The impact of natural disasters (such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, insect infestations or any other disasters of natural origin) has risen in recent years. The recorded number of disasters from 1991 to 2005 is 5210. Out of these the share of hydro-meteorological disasters is 76% (mainly floods and wind storms). About 40% of the natural disasters are reported in Asia, of which 58% of the disasters are caused due to floods and wind storms (EM-DAT: International Disaster Database).More than one million people have been killed in natural disasters (1991-2005), and about 3.5 billion affected. Most (92%) of the deaths due to natural disasters have taken place in developing countries. The estimated economic damage is 1192 billion US dollars. In developing countries it is 379 billion US dollars out of which 72% of the damage is caused by floods and wind storms alone (EM-DAT: International Disaster Database). While the death toll has reduced in the past 15 years, the number of affected people has increased and economic losses have escalated more than ever, especially in developing countries. The vulnerability of the poor and socially disadvantaged groups in these countries to disasters is growing.With climate change likely to increase the frequency, intensity and spatial distribution of natural disasters, especially hydro meteorological ones such as hurricanes, rainstorms, tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods and droughts (Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, 2007), the disasters are expected to cause greater devastation.
Change in Strategy – Disaster Risk Reduction
Natural disasters are sudden and cannot be prevented, but losses to life and properties can be, through disaster risk reduction strategies. The views that disasters are temporary disturbances and to be managed only by humanitarian response; that its impacts can only be reduced by technical interventions have changed.
It is now recognized that disasters are intimately linked with Sustainable Development (SD) and that sustainable development and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) are mutually supportive goals. Unless sustainable development practices are adopted, risks from disasters will continue and vulnerability will increase. The view that sustainable development cannot be achieved unless risks are managed is widely accepted.
The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction defines DRR as "the conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society, to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards, within the broad context of sustainable development." DRR aims at building safe societies through disaster prevention, mitigation, and preparedness. DRR strategies contribute to and gain from sustainable development policies.There is an increasing urge to address DRR in development plans. While humanitarian response is important, experience shows that this has yielded temporary results. Disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness have the potential of saving lives, properties and livelihood and contribute to long term safety. DRR is therefore crucial in integrated disaster management. DRR strategies are complex and require different actors, from policy makers to practitioners to financial institutions. These include technology solutions, as well as socio-economic strategies.
Disaster Risk Reduction and ESD
A guide for implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction ‘The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters', was adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (Kobe, Japan, 2005). One of the Hyogo Framework priorities for action is to promote awareness, knowledge and education for effective disaster risk reduction strategies in the context of sustainable development.
At the 4th International Conference on Environment Education held at Ahmedabad in November 2007 one of thw workshops specifically considered a review of the HFA in the context of Education for Sustainable Development, and particularly focused on HFA priority 3: Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.
With climate change likely to increase the frequency, intensity and spatial distribution of natural disasters, especially the hydro-meteorological ones such as hurricanes, cyclones, storm surges, floods and droughts; DRR related to hydro meteorological disasters was discussed at length in a special session. Representatives from UN Agencies, Governments, humanitarian agencies, DRR practitioners, educators, research institutions participated in this workshop.
Building on from Bangkok Action Agenda (October 2007) and Delhi Declaration (November 2007) for DRR, the recommendations were made in five areas:
1. Holistic, participative and realistic Disaster Risk Reduction initiatives
2. Science and technology
3. Governance and delivery systems
4. Adaptation/coping mechanisms
5. New risks posed by Climate Change
The recommendations from the November 2007 workshop at ICEE Ahmedabad include the following:
- Sensitize government bodies at various levels (from local to national) and policy makers for efficient governance and delivery systems for accelerating the Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) leading to sustainable development.
- Strengthen the database for vulnerability assessment through science and technology as well as participative methods for efficient risk and resource management.
- Re-examine and reorient the existing information on disaster risk reduction from the point of sustainable development and make it available in a simple form for policy makers, community and practitioners for better coping mechanisms. Education for Disaster Risk Reduction (EDRR) must factor in the new risks posed by Climate Change, especially those posed by hydro-meteorological events (flood and drought).
The CEE Experience
In the aftermath of the major earthquake that hit Gujarat in January 2001, one of the major challenges beyond the immediate needs of relief, was that of rehabilitation of those who suffered traumatic loss of not just property and shelter, but of the very basis of their existence. This called for a comprehensive programme of restoring in a sustainable manner the livelihoods, so closely dependent on the management and wise use of natural resources, of thousands of people. Like many other organisations which got involved in post-disaster activities, CEE did not have any direct experience of disasters or rehabilitation. It banked on its experience of involving stakeholders in planning and decision-making in developmental activities, to initiate a sustained programme called Rebuilding Hope in two districts. Since then CEE has initiated medium to long-term programmes for the people affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, and more recently for the earthquake-hit people of Jammu and Kashmir. (‘Rebuilding Lives – Tsunami Rehabilitation Programme’ and ‘Rebuilding Trust – Jammu and Kashmir Earthquake Rehabilitation Initiatives’)
The approach of developing long-term interventions in these areas is to work with and capacity-build communities to become more disaster-resilient and to cope better. These programmes, after fulfilling immediate needs of shelter, provisions, etc., ultimately look at strengthening livelihood opportunities and addressing environmental and development problems at a larger scale, which involves different stakeholders working together on long-term basis. With more than 70 per cent of the country prone to one or other type of disaster, it is important that there be a focused initiative in the field of disaster management.
The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is the key instrument for implementing disaster risk reduction, adopted by the Member States of the United Nations. Its overarching goal is to build resilience of nations and communities to disasters, by achieving substantive reduction of disaster losses by 2015 - in lives, and in the social, economic, and environmental assets of communities and countries. The HFA offers five areas of priorities for action, guiding principles and practical means for achieving disaster resilience for vulnerable communities in the context of sustainable development:
- Make Disaster Risk Reduction a Priority: Ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation
- Know the Risks and Take Action: Identify, assess, and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning
- Build Understanding and Awareness: Use knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels
- Reduce Risk: Reduce the underlying risk factors
- Be Prepared and Ready to Act: Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels
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