Around 500 million (in 2000) people live on or close to volcanoes. By 2025 it is estimated that 600 Million people will be living in tectonically active areas. For example, 961,000 people live in Naples, Italy, despite being at the foot of the dangerous Mount Vesuvius. Popocatapetl (pronounced poh-poh-kah-teh-peh-til) is a volcanic mountain less than 50 miles from Mexico City (one of the largest megacities in the world) in Mexico.
Often people live in these zones because they decide that the advantages of the place outweigh the risks. Most volcanoes and earthquake zones are safe for long periods in between eruptions or earthquake events. Frequently tectonic events can be adjusted to and are considered by the residents as being predictable.
Reasons for living close to volcanoes;
1. Some settlements have grown into enormous cities and would be hard to move anywhere else
2. Some places are well prepared for hazards so people feel safe
3. A good job and way of life may keep you in a danger zone
4. Sulphur can be mined, Ljen volcano has a crater lake, which is the site of a sulphur mining operation, because of the high sulphur levels on the lake floor
5. Volcanic soils are fertile as the weathering of volcanic rock releases potassium into the soil, which is essential for plant growth e.g. Naples, Italy has olives, vines, nuts and fruit (mainly oranges and lemons) growing area to Mount Vesuvius.
6. Tourism is a popular activity in these areas. Mount Etna, attracts thousands of tourists, who travel in cable cars and 4 wheel drives to the crater, providing a range of jobs for local people. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is heated by geothermal heat and 1.2 million people visited the Lagoon in 2010
7. Magma contains a large amount of minerals, such as, copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc. After an eruption this magma cools and these minerals can be mined. E.g. Yanacocha gold mine in Peru
8. Large settlements in seismic zones offer job opportunities, such as San Francisco in the USA. San Francisco is in the Bay area, which has a GDP of $535 billion, & ranks 19th in the world when compared to national economies.
9. People in Mount Merapi, Indonesia, worship ancient spirits believing they will warn them of an eruption, on a full moon they throw items into the volcano crater to calm the volcano’s spirits.
10. The World’s best coffee is grown on volcanic soil in Columbia.
11. People believe the chances of the volcano erupting are very slim
12. In Iceland volcanoes provide cheap geothermal power, 28 % of all its energy. This is even used to heat pavements in winter in Reykjavik.
13. Poor people, especially in LICs cannot afford to live away from volcanoes as they provide jobs and their families and friends live there.
14. Basalt is found in volcanic areas and can be used in construction and to build roads.
15. Engineering can make people feel safe in these areas in richer parts of the world. Buildings can be made to be earthquake proof like the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.
16. Many volcanic and earthquake events are INFREQUENT – so people don’t think they will get caught up in a disaster.