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Environmental inequalities on the coast of north Charente-Maritime department in exposure to hazards

Abstract : 700,000 ha of the French mainland coast are low-lying and concern 1.4 million people who are exposed to coastal hazards like marine submersion (MEDDE, 2012). In the last few years and since the Xynthia storm of February 2010, different adaptation strategies were developed and implemented to protect people and property: "Managed realignment", "hold the line" or "limited intervention" when adaptation of buildings or other infrastructures is achievable. The choice between one or the other strategy is mainly based on a cost-benefit analysis with less attention to social criteria. In the North of the Charente-Maritime department, the "hold the line" strategy is the most often chosen, sometimes mixed with relocation of houses. Environmental inequalities are defined as social and intra-/ inter-generational inequalities determined both through the quality and state of the environment and through the social structure (Pye et al., 2008; Deldreve, 2015). Coastal territories in France are attractive to live and work in but this brings inequalities. Because of the high price of properties, only high-level income classes can fully benefit from coastal amenities. In addition, particular social classes are more or less exposed to coastal hazards. This paper highlights and questions some of these environmental inequalities in coastal and urban territories in France (specifically the urban community of La Rochelle, extended to the north up to the Charron municipality) and focuses upon the impact of adaptation strategies and of the insurance system. From a geo-statistical analysis, our results tend to balance the hypothesis that people who are the most disadvantaged are more exposed to hazards than the better-off. Similarly, the hypothesis that the better-off have more access to coastal amenity is not obvious. Our study, however, shows other more clear-cut results, related to political power, through the capacity to address public authorities and to obtain protection measures. From this case study, a discussion about the social consequences of the different strategies of adaptation will complete this analysis. The French insurance system, mainly based on cost-benefit analysis, receives some scrutiny in relation to its role in maintaining or strengthening inequalities on the coast.
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Nathalie Long, Pierre Cornut, Virginia Kolb. Environmental inequalities on the coast of north Charente-Maritime department in exposure to hazards. ICE Coastal Management, Sep 2019, La Rochelle, France. ⟨halshs-02397549⟩

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