Should New Orleans rebuild? Vanderbilt expert says ‘perhaps not’

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Hurricane Katrina has left most of New Orleans a virtual toxic wasteland, and a Vanderbilt University professor says that perhaps this once great city that is below sea level should not be rebuilt, at least in its present form. Mark Abkowitz, professor of civil and environmental engineering, says “imagine the infrastructure expense required to rebuild the levees that can withstand far more than what was included in the original design, installation of a pumping system with greater capacity and less prone to failure, and add to that the knowledge that the climate change will increase the frequency and severity of hurricanes in the region.” This is just another event to add to the history of what has happened along our coastline “that begs the question as to whether we need to rethink where we live,” Abkowitz adds. The emergency preparedness expert says one alternative is to rebuild a smaller New Orleans in the areas, such as the French Quarter, that did not have the flooding problems faced by most of the city.

Abkowitz has been involved in assessing and managing the risks associated with both natural and man-made disasters. He has provided support to government agencies, chemical companies and transporters in preventing and mitigating catastrophic events. He currently serves on the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, appointed to that group by President George W. Bush in 2002. He has written more than 80 journal articles and study reports.

(To reach Abkowitz call the Vanderbilt News Service at 615-322-2706 or after hours beeper number 615-951-5472.)

Contact: Emily Pearce, (615) 322-2706

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