How cities are bouncing back from the disaster

Deadly floods, gigantic fires, historic heat waves and droughts, industrial accidents, economic crises… Never have cities appeared so vulnerable. Can we prepare for the worst? How to imagine and build the resilient city of tomorrow? What lessons can we learn from the experience of those who have recovered?

The people of Rouen experienced a profound shock on September 26, 2019, with the fire at the Lubrizol chemical plant. Before that, there was Toulouse and the AZF accident in 2001, but also the storm Xynthia in 2010, the floods in the Var in 2014 and 2019, those of autumn 2018 in the Aude, and so many other disasters that have occurred in France in recent years… Without forgetting, abroad, the dantesque images of the floods in Belgium and Germany this summer, or of the village of Lytton, in Canada, completely destroyed by flames in a few hours. To overcome collective trauma, humans need to understand what happened, to give meaning to their experience and to imagine a future. Only after that will he be able to begin his reconstruction process.

Read also AZF, twenty years later: where is the industrial risk in France?

This observation is at the origin of the Resilience Forum, created by the Rouen-Normandy Metropolis (Seine-Maritime) on the first anniversary of the Lubrizol accident, as part of the event “Rouen Métropole, capital of the world according to “. “The accident had the effect of an electric shock on the inhabitants and the entire economic and political fabric of Rouen, says Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, mayor of Rouen and president of the Metropolis. We can no longer look away from the ecological, social and democratic crisis that we are going through. What other vision of society can we imagine at a very local level? With all humility and being aware that Rouen is only a drop in the water in this global ocean, we can say that it is a city which concentrates the current challenges by the structure of its industrial and social landscape as well as its exposure to flood risks. “

Risk Assessment

Acting in a resilient manner already requires a good understanding of the issues. “Each city must have a precise and up-to-date risk assessment, pointe Isabelle Thomas, co-director of the book The resilient city (Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2018). While this requirement is common sense, it is far from easy to meet. Because the resilient urban fabric requires a systemic approach to the city, which must be considered as a complex system with its own personality, its own specificities. “

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