Sendai meeting key to fighting disasters

By Bindu N. Lohani
China Daily, March 19, 2015

The region should consider financial instruments such as pooling risk to reduce insurance costs, catastrophe bonds or pre-agreed loans that countries can call on in the event of a disaster. The Asian Development Bank is developing disaster risk financing instruments for selected cities in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and at a national level in Bangladesh. But none of these instruments will be realized without strong commitment from governments.

By 2050, 64 percent of Asians - or 3.3 billion people - will live in cities, which are already economic centers highly vulnerable to climate change. Recent research shows that of the 100 global cities with the greatest exposure to natural hazards, more than half are in Asia - 21 in the Philippines, 16 in China, 11 in Japan, and eight in Bangladesh.

To protect economies and lives, we must, therefore, protect existing infrastructure and climate-proof new infrastructure. Leadership and strategic planning is crucial. The provincial government of Albay in the Philippines, which routinely faces coastal flooding, volcanic activity and typhoons, has set an excellent example. Through risk-mapping software, early warning systems and innovative knowledge initiatives such as its Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Academy for local government units, it is already reducing the damage from disasters.

Strengthening disaster resilience is also about finding alternatives - alternative places to site infrastructure, alternative building designs, alternative livelihood decisions and alternative development decisions - choosing long-term sustainability over more short-term growth in some instances.

This requires visionary leadership, learning lessons from others, and integrating disaster risk considerations into all investment decisions in hazard-prone areas. This is a message that also needs to be conveyed clearly when presidents, prime ministers and other experts gather in Paris, France, in November to finalize a climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

The author is vice-president of Sustainable Development and Knowledge Management, Asian Development Bank.


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