Header Catrina

Dr. Irasema Alcantara


Dr. Irasema Alcantara
National Autonomous University in Mexico Researcher

Mass movement processes, commonly known as landslides, are the expression of hillslope instability resulted from the interaction among conditioning factors and triggering mechanisms. This type of processes can be of natural origin derived from landscape evolution, or due to anthropogenic activities that affect the geometry and/or dynamic of slopes. However, landslides occur very frequently because of the combination of both.

Beyond natural hazards per se, the magnitude of disasters is a function of the vulnerability of the exposed population. Therefore, understanding the social construction of disasters is of great relevance. FORIN, forensic investigations of disasters, is an innovative methodology focused in the comprehension of root causes of disasters and actual risks. The methodology was created by a group of specialists aiming to explain that disasters are not natural. A series of approaches are proposed within FORIN to deeply understand the underlying complex dimensions of disaster occurrence in space and time, as well as its impact on society. FORIN can be either totally or partially applied to research, management or decision making within the disaster reduction and integrated disaster risk reduction contexts.

In this presentation, an example of the application of FORIN to landsliding is given. It involves a landslide disaster in the Sierra Norte de Puebla, Mexico in 1999; floods and landslides were generated by an extreme rainfall event causing more than 250 human losses and considerable economic damage.

Irasema Alcántara-Ayala is a former Director and current Professor and Researcher of the Institute of Geography at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She got a degree in Geography from UNAM, a Ph.D. degree in Geography/Geomorphology from King´s College London, University of London, and carried out a post-doc stay at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston. Her research interest is concentrated on landslides, vulnerability and integrated disaster risk. Since 2000, she has been working in collaboration with the National Centre for Disaster Prevention (CENAPRED) in Mexico. She is a former member of the Committee of Scientific Planning and Review (CSPR) of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Former Vice-President of the International Geographical Union (IGU). Young Affiliate Fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the developing world (TWAS). Vice-President of the International Consortium on Landslides (ICL). Member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences (AMC). TWAS-ROLAC Prize for Young Scientists 2011, Earth Sciences. AMC Prize for Young Scientists 2012. Member of the Scientific Committee of the ICSU program on Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR).