When Disaster Risk Management meets Land Administration

Land administration systems are built to operate in stable environments, in contrast to Disaster Risk Management which assumes a dynamic environment. What happens when these two meet?

Land administration systems (LAS) are typically built to operate in relatively stable environments. The aim is to record people-to-land relationships as they change – generally slowly –  over time. This might happen through a market transaction, inheritance, or some other means. Meanwhile, Disaster Risk Management (DRM) typically assumes a dynamic, if not chaotic, environment. After a disaster occurs, the aim is to quickly assess and triage damage, injury and loss of life, and respond with medicine, food, water, housing and basic infrastructure.

Conflicting information

Of course, most disasters happen on land: this is where the people live. So what happens when DRM meets LAS? Unfortunately, the answer is often very little, or even worse, conflicting information, advice and responses. For example, following flood or earthquake disasters, DRM approaches often seek to move or resettle individuals and communities. However, the LAS processes needed to support these moves, even for temporary reasons, can often take many weeks, months, or even years to complete. The result is informal settlement formation, or rebuilding on disaster-affected land and ultimately poverty for those left homeless and landless.

Building a bridge between LAS and DRM

This is where the PhD work of Senior Geodetic Advisor, Eva-Maria Unger seeks to make an impact. She spent the last 5 years working to build a bridge between LAS and DRM. New conceptual thinking has established a link between the key LAS constructs of land, people, and rights - to the core concepts in DRM of hazard, vulnerability and exposure.

Combined LA-DRM data model

This theoretical linkage has been converted into a practical data model by embedding new attributes into the ISO 19152 LADM standard. What this means is that a combined LA-DRM data model now exists to support data capture, management and response following a disaster. A whole workflow to support usage of the data model has also been created. The collected data can be used to ensure DRM responses better take into account people-to-land relations. Even better, the DRM response can actually be used to enhance land tenure security, that may have been limited even before the disaster occurred.

Trial in Nepal

The data model has been packaged up into a software tool and was trialled in Nepal, where previously two major earthquakes impacted on livelihoods around Kathmandu and remote areas in 2015. The results of the data recording and mapping initiative were able to show that government LAS requirements were impeding households from accessing grants for compensation and rebuilding. These findings have been used to further support changes to Nepal’s national land policies in 2019.

Impact on global development

The results from the study have implications for LA and DRM policy development globally. The two domains are closely related, but, have not adequately leveraged off the knowledge and tools available in each. Unger’s work is now assisting how to transfer the policy lessons both global-to-local levels, and also between the different domains, via the UN-GGIM’s IGIF and Framework for Effective Land Administration (FELA).

More information

Read the full thesis of Eva-Maria Unger on the website Library ITC University of Twente.

Further recommendations for reading

  • 'Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction' on the UNDRR website
  • UN-FFIM Framework for Effective Land Administration 'Application of geospatial information related to land administration and management' (pdf) on the UN-GGIM website
  • 'FIG 38: The Contribution of the Surveying Profession to Disaster Risk Management' on the FIG website
  • 'FIG 65: The Surveyor’s Role in Monitoring, Mitigating, and Adapting to Climate Change' on the FIG website
  • 'FIG 68: The FIG Christchurch Declaration: Responding to Climate Change and Tenure Insecurity in Small Island Developing States' on the FIG website 
  • 'Land Tenure and Climate Vulnerability' on the GLTN website
  • 'Fit-For-Purpose Land Administration – A Country Level Implementation Strategy for Nepal' om the GLTN website


This article was published in Abroad edition September 2019. Read the complete Abroad.
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