Building stronger flood resilience

Flood experts from Birmingham City University have joined forces with a host of other leading institutions across the UK to form an international collaborative project, in order to support vulnerable communities in the flood-stricken country of Peru.

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The opportunity

Peru has endured devastation from the recurring phenomenon of El Nino. From severe flooding to extreme conditions and mudslides, the South American country suffered its worst flood in 2017, which affected over 400,000 people and resulted in over 50 deaths.

In light of this, BCU academics have launched a unique project aimed at tackling the floods. BCU’s David Proverbs, Michael Grace and Roger Wall – along with the Instituto Geofisico del Peru (IGP), the Universidad de Puria and the Governor of the Piura region – hosted a four-day workshop with groups of experts and researchers.

Other institutions involved in the project include Cambridge University, Newcastle University, King’s College London, St Andrews University, Aston University and Heriot Watt University.

The delivery

The delegates met with communities in the Piura and Catacaos area, two places that continue to be affected by the 2017 floods. From this, delegates were able to establish that water, land use and infrastructure planning had not caught up with urban growth and local needs, and that there was no overarching support for tackling inequality. From interacting with the locals and observing the areas, delegates observed that there was a growing demand for traditional housing designs to be improved and enhanced.

Together, the delegates identified seven challenge areas – community and economic development, health and wellbeing, urban planning, infrastructure, risk information, governance and the Rio Piura river system. In the workshop, delegates also discussed using alternative approaches, such as nature-based solutions.

Success to date

David Proverbs was able to present the results of their findings to a large audience comprising of senior representatives, the British Embassy, the British Council and the Newton Fund. All were suitably impressed by the work done by the delegates over such a short period of time.

Looking to the future

The project will see a detailed report produced to inform future policy in Peru, which could provide vital protection for the country’s most vulnerable communities. They also hope to support the work of new researchers in Peru, who will be able to help support implementation of new ideas or policies, as well as providing new academic articles and ensuring ongoing contact is maintained with Peruvian officials. The project has also provided a new learning experience for the delegates and workshop attendees, particularly on how they govern and invest in places and work more closely with nature.

Image for David Proverbs

David Proverbs

Associate Dean (International)

David believes in applying his research to local, national and global problems. His research into flood resilience has benefited communities from many different parts of the world. Currently, he is working with various institutions across the UK and South America to provide relief to some of the world’s most flood-ravaged areas.

A member of the Environment Agency’s Trent Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, David is also working with academics to design a framework for architects, homeowners and more to help them build properties that are resilient to flooding. David welcomes collaborations with local authorities, community groups, property developers, consulting engineers and flood product manufacturers.

B2B profile for Mike Grace

Mike Grace


Mike is interested in research that can help integrate policies and solutions for urban futures. Recent research for the Urban Living Birmingham project engaged with Warwick, Aston and Birmingham Universities and Birmingham City Council. This explored the interface between smart cities and natural cities and identified new conceptual ground that can help integrate the ways cities and urban areas develop more effectively.   Mike is currently exploring with local businesses how the smart-natural city concepts can be applied to the regeneration of the Tyseley area of Birmingham. Mike would welcome collaborations with organisations keen to innovate new ways of using green infrastructures for more sustainable urban futures. 

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