How human activities can have an impact on natural disasters?

Scientists state that human activities have become a trigger for many natural disasters. Do scientists big up our influence on nature or not?

Different Ways Of How Human Activities Can Trigger Natural Disasters

All kinds of human activities leave the indelible imprint on nature, whether we like it or not. Scientists focus extensively on estimating the level of human engagement to the occurrence of natural disasters. Some people still doubt that humanity is able to influence nature to that extent; however, pallid statistics claim the opposite.

The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) has been studying this issue for over 40 years and has published the report according to which within 19 years (1994-2013) 6,973 natural disasters took 1.35 million lives.

The number of reported natural disasters increases every year. One of the reasons for it is the development of the data collection methods and raising awareness of different agencies that actively search for information about natural disasters.

However, the main reason is the increasing number of hydro-meteorological disasters: droughts, floods, typhoons, etc. Within 20 years the number of such disasters tripled from 100 to 300 per year. It is telling that the number of natural geological disasters that cannot be influenced by humans (volcanic eruptions, landslides, etc.) remained the same.

Human activities can have an impact on natural disasters

We used to blame climate change as a reason for all the natural disasters. However, it seems that humanity conceives disasters as a new DIY project.

So what human activities can have an impact on natural disasters?

  1. There were cases when irresponsible mining led to the permanent landscape modifications. In November 1980 the whole lake vanished because of the drilling of the salt mine beneath the lake. More than that, mining increases the occurrence of tremors.
  2. Building dams can cause earthquakes because of the huge water mass that applies pressure on the surface beneath.
  3. Fracking for oil and natural gas. Wastewater used in the process affects the seismic activity as it cracks rocks and lubricates faults.

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Which of the following human activities can increase the risks of flooding?

When do the rivers start to flood? Usually, it happens when the water starts to overflow the banks of the river and spreads out onto the surroundings. There may be several reasons for it:

  • A long period of rain
  • Snowmelt
  • Heavy rainfall
  • Very wet soils
  • Invincible obstacles

All these are the natural factors that increase the possibility of the flood. But how can human increase the possibility of a flood? Here is a list of activities that are responsible for it:

  • Deforestation
  • Urban development
  • Natural wetland destruction
  • Agricultural activities
  • Hydroelectric power

 How can human interference cause a flood?

Deforestation is rightfully considered to be one of the most destructive activities. People destroy vegetation that protects the topsoil and absorbs excess rainwater with its roots. As a result, high water freely spreads in the region leaving less time for rescue activities.

Agriculture, similar to deforestation, destroys the topsoil so it has to possibility to absorb rainwater. Consequently, more water will wash into the riverbed and the water system becomes overloaded. The water level rises and that inevitably leads to floods.

Urban development is another aspect that increases the possibility of flooding.
First and foremost, all the surfaces in the town or city are covered with cement or asphalt. Naturally, these materials do not absorb rainwater so it has to search for the remaining water channels. Any blunder in the venting system may lead to the water spill over.
In addition, levees are often used as a way to gain more land for a settlement. One of the downsides of levees is the water level rising in the rivers near the cities. Potentially, the levees issues may cause a huge flood when all the excess water that was restrained by the levees starts to spread in the surroundings.

Same is with the destruction of the natural wetlands. People ditch swamps, destroy natural obstacles for watercourses and water collection areas. As a result, excess water finds new ways and they all trend near or through human settlements.

Hydroelectric power is impossible without dam constructions. Apart from the dangers of earthquakes, dams can cause floods. The whole process of obtaining electric power through the water power plant requires a huge reservoir of water which flow is thoroughly regulated. Any miscalculation may lead to the catastrophe.

Natural disasters caused by humans

Earthquakes: One of the recent examples is the earthquake in China in 2008. Newly created Zipingpu Reservoir contained 320 million tons of water that and all that weight pushed on the crust fracture.

Flooding: in 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the 50 failures of levees have led to huge flooding that covered 80% of New Orleans. It took more than 1,800 lives and damaged more than 100,000 houses and buildings.

Dams:  Banqiao Dam in China collapsed in 1975 claimed more than 171,000 deaths.

Avalanches: In 2006 the Philippines have witnessed one of the most disastrous avalanches in history. A rockslide leveled a mountain village Giunsaugon to the ground killing thousands of people. The reason for it was uncontrolled deforestation and mining around the village.

Landslides: On 20th December 2015 a landslide in Shenzhen killed 70 people and destroyed 14 factory buildings. The reason for it was an artificially made dump of the excavated soil with a height over 100 meters that was brought down by the heavy rain.

How can human activities affect the frequency and impact of natural disasters?

All the examples depicted above show that the reason was human activity, be it faulty levees system or incogitant deforestation. Saved vegetation, well-thought-out draining systems in the settlements, correct placement of dams or scrupulous regulation of mining and fracking could save thousands of lives.

All in all, the increasing number of disasters that are caused or worsened by humans is a warning sign. Rising awareness and engagement of the governmental agencies is the only way to improve the situation and flesh out a more responsible way of the interaction with nature. Otherwise, the situation will worsen every day causing more and more deaths of the civilian population.

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