Home Institution

University of Virginia

Publication Date

Fall 2018

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Flooding is an issue of increasing global importance. With climate change and land-use alteration affecting hydrological cycles globally, certain regions of the world are experiencing more frequent or severe flooding. In the Chiriquí Province of Panamá, the town of Cerro Punta has been subject to several severe flooding events in the last few decades. This study aimed to understand perceptions of flood risk amongst residents of Cerro Punta, as well as evaluate physical flood risk in the area. Residents were interviewed regarding their perceptions of flooding as an increasing issue, possible causes, vulnerable areas and populations, and preparedness for future disasters. ArcGIS was also used to map flood vulnerability based on the proximity of buildings to rivers. Overall, residents felt that flooding was an issue of increasing concern in the area, and that deforestation and issues surrounding it was a large driver. Many areas of Cerro Punta were perceived as vulnerable, with the overarching theme of lower areas closer to rivers being the most at risk. Through ArcGIS, it was found that a significant number of buildings in the town are within close proximity to rivers. Overall, residents did not feel that the town is prepared to deal with future flooding, and many cited a general lack of awareness amongst residents. Further research should examine the relationship between geographical vulnerability and socioeconomic status of populations. The paradox between the majority opinion that flooding is a serious issue and the general claim of a lack of awareness in the rest of the community should also be explored.


Environmental Health | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Sciences | Environmental Studies | Latin American Studies


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