towards institutions [99,100] and flood risk awareness [101,102].
- Methodological style: the applied documents mainly consisted of assessments of specific impact areas. Studies evaluating a range of different impact areas from a holistic perspective were uncommon [59,88,103]. Further, the review did not find applied studies directly adopting the complete framework, objectives and methods of SIA. Gurtner , in fact, remarks on the difference between SIA applied to disasters, consisting of social impact assessments aimed at formulating management measures, and post-disaster studies, which are mostly estimations of the social effects of disasters. In contrast, some non-applied documents were found directly indicating the opportunity represented by using the SIA framework for assessing and managing the social impacts of flooding [11,39,57,58,65,66].
- Challenges and opportunities: some documents discussed the challenges and opportunities involved in adapting SIA methods to the disaster field. On the side of challenges and barriers, factors such as the deficient legislation on SIA  or the need to develop social evaluation criteria that go beyond traditional econometric conceptions of impacts  were highlighted. Turning to opportunities, some analysts emphasised the production of materials specifically for adapting SIA methods to disasters in order to catch the attention of the scientific community and, in particular, flood risk managers [58,59,71].
4. SIA Methodological Proposal for Flood Risk Management
4.1. Phase 1: Baseline Study
4.1.1. Case Review
- Pre-listing of impacts: the set of impacts most commonly caused by the disaster events analysed.
- Pre-listing of exposure units: the set of territorial unities and social groups belonging to them most often affected by disaster events.
- Pre-listing of management measures: the set of measures and actions generally applied in management processes for reducing disaster risk.
4.1.2. Natural Hazard Analysis
- Rainfall pattern: the analysis of historical series of rainfall data in the area studied . Additionally, changes in the rainfall pattern due to climate change should be estimated. Any structural changes in the rainfall pattern can result in the loss of statistical predictability over the longer term . These changes can also mean that we should call into question the temporal references on the basis of which the periodicity of torrential rains has been estimated and structural protection measures designed. The study of return periods (T) should be made with all due caution and always bearing in mind an inevitable level of uncertainty.
- Probability of flooding: the analysis of the hydrographic characteristics of the river basin and the estimation of possible flooding levels (sub-surface permeation and surface run-off). At this stage it is necessary to analyse the influence of anthropogenic processes on increases in danger levels, particularly in relation to changes in land use . The main outcome should be a map of the areas at risk of flooding in the region studied and the categorization of levels of intensity in each area.
- Primary space: the enclave where the highest level of flood hazard is found, or the ground zero of the event. The flooding level in a geographical area is usually determined by the levels of rainfall records in its immediate surroundings, especially for flashfloods. However, flooding caused by river overflow also depends on the water flowing in from the whole of the relevant river basin. In short, the primary spaces are those undergoing the highest levels of flooding during an event; thus, they normally experience the highest-intensity impacts, although the severity of effects is also contingent on the vulnerability of the exposure units.
- Secondary space: the rest of the geographical points in the river basin area where the flood event takes place. These are spaces that (a) have hydrographic influence over the flooding levels of the primary space, and (b) are indirectly affected by the hydrological effects of an event (i.e., where levels of flooding are lower). Secondary spaces tend to undergo impacts of low to moderate intensity, except in cases where vulnerability is very high.
4.1.3. Social Context Analysis
- Risk culture: the system of values, meanings and behaviours related to the representation of, knowledge of and response to flood risk of the population and institutions responsible for management. Risk culture may be determined by historical exposure to floods, past disaster experiences, or institutional promotion of risk awareness and knowledge [123,124].
- Risk governance: the orientations and approaches to management related to hydrological planning for flooding. In this area, the political contexts of decision-making for risk planning should be analysed. It is particularly important to study how the exposed territories implement integrated management mechanisms, i.e., how the management bodies articulate structural and non-structural FRM solutions and involve the social actors in the design and management processes of these measures .
- Socio-economic frameworks: in general, the social, cultural and economic macro-forces governing the systems of socio-economic production and exchange on which the living conditions of the population are based .
- Demographic characteristics: age, race, ethnic background, family background, gender and language/s spoken.
- Socioeconomic status: income and purchasing power, employment, education and social capital.
- Health: access to health services and health conditions of the population.
- Land tenure: property structure, regulation of human settlements, housing quality, property markets (renting and purchasing) and insurance systems for housing and goods.
- Neighbourhood characteristics: essential urban services and transport infrastructures.
- Risk perception: risk awareness and culture, previous experiences of flood events, knowledge of self-protection measures and trust in public institutions among the local population.
4.2. Phase 2: Stakeholder Analysis
- Decision-makers (responsibility): the institutional actors and authorities responsible for designing and implementing FRM measures and actions. In addition to their relationship of responsibility, the decision-makers can also undergo some indirect impacts in the post-disaster phase (e.g., reputational costs due to inefficient management of the disaster).
- Exposure units (experience): the people, means of subsistence, services, environmental resources, infrastructures and goods in a position of exposure that directly suffer the impacts of the disaster.
- Third parties (interest): other social actors, such as NGOs, water industry companies or academics, that participate indirectly in FRM and have some interest in the risk, either due to its economic effects (e.g., from the design and application of structural measures) or stemming from a political (e.g., actions in favour of a change in management paradigm) or scientific (e.g., research lines) motivation.
- Influence: the degree of involvement that each stakeholder has in the flood risk governance processes to influence the design and implementation of measures and actions . The assessment of influence can be applied to all stakeholders (Table 1). Beyond the direct or indirect experience of impacts, all stakeholders can exert influence on the FRM decision-making processes.
- Vulnerability and exposure: the degrees of sensitivity (−) and adaptive capacity (+) of each stakeholder in responding to the effects of the flood event and recovering from its negative impacts . To carry out this analysis, different conceptual frames can be used, such as those on social vulnerability to disasters  or the Community Capitals Framework . Likewise, the exposure of each stakeholder must be analysed in terms of (a) occupation of flood areas and (b) proximity to safe areas and protection services. Given that the exposure and vulnerability assessment is related to adaptive capacity elements, it should only be applied to stakeholders classified as exposure units (Table 1).
4.3. Phase 3: Impact Analysis
4.3.1. Impact Identification
- Secondary data sources review: subject to availability, a primary data review of official sources should be made to ascertain the most immediate disaster impacts (e.g., preliminary assessment of damages), focusing on essential factors such as the number of fatalities or the extent of material and infrastructural damage. Additionally, this preliminary review should define the most and least affected social and territorial areas.
- Interviews with exposure units (experience): to embrace the subjective nature of impacts, semi-structured interviews with the social actors, gathering qualitative information on their experiences of the impacts, should be carried out. These interviews should be constructed on the basis of (a) a map of actors taken from the stakeholder analysis, and (b) a script based on the information from the baseline study.
- Interviews with decision-makers (responsibility) and third parties (interest): in this methodological proposal, this impact identification technique, based on the views of decision-makers and experts, is complementary. Some highly complex or long-term impacts are difficult to perceive and require specialised knowledge to be identified. To this end, and in order to complement the information gathered from the local community, the identification process should be completed through interviews with (a) decision-makers (e.g., authorities and institutional representatives, management specialists and emergency services), and (b) third parties (e.g., NGOs, water industry corporations and academic experts).
- Loss of life and property: the immediate or short-term effects of the floods, among them the human victims, material damages, deterioration of the economic fabric and destruction or incapacitation of strategic infrastructures.
- Loss of livelihoods: the economic activities paralysed as a consequence of the human, material and infrastructural shock to the society and territory affected. The dislocation of everyday socio-economic circuits, together with the costs of repair and rehabilitation, may result in a loss and/or deterioration of goods and means of subsistence, which may then cause a fall in purchasing power, not only among directly affected individuals, but also among those belonging to the adjacent or secondarily affected areas that have experienced less or zero flooding. Various analysts [93,102,103] have recommended semi-automated social media analytics for rapidly estimating direct flood damages and obtaining a basis for assessing other impacts.
- Migratory processes: migratory processes or population displacements towards other geographical points, either temporary or permanent. These secondary-effect enclaves, depending on the socio-territorial conditions, can undergo or experience worsening problems of irregular employment, saturation of urban space or pressure in the labour market, accompanied by the resulting risks of conflict between local and non-local populations.
- Psychosocial effects: when they suffer the entire range of impacts, individuals are exposed to the incapacitation of their social relationships on all levels. This dislocation of daily social life can cause psychological problems such as stress, anxiety and other types of emotional imbalance.
- Barriers to economic growth and development: depending on the level of socio-economic development of the region affected by the disaster, impacts may become permanent in the society and territory, give rise to new socio-economic vulnerabilities and lead to a downturn in regional development. When flood events are recurrent and the accumulation of impacts comes into play, the effects on development can have a structural scope.
- Political consequences: reputational costs for political representatives in the form of loss of trust or support from part of the population due to the results of management of the before, during and after-disaster phases.
4.3.2. Impact Assessment
- Recipient: the exposure unit undergoing the effects of the impact. This criterion is essential, since it enables us to establish the referential agent on which to base the evaluative meaning of the assessment and the other criteria. Thus, the criteria should be appraised by taking the conditions and adaptive capacities of a specific exposure unit as a reference point.
- Nature: the meaning of the effects (positive/+, negative/− or neutral/n) experienced by the exposure unit of reference.
- Intensity: the order of magnitude with which the impact affects, in a specified way, the exposure unit of reference.
- Source: the specific socio-territorial area to which the main inductive focus of the impact belongs.
- Responsibility: the institutional, individual or business actor responsible for managing the source or induction focus of the impact.
- Probability: the degree of probability of occurrence of the potential impacts that have not yet taken place in the course of the disaster cycle.
- Timescale: the periodicity of the appearance of the main potential impacts that have not yet occurred (short, medium or long term).
- Duration: the lifetime of the impact; that is, an estimate of the period from its appearance to its mitigation.
- Reversibility: the probability that the damage suffered by the affected unit will be dispelled, thus returning the unit to its original or pre-disaster state.
- Conflict potential: the degree of social tension arising between exposure units, decision-makers and/or third parties as a consequence of the impact.
- Manageability: the room for action available for managing and mitigating the impact, or the viability of measures aimed to do this.
- Hazard: the hazardousness of the effect foci related to the impact analysed, essentially with regard to the space–time distribution of rainfall and flooding process.
- Exposure: the influence on the generation of the impact of the location and proximity of residential settlements and economic activities to the flooding areas.
- Vulnerability (local forces): the social, cultural and economic conditions and adaptive capacities that are available or not to respond to the impact analysed.
- Supralocal forces: in relation to the impact analysed, the regulatory/ideological macro-structures and the social, economic and political processes to which the conditions of social vulnerability and socio-spatial configuration of the territory respond.
4.4. Phase 4: Impact Management
4.4.1. Option Formulation
- Avoiding and minimising: for potential impacts of the disaster that have not yet taken place, measures aimed at transforming substantially or eliminating some risk foci in order to prevent impacts from appearing and developing (e.g., offering alternative housing and social assistance to people living in dwellings at risk of collapse due to the effects of flooding). This type of preventive measure can also be applied during the post-disaster phase to reduce the risk of disaster in future flood events.
- Repair: for impacts already caused, measures aimed at reconstituting the affected unit (e.g., the rehabilitation of affected housing, conforming to its original location and characteristics).
- Compensation: measures aimed exclusively at compensation through payments to affected people, unaccompanied by repairs of the affected units (e.g., economic compensation for those affected, without the possibility of recovering their homes or of having alternative housing).
- Specific actions: specific socio-territorial actions giving shape to the management measures.
- Technical characteristics: information on the dimensions and formats in which the management measures and actions will be realised.
- Management deadlines: time scale projections for the design and effective implementation of the measures and estimates of their duration.
- Actors involved: stakeholders responsible for promoting the design and the implementation of the measures and for carrying out and maintaining them.
- Social groups affected: social groups positively and negatively affected by the design and implementation of the management measures.
- Collaterally affected target impacts: impacts whose effects are increased or reduced secondarily due to the design and implementation of the measures.
- Sources of funding: public and/or private funding on local, regional, national or international levels available for financing the measures and actions.
4.4.2. Option Assessment and Monitoring
- Legal—institutional: legality, administrative processing, juridical security, political support and institutional viability.
- Economic: costs of the implementation and maintenance of the measures and their collateral effects (effects on other sectors).
- Territorial: coordination among the different territorial units comprising the disaster-affected area and adaptation of the demographic, infrastructural and natural conditions of the area.
- Environmental: damage to natural resources and flora and fauna, in addition to effects on ecosystem services and landscape value.
- Social: social legitimacy and acceptance of the measures and degree of consensus among the social actors involved.
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|A||Economic||Economic and employment losses due to the interruption of economic activity in the service sector|
|B||Political||Political disaffection among affected communities due to the lack of flood risk management mechanisms|
|C||Social||Forced resettlement of low-income population in houses at risk of collapse|
|D||Cultural||Increased social awareness of risk and strengthening of the collective flooding memory|
|E||Economic||Loss of reputational value of the region as a safe tourist destination in the international tourism market|
|Impact A: Economic and Employment Losses due to the Interruption of Economic |
Activity in the Service Sector
|Option Code||Disaster Phase||Target Stakeholder||Target Impact||Description of the Option|
|A||Post||B, D, G||A, C||Financial assistance for families directly affected by job loss|
|B||Pre||A, B, C, D, G||B, D, E||Participatory development of a local flood risk management plan|
|C||Pre||A, C, F||E||Creation of a “safe tourism seal” to encourage companies in the sector to develop flood emergency plans|
|D||Post||B, G||C||Public subsidies for resettled population aimed at supplementing the payment of rental costs|
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Aznar-Crespo, P.; Aledo, A.; Melgarejo-Moreno, J.; Vallejos-Romero, A. Adapting Social Impact Assessment to Flood Risk Management. Sustainability 2021, 13, 3410. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063410
Aznar-Crespo P, Aledo A, Melgarejo-Moreno J, Vallejos-Romero A. Adapting Social Impact Assessment to Flood Risk Management. Sustainability. 2021; 13(6):3410. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063410Chicago/Turabian Style
Aznar-Crespo, Pablo, Antonio Aledo, Joaquín Melgarejo-Moreno, and Arturo Vallejos-Romero. 2021. "Adapting Social Impact Assessment to Flood Risk Management" Sustainability 13, no. 6: 3410. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063410