Risk Assessment Methodologies, Risk Metrics and Indicators of Sustainability for Different Infrastructure Classes

This pillar focuses on the practice of disaster risk assessment as it relates to the identification and development of critical infrastructure (transport, telecom, energy, water). A review of literature shows that there are multiple gaps in the global practice of disaster risk assessments. While hazard and vulnerability data is being recorded in various forms around the world, there is a lack of standardization in the data formats and collection methods. This, combined with the lack of accurate time-series data at the local level, and the lack of capacity to carry out complex risk analysis in various countries, leads to the end users being deprived of the information they require, to make risk-informed decisions about future development. This gap is further exacerbated by the effects of climate change that dynamically alter the patterns of hydro-meteorological hazards thereby limiting our ability to predict and mitigate their effects.

Key questions:

  1. What are the major challenges in incorporating new disaster risk assessment practices as part of the country’s infrastructure investment approval process?
  2. What new methods are being explored globally for quantifying uncertainty due to climate change?
  3. How can countries organise a system of continually updating risk assessments across different scales (country, province, city) that will inform future development?
  4. How can effective communication be facilitated between policy makers, infrastructure developers, regulators, and the general public regarding the findings of risk assessments?

Recommendations from IWDRI 2018

Understanding the fundamentals of resilience

Development of a framework for investing in DRI must be preceded by a clarification of the fundamentals of resilience, ways of measuring resilience, performance metrics for different infrastructure classes and recovery profiles of infrastructure towards a range of disasters for a given context. These indicators must be able to measure performance, link it to achievement of SDGs, incorporate effects of climate change, Industry 4.0 and the cyber economy.

Create better risk metrics

Infrastructure standards are not absolute, and must be seen as a function of resource availability, risk appetite and capacity to reduce risks. Therefore, using a notional definition of resilience can help in development of metrics for measurement. A comprehensive risk management strategy must move from creation of risk metrics to a national multi-hazard risk profile to high-resolution infrastructure sector risk systems model. As systems level coordination may be time-consuming; a sector-wise approach may be recommended to begin comprehensive assessments. Towards this, sharing of methodologies and information at global-level will be valuable, to create a workforce that is able to understand and use risk information to build resilience.

Data standardization

While hazard and vulnerability data is being recorded in various forms, there is a lack of standardization in data formats and collection methods. Combined with the lack of accurate time series data at local-level and lack of capacity to carry out complex risk analysis; end users are being deprived of information required to make risk-informed decisions about development. This gap is further exacerbated by the effects of climate change that dynamically alter the patterns of hazards.

Use local knowledge

While the quality of risk assessments may be sufficient for investment decisions, they may not be nuanced enough for policy and political decisions. Risk assessments must be aligned with the needs of the end-user and of local planning process.

Create access to open source data and tools

The next generation of decision makers (engineers, town planners and infrastructure financiers) must be provided access to open source risk models to aid risk-informed infrastructure development. There is a need for a technical workforce that can understand and use risk information in infrastructure development work.

Risk Management in Key Infrastructure Sectors

Transport

The Global Infrastructure Outlook estimates global investments for 2016 to 2040 in Air-transport and Ports to be USD 2.1 trillion and USD 1.7 trillion respectively in a Business as Usual scenario. For Railways and Roads (including bridges) the expected investment is estimated to be USD 10 trillion and USD 26 trillion over the same period. On the whole an additional investment of USD 10 trillion would be required to maintain the current growth rate and combat the effects of climate change and disasters. This also covers the investment needs for meeting SDGs. In line with expected GDP growth, high initial growth rates in transport demand are expected to moderate over time. The strongest growth will be in the Asia region and between the large emerging economies (China, India), Europe and North America regions.

World GDP and Transport Demand Growth (Source: OECD 2011)

The OECD estimates that with global GDP doubling by 2030, airline traffic worldwide will grow by around 4.7% per annum (p.a.) over 2010-30, air freight will increase by approximately 5.9% p.a. Over the same period maritime container traffic will increase by more than 6% p.a., and rail passenger and freight traffic worldwide by around 2-3% p.a. This means that airline passenger traffic could double in 15 years; air freight could triple in 20 years; and, port handling of maritime cargo worldwide could quadruple by 2030.

Energy / Power

The energy sector represents sub-systems ranging from power generation to transmission to distribution. It is estimated that globally USD 26 trillion will have to be invested in this sector from 2016 to 2030 to sustain the current growth rate. An additional investment of USD 2.9 trillion will be required to meet the SDG targets for the energy sector.

Global Energy Sector Investment Needs 2016-2040 (Source: Global Infrastructure Outlook)

The various subsystems of energy infrastructure are exposed to disaster risks which can be managed by adopting appropriate standards. While risk assessment and evaluation is hard-wired in the design of assets built since the 1980s, many assets (for e.g. hydroelectric dams) currently under operation were commissioned or built prior to this.

Telecommunication

A functioning telecommunications network is critical for effective post-disaster response. This externality motivates the need for resilience in telecommunications networks beyond mere avoidance of loss of assets. When damages and disruption do occur in these sectors they need to be able to recover swiftly to aid response operations.

Global Telecom Sector Investment Needs 2016-2040 (Source: Global Infrastructure Outlook)

The Global Infrastructure Outlook1 estimates global investments for 2016 to 2040 in telecommunications to be USD 7.8 trillion in a business as usual scenario. It estimates that an additional investment of USD 1 trillion would be required for a total investment of USD 8.8 trillion to maintain the current growth rate and combat the effects of climate change and disasters.

Water

Given the large number of people living in low-lying and coastal regions, and the large inter-annual variation associated with hydro-meteorological hazards, there is an imminent need to build good quality disaster control infrastructure. Disaster Control Infrastructure (DCI) are infrastructure assets which are designed specifically to protect populations and assets in hazard prone locations from the effects of the hazard. DCI includes structures such as river embankments, sea walls, dikes, storm surge barriers, cyclone shelters etc.

Design of these infrastructure systems is based on an understanding of past hazard patterns and expected return periods of extreme hazard events. Uncertainties associated with the local level manifestations of climate change pose a significant challenge in the design of disaster control infrastructure.