Use of Geographic Information Systems
for the Assessment of Hazards, Vulnerability and Risks
in Central America

Spanish version


Introduction to the UNESCO-RAPCA project

The United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Central American Centre for Natural Disaster Prevention (Centro de Coordinación para la Prevención de los Desastres Naturales en América Central (CEPREDENAC), have developed the Regional Action Programme Central America (RAPCA) since 1999, with the technical support from the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), and financial support from the Netherlands government.

In Central America, information for disaster reduction (technical studies, geographical data, etc) usually exists, but is not (readily) available to local authorities and other stakeholders. The information is also almost never available in a form that facilitates decision making. With the use of GIS and remote sensing the possible effects on human and physical infrastructure of natural phenomena like earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions and floods can be mapped and made visible. If this is done in a proper way, GIS and remote sensing can be used as a powerful tool for analysis of hazard, vulnerability and risk, resulting in the development of different scenarios and concrete measures for disaster prevention. To achieve this, professionals in developing countries need to be trained in the application of GIS and remote sensing for disaster reduction.

Objectives of the UNESCO RAPCA project

  • Training of professionals from Central America in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing techniques for natural disaster prevention.
  • Development of a training package on the use of GIS and RS for Natural Hazard, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment,
  • Development of a series of pilot studies in Central America which can be used as illustrative case studies on the use of GIS and RS for disaster prevention at the local level.
  • Transfer of the results (case studies and training package) to other professionals through CD-ROMS and Internet.

Training package

The training package (módulo de capacitación) which has been developed as one of the main results of the project. The training package has been developed in Spanish and is available on CD-ROM through UNESCO or ITC, or through the Internet sites of ITC, CEPREDENAC and UNESCO. The training package contains educational materials in the form of PDF files, GIS exercises and case study reports. The materials are only for educational purposes and may not be used for comercial purposes.

The training package has the following objectives:

  • Learning the basic concepts of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Learning the basic concepts of Remote Sensing (RS)
  • Hands-on experience on using a GIS software ILWIS , which is easy to learn
  • Introduction to the basic concepts of hazards, vulnerability and risk
  • Introduction to the various methods for the use of GIS and Remote Sensing for mapping and analyzing natural hazards.
  • Learning the results of a series of pilot studies in Central America, which can be used as illustrative case studies on the use of GIS and RS for disaster prevention at the local level.


This CD contains the following information

  • GIS case studies developed within the UNESCO project

Within the framework of the UNESCO-RAPCA project the participants from the various countries have developed a series of GIS case studies. The GIS data that has been collected is presented on this CD in a series of Zip files, organized by country and by type of information (Basic data, hazard data, vulnerability data). Each of the case studies also has a brief explanation on the GIS procedures that have to be carried out. These instructions do not follow a cookbook style, and are aimed at more advanced GIS users. For basic GIS exercises and cook-book style instructions, the reader is referred to the first CD (modulo de capacitacion). The following information can be found on this CD: 


Costa Rica


El Salvador





Case study: Application of GIS for hazard and risk assessment: Tegucigalpa, Honduras

  • ILWIS software.

In order to work with the GIS files for the various case studies you will need a GIS software. All data is provided in the ILWIS format. ILWIS is the Integrated Land and Water Information System, and has been developed at ITC.

The ILWIS 3.2 version is available on the CD as a self-extracting executable file. When you start the executable file, it will first unpack the installation files and automatically the ILWIS 3.1 installation is started. Download ILWIS 3.2.


Run executable: ILWIS3.2Academic.exe

To run the ILWIS software you will need a registration code. In order to follow the GIS exercises provided on this CD, you can install the ILWIS system using the license that is provided on this CD.

Note: this license is only intended for following the exercises on this CD and not for using the ILWIS system for other purposes. In that case you will have to obtain your personal license.


License data for ILWIS 3.2
Name              : Institutionalization of GIS for Urban Disaster Management
Company/e-mail    : ITC, the Netherlands
Registration code : 81B86A6F-290765E6-EB9644FE-3F1D0DD4
Verification code : 6A3FD671-A2B50F89-C291647F-F713E2E0


Copy this information from this file and paste it in the installation window of ILWIS. Make sure that the exact codes are used, otherwise the program will not install.


Courses at ITC

If you are interested in further training in GIS and Remote Sensing for Natural Hazard and Risk Assessment, we refer to the following courses at ITC::

Other educational programmes at ITC:

For more information on education at ITC:



Project coordination:

·         Helene Papa y Soren Malling (UNESCO)

·         Zoila Aquino y Pablo Torrealba (CEPREDENAC)

·         Luis Rolando Duran (Costa Rica)

·         Niek Rengers, Mark Noort, Sabine Maresch y Cees van Westen (ITC)

Preparation of training package and case studies

·         Cees van Westen, Ruben Vargas Franco, Benno Masselink, Job Duim y Martijn Tielkes (ITC)

Support to national projects

·         Theo van Asch y Ivo Thonon (Universidad de Utrecht)

·         Leon Wijnker y Jan Nieuwenhuis (Universidad Tecnica de Delft)

·         Cees van Westen, Ruben Vargas Franco, Koert Sijmons, Siefko Slob Joost Teuben y Niek Rengers (ITC)

Support with presentation materials

·         Norman Kerle, Michiel Damen, Robert Voskuil, Nanette Kingma, Jelger Kooistra, Boudewijn van Leeuwen, Tsehaie Woldai, Siefko Slob, Cees van Westen, Ruben Vargas Franco, Dinand Alkema y Lorena Montoya (ITC)

Execution of national projects

·         Sergio Barrantes, Douglas Salgado y Alvaro Climent (Costa Rica)

·         Giovanni Molina y Jose Deras (El Salvador)

·         Manolo Barillas, Estuardo Lira y Mario Rodriguez (Guatemala)

·         Gonzalo Funes (Honduras)

·         Patria Sanchez (Republica Dominicana)


For more information, please contact:

Dr. Cees van Westen
International Institute for Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation (ITC)
P.O. Box 6, 7500 AA Enschede, The Netherlands, E-mail: