International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Partners in Action


Norwegian Initiative for a Central America tailored Training Programme on Mitigation of Risks caused by Landslides
Oddvar Kjekstad and Farrokh Nadim, NGI
(Norwegian Geoetchnical Institute)

Following the Mitch Disaster in October 1998, the Norwegian Government has supported several projects in Central America with the aim of reducing the likelihood that new events would have such catastrophic consequences.

One of these projects is a two-week training programme on Mitigation of Risks Caused by Landslides. The objective of the project was to give the participants a better understanding of, and capability to deal with protective measures to reduce the consequences of rainfall and earthquake generated landslides. Funds for the project were made available with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation (NORAD).

Theoretical part of the Programme

In December 2001, 12 representatives from Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala came to Oslo to undertake the first part of the programme. They were joined by two experts from Ecuador and Austria. This part of the programme was designed to give the participants a broad background in theoretical aspects and to discuss practical case records from the different Central American countries. The selected participants, who were nominated by invitation, represented a broad background including governmental organisations, universities and private companies.

A half-day presentation and discussion on geological and geotechnical conditions for the 6 countries set the scene for this part of the programme. The participants did the presentations. Subsequent sessions on theoretical aspects included subjects such as: review of basic landslide mechanisms, engineering geology aspects, hydrology and importance of water, landslide triggered by rainfall, earthquake-induced landslides and erosion in steep watersheds.

Monitoring and use of early warning systems, as well as methodology for hazard mapping and risk assessment including legal and administrative aspects, were covered in detail. A full day was used to discuss practical mitigation cases that the participants had brought with them. Another full day was used to review and discuss current available means in prevention like use of hazard maps, drainage arrangement, protection walls and deflection dams including rockfall and rockslide protection arrangements. All presentations during this week were summarised and distributed to the participants on a CD.

By holding the theoretical part of the programme in Oslo, it was possible to draw upon a broad group of the international landslide experts at NGI, and thus make use of the extensive experience that NGI has gathered through landslide hazard projects in the Himalayas, Hong Kong, Turkey, Venezuela. Nicaragua, El Salvador, as well as a large number of projects in Norway.

Practical Part of the Programme

In March 2002 the same group of participants met in Managua, Nicaragua for one week with INETER and NGI as formal hosts. The selection of Managua as the location for the training session was done because NGI has a large ongoing project together with INETER on preventive measures for landslide disasters. A significant part of this programme was a one-day field survey followed up by a half-day detailed seminar discussions of the likely failure mechanisms for the Casita Volcano Slide. This slide occurred during Hurricane Mitch and caused the loss of over 2000 lives. Another full day was used for visiting selected places in and around Managua where practical mitigation solutions are being discussed. These cases included both general slope instabilities as well as rock fall hazards. On case concerned the selection of appropriate mitigation measures for reopening a school, which had been closed after a strong earthquake in June 2001. The approach taken was that the participants were divided in two groups and each group had to recommend a solution which was discussed and debated in detail the following day in a seminar setting.

Table 1: Priority needs on mitigation measures as scored by participants from six Central America Countries during the training programme
in Managua, 18-22 March 2002

Average score for each subject = 10
Rank of importance
Better identification of hazards and risks
Capacity building
Public awareness programmes
Improved urban development strategies and land use plans
Early warning/preparedness schemes
Codes and regulations
Better understanding of climatic changes /social and environmental vulnerability

Another challenging and extremely useful part of the programme was the discussion on new practical mitigation cases that the participants from the 6 countries had brought with them. It is clear that there are a number of problems that the countries have in common, and where it is possible to learn from each other when it comes to the selection of practical mitigation solutions.

To foster a discussion on the national needs and priorities on landslide mitigation measures, during the last day of the programme the participants were asked to rank seven subjects by distributing altogether 70 points as shown in Table 1. The results are shown as average values in the same table. It can be seen that the two highest priority needs are i) “Improved urban development strategies and land use plans” and ii) “Better identification of hazards and risks”. During this part of the programme, Elina Palm representing ISDR in Costa Rica, was invited to participate, and COSUDE as well as Civil Defence of Nicaragua gave informative presentations of their activities.

One of the highlights in the social programme was an outdoor dinner for nearly 40 guests hosted by the Norwegian Embassy. This event gave a unique opportunity for networking as a broad group of institutions and organisations working in the field of prevention were present.

Possible follow-up

As both the participants and the organisers were very enthusiastic about the outcome of the training programme, there is likely to be a follow-up. A possible follow-up would be the creation of a Central America Landslides Forum that meets ones a year, say for two days, to exchange ideas and discuss the experience with practical mitigation measures. The host country for such an arrangement would alternate from year to year. The local host organisation could then invite a rather broad national representation of organisations to these meetings, while the number of delegates from each of the other countries would be 2-3.

NGI was given the task to prepare a proposal for such an initiative, to explore possible funding schemes and take the lead trying to realise this idea. The initiative will also include the establishment of a home page for the Forum. An offer was made by Universidad de Costa Rica to serve as the host for such a homepage.

For more information, please contact:
Oddvar Kjekstad: