On the morning of June 16, my attention was caught by a tv journalist telling the world about one of Brazil's glitzy new football stadiums that had been built for the World Cup. The stadium in question is in Natal, host to four matches during the tournament including that between Ghana and the U.S. due to take place that evening.
The city of Natal lies in the country's northeastern region which at this time of the year is often subject to torrential downpours. In fact, for the 48 hours proceeding the day of the Ghana-U.S game it hadn't stopped raining.
And on Saturday, the unrelenting rain triggered a landslide and flooding which in the Mae Luiza neighborhood of Natal destroyed numerous homes and led to the evacuation of 50-60 families. According to an Al Jazeera report, the drainage system in the area was unable to cope with the deluge, something which made the whole situation far worse. The affected area is a 15-minute drive from the Arena das Dunas stadium where the match was due to take place.
Our tv reporter praised the pristine state of the playing surface, saying that the sophisticated drainage system that had been installed in the stadium had prevented any waterlogging of the turf, and that the match that evening definitely would take place despite the weather.
The construction of the Arena das Dunas stadium no doubt required immense financial resources and a very high level of engineering expertise. With all of this knowhow and money on tap, wouldn't it have been sensible – and indeed ethically right – to have also invested in the flood defences of the surrounding community? After all, fit-for-purpose, heavy-duty drainage systems are not only important for football stadiums but also help to ensure urban resilience, especially in Brazil.
Swiss Re has produced several publications that highlight the importance of measures to avoid and mitigate the impact of flooding in urban environments, including the installation of functioning drainage systems.The study paper, "Staying on top of flood risk in Brazil" is one such example.
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Floods/storms