Though floods are considered natural disasters, most of the damage they cause is related to human activity. Like earthquakes, floods rarely posed many risks to people before human civilization developed. This makes them an excellent indicator of large-scale social problems- a society’s preparation and response to a flood can reveal much about both its physical and its information infrastructure. From word-of-mouth warning networks to hydroelectric dams, the social fiber of a country or region plays an enormous role in the control of floods’ effects. Therefore, in countries where floods have considerably larger effects, an understanding of their development is essential to a full understanding of the geographic effects of the floods. Disparities in the responses of different countries in the same region reveal not just inequities in each country’s own infrastructure, but difficulties in regional coordination and communication concerning floods. Just as problems in local villages’ responses to flooding can better be explained in the context of national or regional failures, so too can supranational complications deepen a comprehension of national failures. In particular, problems with flood management reveal broader international difficulties with surface water management- an understanding of which is incomplete without taking the global phenomenon of climate change into account. In addition to the geophysical and hydrological shifts brought about by climate change, more local problems with agriculture and water management can be explained by regional policy (or lack thereof) coordinated by large institutions like the International Monetary Fund. The role that such institutions play in shaping policy from an international down to a local level highlights the unevenness of that policy and its subsequent effects. All of these factors had a role to play in shaping the events surrounding the 2009 West African floods. This paper will examine the role of infrastructure and institutions in shaping policies and procedures of flood preparation in some of these countries. Comparisons will be made both between different countries in the region, and between the least developed countries and more developed countries elsewhere in the world. In making these comparisons, particular attention will be paid to ecological management. Due to these inequalities, the conceptual model of uneven development offers a tremendous amount of insight into the social context of the floods.
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