The Andean region of South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, and Venezuela) is physiographically a region of extremes. Mountain peaks rise to over 6000 metres, snow accumulations are measured in tens of metres and rainfall in metres. Even the high plateau known as the Puna or Altiplano, at an average elevation of 4200 metres, suffers from extreme dryness, winds and cold. Life in these regions is difficult, subsistence agriculture is the main economic activity and communities in these regions are among the poorest in South America. Per capita income in these areas is as low as 500US dollars per year. Along with climatic extremes, this area is subject to natural disasters on a frequent and wide scale.
According to data from OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database, in the last century, earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes have killed more than 200,000 people in the participant nations, affected more than 13 million people, and caused more than 12US billion dollars in damage. Earthquakes are common and great quakes (greater than M8) are known to occur on a generational time scale. Two of the largest historical earthquakes ever recorded in the 20th century were in Chile (M9.5; 1960) and Ecuador (M8.8; 1906). Volcanic eruptions are frequent, disrupting and dislocating people for weeks or months, and sometimes killing people. In the last 100 years, more than 400,000 people have been affected by eruptions. Landslides and debris flows occur repeatedly in this region of steep, unstable mountainous terrain. The 1999 landslides and floods in Venezuela killed 30,000 people, affected 600,000 people, and cost 2US billion dollars. The worst disaster in South America in the last century was a combination of an earthquake and landslide which occurred in Ancash Department, Perú 31 May 1970. This event killed more than 66,000 people, injured 143,000 and affected 3 million people; losses were evaluated at 530US million dollars.
Despite their hazard-prone environment, the people of the region persevere; relocation is not a viable option, nor do governments have the resources to undertake such an endeavour. It is through increased economic development, public planning processes and public education that the lives of these people can be bettered.
An improved quality of life depends on numerous factors, and one of the most fundamental is personal safety from natural hazards. A second related, and also critical factor is increased economic activity on a broad scale. This factor is directly linked to natural hazards because only safe, sustainable communities can experience economic development. Expanded economic activity will bring increased taxation revenues assisting governments in providing infrastructure and other social benefits, without increasing the vulnerability of communities. Natural hazards form part of the complex mixture of natural, social, and political factors that influence the location and type of investment. The availability and integration of geological and geospatial data will help land-use planning, optimize economic investment, assist in safe siting of infrastructure, and mitigation of the impact of natural geological hazards on people. Thus, the Project goal is to improve the quality of life for peoples of the Andes by reducing the negative impact of natural hazards (earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes). Through the project, updated and integrated geoscience and geospatial information on natural hazards will be provided for: 1- land use planning and, 2- natural hazard mitigation.
1.2 Project Background
Beginning in 1990, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Project (ATN/SF-3427-RE) (BID) sought to increase the level of expertise of the National Geoscience Agencies of Bolivia, Perú and Chile. The three-year Project focused on professional training and resulted in an impressive number of workshops, seminars and technical papers. This Project was then followed by a new one that included a fourth participant, Argentina. In October 1994 a team of nine Canadian specialists was assembled by the Geological Survey of Canada under contract to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) / Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID). Funding for this stage of the proposed Multinational Andean Project, was provided by IDB/BID through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The nine specialists prepared documents for the Bank and assisted the countries (including the new fourth participant, Argentina) in formulating a new Project proposal. This proposal was completed in February 1995 and was informally known as the “borders” project.
The Multinational Andean Project (MAP) was approved by CIDA (Arrangement 24846) in September 1996 and had a combined budget of about $6 CDN million contributed by the participating countries, $1.4 CDN million from the private sector, in addition to 4.9 CDN million dollars contributed by CIDA. The goal of this Project was to enhance economic and social development of depressed regions along the borders of the four participant nations, mainly through mine and infrastructure development. The Project was successfully completed, but long before its termination, the countries had begun discussions on a new project focussed again on the Andes, but more directly aimed at the health and safety of the inhabitants of the region. The original MAP member countries invited Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela to join, forming a consortium of all seven of the Andean countries, several with significant experience in natural hazard research.
MAP:GAC Project design and feasiblity studies were carried out from July 2001 to February 2002. Two meetings of all seven countries were held. The first was in Uruguay, Nov. 16, 2001, and a final meeting in Santiago, Chile, Feb. 4-6, 2002, to agree on the final wording of the report. The Feasibility and Design report was then submitted to CIDA for approval. The Project was approved by Minister Whalen (Minister responsible for CIDA), on May 22, 2002. Final contractural arrangements with the Geological Survey of Canada (named as the executing agency) were made on June 28, 2002, marking the official start of the Project. Institutional integration, both nationally and internationally, is an important component of this Project. The shared goal and common objective is to provide crucial geoscience information in land-use planning processes and natural hazard reduction at local, regional, and national levels. This will result in more co-operation among the geoscience agencies and the other government agencies who require this information for more informed decision making.
The individual sub-projects of the nations, as part of co-operative investigations, strive to increase the geoscience information database in target regions of each country. The integration of these sub-projects will create compatible, modern, state-of-the-art geoscience and geospatial information. This will aid in land use planning, regional development and environmental impact studies, all of long-term value to the countries.
The Project will be directed by an Executive Council, made up of the National Directors of the National Geoscience Agencies (one of whom is appointed as the Executive Secretary), the National Project Leaders and/or National Co-Coordinators, a Multinational Technical Co-Coordinator, the Project Manager and Project Administrator from the Geological Survey of Canada, and as required, Multinational Technical Advisors. This organization will be responsible for the scientific direction of the Project and decisions concerning coordination, integration, and joint funding.