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Developing an approach for analysing the possible impact of natural hazards on cultural heritage: a case study in the Upper Svaneti region of Georgia

Tarragüel, Antoni Alcaraz (2011) Developing an approach for analysing the possible impact of natural hazards on cultural heritage: a case study in the Upper Svaneti region of Georgia.

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Abstract:The possible impact of natural hazards on cultural heritage represents an important issue that requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The assessment of the state of conservation of individual cultural heritage objects is an essential element in the overall assessment of vulnerability. The protection of cultural heritage from natural hazards requires also a comprehensive strategy that includes risk assessment and the participation of the local community. This study aims to develop an approach to assess the possible impacts of landslides and avalanches on cultural heritage. It also aims to explore ways of integrating risk elements into cultural management plans. Two communities in Upper Svaneti in Georgia (Ushguli and Mulakhi) were chosen as a test sites because of their rich cultural heritage surrounded by a priori natural hazard prone environment. The vulnerability of 60 cultural heritage objects has been evaluated through a conservation index calculation which served as an input in a Spatial Multi-criteria Evaluation (SMCE) using ILWIS software. Factor parameters for landslide (slope, landcover, lithology and drainage density) and avalanche (slope, insolation, slope curvature and landcover) have been used to calculate hazard susceptibility in the study areas using SMCE. Hazard risk was finally calculated combining hazard susceptibility areas and cultural heritage objects vulnerability. A combination of local and expert knowledge has been used to extract information on both cultural heritage and natural hazards. Findings show that the cultural heritage objects assessed in this study are not particularly affected by landslides and avalanches. Rather, it is the lack of maintenance the main factor influencing the degradation of these cultural heritage features. Existing management plans were also analysed with the aim of assessing the presence/absence of hazard elements in those plans. The findings show that hazard risk is generally not included in cultural management plans. Finally some guidelines and recommendations are given related to natural hazards and cultural heritage in the context of the study areas. This study attempts to demonstrate how a non-expert based approach can be used to assess vulnerability of cultural heritage hence priorities of action can be taken. Keywords: Cultural heritage; Conservation index; Local knowledge; Expert knowledge; Landslide; Avalanche; SMCE; Multi-hazard mapping; Management plans.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ITC: Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation
Programme:Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation MSc (75014)
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