UCL News


London's risk management plans 'not moved beyond great plague and fire of London'

16 September 2002

London's disaster preparedness has not moved beyond the levels of the great plague and the fire of London, disaster experts will say at London's first Environment Summit at UCL next week.

Speaking at the London Environment and Future Conference and on the eve of the first anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Centre, Professor Dennis Parker and Dr Edmund Penning Rowsell will say that the growth and complexity of industrial development and housing along with trends in transportation and commuting are leaving Londoner's increasingly prone to hazards - both environmental and man made.

The London Environment Summit, a two-day gathering, will bring experts and ordinary Londoners together to discuss the challenges facing the capital's environment in advance of the publication of London Mayor Ken Livingstone's London wide environment strategy. Keynote speakers include Environment Secretary Michael Meacher.

Professor Parker and Dr Penning Rowsell will also reveal the details of the first contemporary risk assessment of Londoners along with highlighting the limitations of existing risk management strategies and the means for their improvement.

Speaking at the London Environmental Summit, Professor Parker says:

"A sustainable London is one in which hazards and disasters are successfully managed and the security and health of today's and tomorrow's Londoners are protected. Successful hazard and disaster management means limiting the extent to which exposure to hazards increases, balancing natural and other risks against social and economic goals."

The world's population is increasingly concentrated in urban areas, the speakers will say. But within this global trend they discern a new phenomenon - the mega-city - containing populations of 8 million or more. London - one of the oldest of contemporary mega-cities - has enormous potential for disaster creation and, like other mega-cities, is becoming ever more vulnerable to them.

The speakers will claim that the capital's vulnerability is due in part to the pace of developments, often encroaching into hazardous zones, and the large impacts that huge concentrations of people, industry and movement have on biological and physical systems which are being stretched to their limit. Large concentrations of people and investment are increasingly attractive to terrorist groups, as the September 11 disaster demonstrated.

In the first risk assessment for Londoners, the speakers will reveal whether the major factors affecting hazards are increasing or being contained. The assessment, which makes risk projections over the next 50 years, will determine both the scale of particular risks and the Londoners most likely to be affected. Of interest, the speakers will say that vulnerability amongst poor Londoner's to hazards is greater than at any time in the last 25 years.

Commenting on the work, Dr Penning Roswell says:

"Taking the long view, it may be argued that either London has learned from its disaster experience and has proved itself to be one of the most disaster resistant of mega-cities or, alternatively, that lessons have not been learned as well as might be expected. On balance we tend towards the latter conclusion."

Notes to Editors:

1. London's Environment and Future - A conference for Londoners, 17-18 September 2002, University College London, Gower Street. A full programme is available by contacting UCL Media Relations on the number above or by visiting http://www.cpom.org/leaf

2. Members of the Press wishing to attend should contact UCL Media Relations.

3. UCL Professor Julian Hunt is available for interviews. A 1,100-word feature length article on London's environment is available for use. Contact UCL Media Relations.

4. FOR LISTINGS EDITORS: London's Environment and Future: A conference for Londoner's, 17-18 September 2002, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street WC1. 'The first conference of its kind, it offers talks by policy makers and experts and an open forum for discussion on London's environment. Speakers include Richard Rogers. Michael Meacher MP and Ken Livingstone. For details and booking contact Leisa Clemente, 020 7679 3031, l.clemente@ucl.ac.uk or visit http://www.cpom.org/leaf for online registration.