Inclusive early warning and response systems for Villanueva and El Progreso, Honduras
Project duration: January 2024 to December 2024
Risks due to floodings and landslides
The Metropolitan Zone of the Valle de Sula (ZMVS) is located in the largest valley in Honduras. It is one of the largest conurbations in Central America, housing 23% of the country's total population. And it is an area with great economic and industrial growth, responsible for producing 63% of the country's GDP. The municipalities of Villanueva in the department of Cortés and El Progreso in the department of Yoro are part of the ZMVS and they are the boroughs with the largest population after the municipality of San Pedro Sula.
El Progreso is 77% urbanized with an approximate population of 200,000, while Villanueva is 85% urbanized with an approximate population of 182,000 inhabitants. The urban centre of El Progreso is located to the east of the ZMVS on the right bank of the Ulua river and in the foothills of the Mico Quemado mountain range, with a height of 28 meters above sea level only. Villanueva is located to the west of the Ulua river, with a height of 23 meters above the sea level, making them prone to flooding and, in the upper part, prone to devastating landslides.
Environmental hazards and loss of livelihoods
In November 2020, tropical storms ETA and IOTA caused severe damage in El Progreso and Villanueva. The severity of the impact is due to the combined effect of unplanned urban growth, environmental degradation and the region's low preparedness and response capacity. In total, around 300,000 people and almost 60,000 families in El Progreso and 14,000 people and 3,200 families in Villanueva were displaced and affected.
In Villanueva, three months after ETA & IOTA, families who had already returned to their homes had no choice but to return to the emergency shelters as they had now lost their jobs as the storm damage had led to the closure of many industrial and manufacturing businesses - and homes were still partially destroyed. The loss of livelihoods and homes in areas such as El Progreso left many families living in precarious conditions. Small tents became their new homes, as their neighbourhoods were otherwise uninhabitable. Poverty levels in the region rose significantly. In 2022, during Storm Julia, the disaster scenes were repeated, affecting more than 43,000 people (8,600 families) in El Progreso and 4,000 people (800 families) in Villanueva. This data shows that local governments are still struggling with disaster prevention and safe recovery processes for communities in the ZMVS area.
The project, which is being funded by the Munich Re Foundation, will strengthen and expand the early warning and response system against disasters triggered by natural hazards. On the technical side, rain gauges and other weather observation equipment will be provided and installed. Better data will enable better risk assessment. At the same time, some of the existing voluntary emergency committees in Villanueva and El Progreso will be better trained and expanded. In a third step, the entire communication system in the communities between the automated technology, science, the local authorities and the residents will be improved. The communication technologies will be used in particular for monitoring, forecasting, disseminating and transmitting warnings to the affected local communities in the event of an emergency.
The main aim of the project is to reduce the disaster risk for the two communities and increase the resilience of the local, vulnerable population. The main risk in El Progreso is flooding, while the people in Villanueava have to contend with massive landslides. Climate change is highly likely to exacerbate these risks. There is a strong need to act.