Zar Chi Aye: A collaborative web-GIS based decision support platform for risk management of natural hazards

Zar Chi Aye
Directors: Prof. Michel Jaboyedoff and Dr. Marc-Henri Derron
Jury: Prof. François Golay, Pr. Paola Reichenbach, Dr. Ivana Ivánová, Vice-Dean Suren Erkman

Photo Credit: Civil Protection, FVG region (Italy)

One of the main problems in risk management is the lack of good communication as well as efficient and effective collaboration between the agencies, services and organizations in charge of risk prevention, mitigation and management. The involvement of various stakeholder groups is an important component of risk prevention and mitigation. This calls for an integrated and coordinated approach which helps responsible stakeholders in managing risk, starting from risk identification to the decision-making process for achieving the best combination of risk reduction strategies. As natural hazards and associated risks are spatial in nature, web-based decision support tools integrated with Geographic information systems (GIS) have been increasingly considered as useful instruments for providing decision support. Taking the advantages of modern web, spatial and open-source technologies to achieve a centralized and integrated framework, in this research, a web-GIS based collaborative decision support platform is proposed for risk management with involvement of various stakeholders. The principal purposes of this research are: (1) to conduct a systematic and integrated risk management approach with diverse involvement of different stakeholders; (2) to explore the possibility and application of interactive web-GIS decision support tools for the analysis, communication and exchange of decision support information between risk management stakeholders and (3) to propose an innovative approach to potentially enhance collaboration activities between stakeholders through interactive and participatory approaches.

The conceptual inputs of this study are based on the initial feedback, semi-structured interviews and observations obtained from the field visits and stakeholder meetings carried out in three case studies of Europe: the Małopolska Voivodeship of Poland, Buzău County of Romania and the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy. Even though some platforms exist in study areas, no single case has a platform at hand which enables as flexible and collaborative approach for the formulation and selection of risk management measures as attempted in this study. Moreover, most platforms have focused mainly on inventory of events, risk visualization and dissemination of information. In this research, a prototype is realized and focused on the risk analysis, formulation and selection of potential measures through the use of an interactive web-GIS based interface integrated with a Multi-Criteria Evaluation (MCE) tool. This platform is regarded not only as a web platform for centralized sharing of risk information but also for ensuring an integrated framework where involved stakeholders can analyse risk and evaluate risk reduction measures. For the prototype development, a three-tier client-server architecture backed up by Boundless (OpenGeo) was applied with its client side development environment. This developed prototype was presented to the local and regional stakeholders of the study areas and feedback was collected to understand their perspective in determining whether the platform is useful and applicable for their activities in risk management. The prototype was also further evaluated with students to obtain feedback on different aspects of the platform as well as to analyse how the application of interactive tools could assist students in studying and understanding risk management.

The main part of this research was carried out within the Marie Curie Research and Training Network “CHANGES: Changing Hydro-meteorological Risks as Analyzed by a New Generation of European Scientists” funded by European Commission’s 7th framework program (www.changes-itn.eu, 2011-2014, Grant No. 263953).

The demonstration of the prototype application can be found on YouTube. You can also download the PhD manuscript here.