DAY FOR NATURAL DISASTER REDUCTION
9 October 2002
Disaster Reduction for Sustainable Mountain Development
Soil erosion is the most serious and widespread form of land
degradation, as exemplified by this gully erosion on the loess hills of Central
Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)
will observe the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction 2002 at
the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC), Bangkok, on Wednesday, 9 October
2002. Activities will include the UNESCAP Forum on Disaster Reduction
and the UNESCAP Exhibition "Disaster Reduction in UNESCAP Region.
Sustainable Mountain Development
The theme of this year's
International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction, Disaster Reduction for Sustainable Mountain Development aims
to provide practical examples of what societies may do to be less vulnerable to
natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts and
landslides. The theme was selected
to raise awareness of vulnerability of mountain communities to natural disasters
and to commemorate the celebration of the International Year of Mountains
adopted by resolution 53/24 at the 53rd session of the UN General
Assembly. Mountainous countries frequently face floods, landslides, and Glacial
Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) causing damage directly to roads, power stations,
irrigation channels, etc. In more
than 80 countries, floods have caused hardship for more than 17 million people
since the beginning of 2002, according to the World Meteorological Organization
(WMO). Almost 3,000 people have
lost their lives, while property damage amounts to over 30 billion US dollars.
The total area affected by the floods is over 8 million square
Mountains and Natural Disasters
provide most of the world's fresh water, harbour as much or more biodiversity
than any other areas and are home to at least one in ten people.
Mountains are a barometer for climate change.
A change in temperature can disrupt a mountain system.
Mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates.
Consequently, mountains will become more dangerous as soil erosion,
landslides, rock fall, floods and avalanches increase in frequency and
intensity. Mountains are also very
sensitive to environmental change, and environmental degradation becomes
apparent earlier and quicker. In
general, changes in soil regime above the treeline are irreversible.
Mountain forests are crucial to the ecological health of the planet, as
they protect the watersheds which supply freshwater.
Tropical mountain forests have been disappearing at an alarming pace in
Natural Disasters and Sustainable Development
challenge of coping with disasters and the need to integrate disaster reduction
into sustainable development planning must number among our major concerns.
Natural disasters result in loss of lives, serious economic damage and
severe impacts on the social conditions. However,
natural disasters have received very little consideration in development
policies, especially policies towards alleviating poverty.
UN Resolution on IDNDR (42nd General Assembly, 1987) says, in
particular, that the effect of natural disasters may severely damage the fragile
economic infrastructure of developing countries, especially the least developed,
landlocked and island countries, and thus hamper their development.
According to the World Commission on Environment and Development Report (Brundtland
Report) in 1987, sustainable development meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Natural disaster reduction in Asia and the
In an UNESCAP survey carried
out in 1999 (at the completion of the International Decade for Natural Disaster
Reduction), natural disasters that affected the countries included floods,
cyclones, earthquakes, drought, tornado, debris flow including landslide and
mudflow, hailstorms, surge, tsunami and regional haze.
The most common disaster experienced practically in all the responding
countries was floods.
In another survey of UNESCAP in 2001 for the Typhoon Committee Area,
floods were the most common disaster experienced practically by all the
responding Members and rated to be the most severe in almost all responses.
Efforts were made to quantify the average annual economic losses caused by
typhoon-related disasters in monetary terms, which varied from US$5.5 million in
Hong Kong, China to as high as US$1,960 million in Japan.
In general, impacts of river
floods were listed to be high by most of the Members, and the impacts of urban
floods were estimated to be high by several Members, such as Japan and Malaysia.
Flash floods were found to be frequent in several countries while data on
coastal floods, particularly storm surges, were not readily available in most
Floods of 2002
countries of the UNESCAP region have made some progress in the reduction of
damage from natural and man-made disasters, recent disasters that struck a large
number of countries in the region dictate the need for continued, concerted
efforts towards assisting developing countries in enhancing their disaster
prevention, preparedness and rehabilitation capabilities.
This year's catastrophic floods and landslides, for instance, have
caused loss of lives and serious damages in many countries.
In China, 1,123 people were reported killed, 1.3 million left homeless
and 140 million people have been affected in 2002.
Similarly, in India more than 600 people have been killed and at least
1.5 million homes destroyed.
In Nepal, at least 50 people are feared dead after landslides triggered
by monsoon rains swept through two villages.
2002, the Philippines was severely hit by floods, which caused 142 casualties,
affected nearly 500,000 families and over 2.2 million people.
Similarly, the heavy casualties of 2002 were mostly caused by flash
floods and landslides: more than 600 people in China died during the months of
July and August, as well as 48 people in Bangladesh and 38 people in India.
There were also reports of serious flood damage in several other
countries, such as in Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam and most countries in Central
Asia in 2002.
on Disaster Reduction
2001, UNESCAP implemented a regional project aiming at "Strengthening
Capacity in Participatory Planning and Management for Flood Mitigation and
Preparedness in Large River Basins in Asia and the Pacific". Under the project, four case studies were carried out in
China, India, Indonesia and Viet Nam. For
China, the case study focused on the Huai He River Basin, including a detailed
review of Chinese experiences in all the major river basins.
A national seminar was held in Nanjing, China in September 2001.
The case study for Viet Nam focused on the Red River Basin, and included
recent experiences in dealing with the flood of 2001.
A national seminar was held in October 2001 in Hanoi to emphasize the
need to improve public awareness and participation in dealing with extreme flood
situations. For Indonesia, the case
study dealt with the experience and persisting serious problem of annual
flooding in the Greater Jakarta Area. A
national seminar was held in November 2001 for the formulation of a national
strategy on flood preparedness and mitigation, as part of the ongoing reform on
water resources management in the country.
The case study for India focused on the Ganga-Brahmaputra and Meghna
Basin, the area in which the majority of the poor live.
The national seminar on Participatory Flood Management Strategy for Flood
Mitigation in East and North-East Region of India was held in Kolkata in
regional workshop on Participatory Planning and Management for Flood Mitigation and
Preparedness in Large River Basins in Asia and the Pacific was held in
Bangkok in November 2001. The
Workshop was attended by 24 participants from eight members of UNESCAP,
comprising Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet
Nam. It was also attended by five
experts from the Regional Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (FAO), the Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRCS), the Asian
Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC) and the private sector, together with two
consultants from the Netherlands and the United States of America.
Based on the experiences covered in the case studies and inputs from
studies undertaken by the resource persons, a new participatory approach derived
from the review prepared by the consultant was adopted at the Workshop.
This ensured more effective exchange of experiences, and maximum
involvement of all participants, in the formulation of guidelines by UNESCAP, to
prepare outputs and follow-up action plans.
Important outputs and recommendations of the workshop included (1)
preparation of a set of guidelines on participatory planning and management for
flood mitigation and preparedness (in place of an overall review of experiences
and trends - already completed) and (2) priority needs and opportunities in
capacity-building on participatory planning and management for flood mitigation
and preparedness. Preparation of the guidelines along the outline proposed by
the workshop is currently in progress and expected to be completed in October
At the request of the Typhoon
Committee, and in cooperation with WMO and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure
and Transport (MLIT) of Japan, UNESCAP assisted the Typhoon Committee in
carrying out a comprehensive review aiming at strengthening regional cooperation
in flood forecasting and disaster prevention and preparedness in 2001.
The comprehensive review included a regional survey, which was completed
in June 2001, a regional workshop on "Evaluation and Improvement of Operational Flood
Forecasting Models in the Typhoon Committee Area"
held in Bangkok in August 2001, and an expert review mission that visited eight
member countries of the Typhoon Committee to discuss the findings and
recommendations of the survey and the workshop in September and October 2001.
The Workshop was attended by 57 participants from 12 Typhoon
Committee Members, comprising Cambodia; China; People's Democratic Republic of
Korea; Japan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Macao, China; Malaysia;
Philippines; Republic of Korea; Singapore; Thailand and Viet Nam.
It was also attended by six experts from the World Meteorological
Organization (WMO), the Mekong River Secretariat (MRCS), the Typhoon Committee
Secretariat (TCS), the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) and the Asian
Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC).
The outputs of the comprehensive review included a programme of priority
actions aiming at strengthening regional cooperation on flood mitigation and
preparedness, that was subsequently endorsed by the Typhoon Committee at its 34th
session held in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States from 28 November to 4 December
As a follow-up to the
above-mentioned comprehensive review, UNESCAP, in cooperation with TCS, WMO and
MLIT, assisted in the implementation of the recommended programme of priority
actions in 2002. The
activities included (1) participation in a two-day meeting of the TC Working
Group on Hydrological Component in February 2002, in Tokyo, to prepare a
detailed implementation programme, (2) assistance in the organization of a
regional workshop on "Integration of Risk Analysis and Management of
Water-related Disasters into the Development Process in the Typhoon Committee
Area" to be held in Manila in July 2002, and (3) mobilizing TC members in the
implementation of the priority activities, particularly for hazard risk mapping
and forecasting of flash floods and sediment disasters.
Panel on Tropical Cyclones for the Gulf of Bengal and Arabian Sea, at its 29th
session held in Yangon from 12 to 18 March 2002, in consultation with WMO and
TSU, requested UNESCAP to launch a regional survey as part of a comprehensive
review with a priority focus aiming to strengthen the Panel's activities on
water-related disaster. The
regional survey is scheduled for completion in the latter part of 2002 to enable
WMO to mobilize resources and to undertake review missions in consultation with
UNESCAP and other partners, to selected member countries to discuss
implementation of the survey's recommendations.
cooperation with the Third World Water Forum (WWF-3) Secretariat, UNESCAP has
conducted an ongoing session on the Virtual Forum of WWF-3 on "Regional
Cooperation in Flood Preparedness and Reduction"
since 10 October 2001. The main
objective of the session is "to intensify cooperation to reduce the number and
effects of natural and man-made disasters" as mentioned in the Millennium
Declaration. As part of this common
effort, discussion has being initiated with other partners, including MLIT, WMO,
Typhoon Committee and Panel on Tropical Cyclones, to jointly hold a parallel
session on regional cooperation on flood preparedness and mitigation for Asia
during the Third World Water Forum scheduled to be held in Japan in March 2003.
Since its inception, UNESCAP has been undertaking various activities
including capacity-building and information exchange in the Asia and the Pacific
region focusing specifically on disasters related to hydro-meteorological
phenomena. UNESCAP has continued to
jointly support, with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the
activities of the Typhoon Committee and the Panel on Tropical Cyclones, the two
intergovernmental subregional bodies set up by the countries affected by
typhoons and cyclones, respectively. The
Committee and the Panel promote and coordinate governmental efforts to provide
early warning and to minimize typhoon and tropical cyclone damage in vulnerable
areas of the UNESCAP region.
Continued and strengthened cooperation on a multi-sectoral and
interdisciplinary basis is considered essential to accomplish commonly-agreed
objectives and priorities. The need
to improve regional, sub-regional, national and local capabilities and
coordination is urgent. The
strengthening of people's capacity to respond rapidly at the local level is of
the utmost importance.
further information on the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, please
visit the ISDR web site: www.unisdr.org.
Information on UNESCAP activities in the area of disaster prevention, please
Environment and Development Division (EDD)
Avenue, Bangkok 10200
+66 2 288-1059