Cornelia Claus, Lothar Winkelmann, Wilfried Strauch, Elda Vásquez de Godoy:
Disaster Mitigation in Central America -- An Approach for a Geographical Information System (GIS) on Georisks for Mitigation Planning and Risk Management


1Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Ressources (BGR), Germany
2Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Department of Geophysics, Nicaragua
3Servicio Nacional de Estudios Territoriales (SNET), Department of Risk Management, El Salvador

Central America is one of the regions most prone to disasters by natural hazards causing casualties on lives and infrastructure. A lot of data and information about geogene hazards have been generated in different projects in the region. Nevertheless, these piles of data still have to be compiled, analysed, assessed, and user-oriented processed in order to support planers and politicians in their decision making processes. Thus it would be possible to establish mitigation plans and policies. The implementation of these could help to reduce the vulnerability of the Central American population and infrastructure towards geohazards, allowing a more steady development.

Within the framework of the German Technical Cooperation, BGR, INETER and SNET are carrying out a project in Nicaragua and El Salvador on the implementation of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) on georisks. The objective is to integrate the mostly spatial generated data and information about geogene hazards and risks in order to analyse and interpret them to create useful information for decision making. To set up the GIS on georisks the project is being initially introduced on pilot areas, namely the Managua and the San Salvador areas. It is intended to extend the project to other Central American countries and to develop Central-American-wide information exchange mechanisms.

The specific challenge for establishing a GIS lies in developing an adequate structure and proper applications, were data input, data processing and the output of information is being defined. Moreover, a reliable and permanently updated data base has to be generated integrating the already existing ones. The process for analysing the data has to be settled as well as the query possibilities for users of different levels, in order to achieve user-oriented information on single and multiple geohazards and georisks.

The organisation of a user-oriented GIS on georisks is a long-term, iterative process. However, when the data sets are appropriate, GIS allows displaying thematic maps even during the early stages of GIS-projects, enabling the provision of maps on geohazards and georisks, as one of the many aims of the GIS. Those can then already be used for mitigation planning and risk management.

Keywords: Disaster, El Salvador, geohazard, georisk, GIS, mitigation planning, Nicaragua, risk management, user-oriented information


Contact Address: Cornelia Claus, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Ressources (BGR)Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004