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Hurricane Katrina lawsuit highlights need for infrastructure adaptation

A lawsuit in the United States has highlighted the importance of adapting infrastructure to deal with the effects of extreme weather events such as storms. Last week, six plaintiffs in New Orleans filed a civil lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, stating that a channel they had constructed adjacent to the city exacerbated the impact of Hurricane Katrina on dwellings in the vicinity.

‘MR-GO’, otherwise known as ‘Mister Go’, is a 122 km-long channel that provides a shortcut between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans’s inner harbour. After much criticism for its negative environmental effects, such as erosion and alleged increased storm surge during Katrina, the channel was recently closed to ship traffic.

A geological expert, testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs, claims that Mister Go was responsible for “one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of the United States.”

As the four-week court case unfolds, homeowners from areas similarly affected by Katrina look on anxiously; a ruling in the favour of the six plaintiffs could open up a platform for 400,000 other parties who have also filed negligence claims against the government for devastation caused by the hurricane.

ACT’s second set of policy findings – on adaptation measures for extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina – is scheduled for release mid-May 2009.

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