See More on Facebook

Analysis, Environment

Growing disaster risks exceed Asia-Pacific’‬s capacity to respond

This according to a UN Escap finding.


Written by

Updated: August 23, 2019

The relentless sequence of natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific in the past two years was beyond what the region had previously experienced or was able to predict, and this is a sign of things to come in a new climate reality, according to the latest report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap)‭.

The Disaster Riskscape across Asia-Pacific

The ‭Asia-Pacific ‭ ‬Disaster ‭ ‬Report 2019‭ released in Bangkok on Thursday reveals that recent disasters, especially ‬‬those ‭‬triggered by ‭ ‬climate ‭‬change ‭‬and environmental ‭‬degradation, ‭‬have deviated from their usual tracks and are growing in intensity, frequency and complexity. It is now more difficult to determine which areas should prepare for what kind of disaster.

Vulnerable and marginalised communities are among the hardest hit by disasters in the region.

Almost 40 per cent of disaster impacts result in deeper inequalities of opportunity that are transmitted over generations. Disasters are also set to slow down poverty reduction. Furthermore, the number of people living in extreme poverty – under $1.90 (Bt58) a day – is projected to be 56 million by 2030. However, with unmitigated disaster risk, this number more than doubles to 123 million.‭ ‭

Thais‬ living in the northeast are also vulnerable, according to the report.‬

“‭However, this is not inevitable,” said United ‬Nations Under-Secretary-General and executive secretary of Escap Armida Alisjahbana at the release of the report in Bangkok. “Governments can break this vicious cycle by investing to outpace disaster risk, and the report shows that investments will be far smaller than the damage and losses from unmitigated disasters. Moreover, these same investments will deliver co-benefits – in the form of better education, health, social and infrastructure ‭‬services, and higher agricultural production and incomes.”

In 2018, almost half of the 281 natural disaster events worldwide occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, including eight out of the ten deadliest. An average of 142 million people in the area have been affected annually since 1970, well above the global average of 38 million, the report says.

For the ‭‬first ‭‬time, ‭‬the ‭report‬ includes the costs of ‭ ‬slow-onset ‭ ‬disasters, notably drought, which results in ‬a quadrupling of annual economic losses as ‭ ‬compared to previous estimates. The annual economic loss for Asia and the Pacific is now $675 billion, or around 2.4 per cent, ‭of the region’s GDP,‭ of which $405 billion, or 60 per cent, ‭are‬ drought-related ‬‬agricultural losses, impacting the rural poor disproportionately‭. ‬

“‭Countries across the region have committed themselves to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] by 2030 ‭to ensure that no one is left behind,” Alisjahbana said. “But they cannot achieve many of the SDG targets if ‬their people ‬are ‬not protected ‬from disasters ‬that ‭‬threaten ‬to reverse hard-won development gains. This means ‬not just building resilience in priority zones but doing so across the entire region –‬ reaching the most marginal and vulnerable communities‭.”

Thailand is in a group of countries where the average annual loss is up to $20 billion, but investments to address the issue are relatively small, or about half of the damage and losses from disasters, according to the report. Countries with average annual loss exceeding $20 billion are China, India and Indonesia.‬‬

The ‬report ‬identifies ‬four ‬distinct ‬hotspots ‬in ‬the ‬region ‬where ‬fragile ‬environments ‬are converging with ‬critical socioeconomic vulnerabilities. They include the transboundary river basins of South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ring of Fire in Southeast Asia and East and Northeast Asia, sand and dust storm corridors in East and Northeast Asia, South and Southwest Asia and Central ‭‬Asia, and climate-related hazards in the Pacific Small Island Developing States. A person in the Pacific is found to be three to five times more at risk than those in other parts of the region, the report points out.

The report calls for transformative change, with social policies and disaster resilience no longer treated as separate policy domains. It highlights how policymakers can enhance the quality of investments through policy reforms for more inclusive and empowered societies, to ensure that poor and vulnerable groups are not excluded from the benefits of investments due to barriers in accessing land, reliable early warning systems, finance and decision-making structures.

Similarly, the report explores how emerging technologies such as big data and digital identities can ‬be ‬used ‬to ‬ensure ‬the ‬poorest ‬and ‬most ‬vulnerable ‬groups ‬are ‬included ‬in ‬policy interventions. The report also points out that ‬many ‬of the region’s disaster ‬hotspots ‬extend ‬

across‬ national ‬boundaries ‬and ‬proposes ‬a ‬set ‭of ‭‬regional policy actions ‬to ‬be implemented through the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network, supported by Escap.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Nation (Thailand)
About the Author: The Nation is a broadsheet, English-language daily newspaper founded in 1971 and published in Bangkok, Thailand.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Environment

Japan: Koizumi offers no concrete plan on coal

The new environment minister needs to offer better ways to tackle climate change.  During a ministerial meeting of the U.N. climate summit in Madrid on Wednesday, Shinjiro Koizumi, the Environment Minister did not express concrete steps for reducing coal-fired thermal power generation. Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi did not express concrete steps for reducing coal-fired thermal power generation, for which construction of new plants is currently underway in Japan, during a ministerial meeting of the U.N. climate summit in Madrid on Wednesday. “I am afraid I cannot share new development on our coal policy today,” Koizumi said at the ongoing 25th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate


By The Japan News
December 13, 2019

Analysis, Environment

India, China step up the wooing but Rajapaksa in no hurry to align Sri Lanka

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will try to balance the competing interests of China, India in the region. The conversation in regional capitals after the emphatic win of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the Sri Lankan elections last month centres around a central question: Will he manage to pull a Sheikh Hasina on India and China? The reference, of course, is to the Bangladesh Prime Minister who many believe has managed to successfully push her country’s interests by balancing the competing strategic ambitions of China and India in South Asia. And Rajapaksa knows a thing or two about protecting what he believes are his country’s core interests. After all, he braved the Western world’s intense criticism – and India’s acute discomfort given its large domestic Tamil population – of the means adopted by him as Defence Minister in his brother and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s


By Ishan Joshi
December 12, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Nepal moves up in Human Development Index but still lags behind in South Asia

Nepal’s human development index of 0,579 indicates that people are living longer, are more educated and have greater incomes, according to the Human Development Report. Despite global progress in tackling poverty, hunger and disease, a ‘new generation of inequalities’ indicates that many societies are not working as they should and Nepal is not an exception, according to a new human development report released on Tuesday. The old inequalities were based on access to health services and education whereas the new generation of inequalities is based on technology, education and the climate, according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report. “Previously, we talked about wealth as a major driver for inequality. Now, countries like Nepal are in another inequality trap and that concerns


By The Kathmandu Post
December 12, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Myanmar running out of time to cope with climate change, warns historian Thant Myint-U

Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change and is grossly unprepared to deal with the consequences. WASHINGTON – Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change, and is grossly unprepared to deal with the consequences, warns historian Dr Thant Myint-U. The Myanmar historian, author and conservationist was in the United States recently to speak on his most recent book examining race, capitalism and the crisis of democracy in Myanmar titled “The Hidden History of Burma”. In an interview for the online video and podcast Asian Insider, Dr Thant told The Straits Times the threat of climate change tipped his ledger towards pessimism about the country’s future. “I think whatever we think of the ledger in general, perhaps it comes to 50/50,” he said. “When you add on


By The Straits Times
December 9, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Is polarisation driven by Hyper Information Disorder Syndrome?

In a study of Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Poland, Turkey and the US, writes ANDREW SHENG, scientists attribute populism to the rise of decisive leaders who push nationalism, demonise opponents and stir up issues that further divide societies. BANGKOK – Mass protests seem to be breaking out all over the place, from Hong Kong to Santiago, Tehran, Bolivia, Catalonia, Ecuador, France and Iraq to Lebanon.  The root causes of these protests have many local reasons, but there are common themes, such as inequality, corruption, incompetent governments, rural-urban migration, demography, anger, social media and demand for change. But underlying all these protests is the growing polarization of societies, increasingly manifested in viol


By Asia News Network
December 9, 2019

Analysis, Environment

Rohingya Crisis Fallout

Transparency International Bangladesh has painted a grim outlook for the crisis. Bangladesh faces long-term financial, political and security challenges as Rohingya repatriation may not happen anytime soon, said Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman. The fund from the international community for nearly one million Rohingyas may not sustain as no strong international initiative has been taken to oblige Myanmar for creating a conducive environment for the refugees to return soon, he said. “As a result, Bangladesh’s socio-economic instability will grow. There are risks of security at local and national levels. The crisis also creates political and diplomatic challenges for the government,” Iftekharuzzaman said. It also involves the risks of growing extremism as the people who face violence are more likely to become violent, he said at a press confere


By Daily Star
December 6, 2019