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Sustaining Development in the Face of Increasing Global Natural Disasters


With the happenings in the past few weeks, it is a clear indication that natural disasters are not restricted to particular geographical areas. They can strike at any country in any continent across the globe – be it North America or Asia. The disturbing pictures of lives and properties swept away came as a shock to the world. The Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Harvey, Typhoon Hato, and monsoon floods have all brought concerns about measures to be taken to lessen the effect of extreme weather conditions, as well as the need to enhance relief operations.
 
The world is recording more frequent and intense disasters in recent times. According to a report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the economy has lost $1.3 trillion and over 2 million lives between 1970 and 2016.
 
Tsunamis, floods, cyclones, and earthquakes account for 90 percent of the deaths recorded. Sadly, the poor and helpless suffered the greatest hit, making up a larger number of total deaths.
 
Experts predict that by the year 2030, about 50 percent of Asians will be urban dwellers. This exodus will automatically increase the number of people in the cities, exposing economic stock to unforeseen future disasters.
 
In major cities, half of the total population are already living in areas with high risk of disaster. Now, we ought to focus on pinpointing likely scenarios, evaluating risk tolerance levels, and establishing response capacity in case of insufficiency.
 
It is therefore imperative for policymakers to seek ways to fortify scientific measures and policies that will help countries to handle these risks effectively. Based on the recommendations in the report, practical methods have been proffered on resilience building and reinforcement of long-term development in the region.
 
The need for early warning can never be overstressed. The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was a major disaster in the history of humanity; with over 250,000 recorded human deaths. The Indian Ocean, unlike the Pacific, didn’t give any warning signals for the coastal communities. Thankfully, the $10 million funding contribution from Thailand (ESCAP Trust Fund) became a great relief to the affected areas.
 
However, to sustain a tsunami warning scheme, it must be built in the way that it would handle many coastal hazards. Cooperation from governments within the region will help to distribute, among themselves, critical trends in science and technology to help identify early warning signals.
 
ESCAP's Fund has provided empowerment to people through the improvement of disaster detection and early warning signs, as well as technology and knowledge transfer from entities with higher hazard control capacities to countries with lesser risk management resources. A typical example would be the state-of-the-art equipment, online technologies, and technical support which has helped the Myanmar National Earthquake Data Centre to upgrade their activities and meet up with global tsunami warning center’s standards.
 
ESCAP has collaborated with Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to host an event during the 72nd UN General Assembly session. The Event held on September 21st, is aimed at presenting the findings made by the Trust Fund (ESCAP), as well as their contributions to making people more resilience to disasters, in a bid to involve everyone in the quest for long-term development goals.