POLITICAL REGULATIONS AND SOCIAL PERCEPTION OF NATURAL RISKS: “RISK SOCIETY”, THE CZECH EXPERIENCE AND THE EUROPEAN CONTEXT
Recently, the political and social notion of natural risks and disasters has gained increasing attention, partly as a result of high-magnitude disaster events in last decades. In this regard, the concept of social vulnerability has been incorporated into international legal frameworks and strategies of disaster risk reduction, emphasizing that the effective ways to reduce natural risks are inherently related to social action at different institutional levels. The shift in research agenda towards vulnerability assessment and social notion of natural risks seems to be less intensive in Czechia, however, which is due to epistemological traditions in geosciences and regional studies in the country. Therefore, the background aim of the study is to raise a discussion on emerging research themes for geoscientists and regionalists in the country-wide perspective through the two specific aims. First, we evaluated the success of Czech political representatives in implementing the international legal frameworks and strategies into the national and regional policies. Our results of analysis of strategic documents and legal frameworks suggest that although the issue of natural risks is well incorporated into the strategic documents and legal frameworks in Czechia, these documents do not sufficiently reflect the international agreement on the necessity of a conceptual shift towards a social vulnerability concept within disaster risk reduction. Second, we analysed social perception of natural risks in a case study of the city of Ústí nad Labem in northern Czechia. On one hand, the analysis has revealed that the issue of natural risks, represents an important short-term decisive factor for local community. On the other hand, the long-term perception of natural risks, as analysed using the econometric data about the impacts of natural hazards on real estate property, has shown that the social perception of risk, during the periods between the individual disaster events and after these events is relatively weak. This may represent a significant constraint for the implementation of community-based strategies of disaster risk reduction.