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Why do people live in flood-prone areas? Reflections from Dar es Salaam

Alexandra Panman's picture
Dar es Salaam’s growing population is increasingly at risk of flooding. Photo: Chris Morgan/World Bank

The Msimbazi River makes a volatile neighbor. With depressing regularity, the river breaks its banks and inundates houses built on its low-lying floodplains. During the 2014 rains, 600 houses were flooded in the riverine Kigogo Ward alone; thirteen of which were completely destroyed. Yet, as the floodwaters recede, people return.

“What is wrong with these people?” people often say. “They should not be there; they know it’s not safe!” Citizens, journalists, and policymakers, express disbelief that people relocated to safer parts of the city return to their former, flood-prone neighborhoods. So why do they do it?

Ghana’s challenges: Widening regional inequality and natural resource depreciation

Tomomi Tanaka's picture

The impact of growth on poverty in Ghana has slowed substantially over the years. Ghana’s largest fall in poverty, 2% a year, was experienced during 1991–1998. Between 2012 and 2016, the poverty rate declined by only 0.2% per year. The growth elasticity of poverty (percentage reduction in poverty for each percentage point in economic growth) has decreased, from −1.18 between 1992 and 1998 to −0.07 between 2012 and 2016. This may reflect the declining contribution of agriculture, in which the majority of poor households are engaged, the limited job opportunities for higher productivity in the services sector, and a largely capital-intensive industrial development.

Connecting with the people beyond the computers: my experience in flood risk management in Buenos Aires

Catalina Ramirez's picture
Also available in Español 

After spending several years in front of a computer every day, I began to feel removed from those people who were the real reason for my work, which aims to build a safer, healthier and more prosperous environment. But when people I knew were directly affected by the issues I was working on, my work took on more meaning and urgency.

Managing climate risks in South Asia: A “bottom up” approach

Poonam Pillai's picture
Surma river between Bangladesh and India
The Surma River that flows between Bangladesh and India. Photo Credit: Poonam Pillai

Being from Kolkata, I have always been used to floods. Prolonged flooding typically meant schools and offices closed, traffic jams and a much-needed respite from the tropical summer heat. However, it was during a field visit to the flood prone northeastern border of Bangladesh, where rivers from India flow downstream into Bangladesh, that I fully appreciated the importance of disaster early warning systems and regional collaboration in saving lives, property, enabling communities to evacuate and prepare for extreme weather events.

Disaster early warning systems, along with other information services based on weather, water and climate data (sometimes known as “hydromet” or “climate services”) play a key role in disaster preparedness and improving the productivity and performance of climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture.  Along with investments in resilient infrastructure, risk financing strategies and capacity building measures, they are a key part of a toolkit for strengthening disaster and climate resilience.  Research shows that for every dollar spent on disaster early warning systems, the benefits range from $2-10.  In South Asia, these are particularly important given the region’s extreme vulnerability to climate risks and staggering socio-economic costs arising from extreme weather events.

Creating a flood resilient city: Moving from disaster response to disaster resilience in Ibadan

Salim Rouhana's picture
The Eleyele Dam spillway in Ibadan was damaged during the 2011 flood. Ivan Bruce, World Bank


As we reflect on 2017, the truly devastating impact of climate change is being felt across the globe. The evidence has never been clearer that the impact of climate change is happening now. The World Bank's “Shockwaves” report estimates that, without major investment, climate change will push as many as an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030. 

Let’s make a deal for resilient cities

Carina Lakovits's picture
Photo credit: humphery / Shutterstock.com
JIANGXI CHINA-July 1, 2017: In Eastern China, Jiujiang was hit by heavy rain, and many urban areas were flooded. The vehicles were flooded, and the citizens risked their passage on flooded roads.
Photo credit: humphery / Shutterstock.com
For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. Although cities hold the promise of a better future, the reality is that many cities cannot live up to expectations. Too often, cities lack the resources to provide even the most basic services to their inhabitants, and cities all over the world fail to protect their people effectively against the onslaught of natural disasters or climate change.

Much of this has to do with the lack of adequate infrastructure that can defend against the impacts of floods, sea level rise, landslides or earthquakes. Most cities need better flood defenses, better constructed houses, and better land use planning. But even when cities know what it takes to become more resilient, most often they do not have access to the necessary funding to realize this vision.

It is estimated that worldwide, investments of more than $4 trillion per year in urban infrastructure will be needed merely to keep pace with expected economic growth, and an additional $1 trillion will be needed to make this urban infrastructure climate resilient.  It is clear that the public sector alone, including development finance institutions like the World Bank, will not be able to generate these amounts—not by a long stretch.

Flooded rivers: taking a bird’s eye view

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes's picture
When a river swells beyond its usual patterns, the impact on its surroundings can be devastating. In 2014, 51 people lost their lives and over 20% of Serbia’s population were affected by floods when eight rivers spilled over their banks. Photo credit: Dusan Milenkovic / Shutterstock.com
Floodplains are attractive areas for development, with over 2 billion people living within the world’s 10 largest river basins. Yet, they are also at particular risk from overflowing rivers. Globally, river floods affect more than 21 million people. By 2030, due to climate change, population growth, and rapid urbanization, this number could rise to 54 million.

Why mangroves matter for the resilience of coastal communities

Saurabh Dani's picture

In 2006, I was working in Aceh, Indonesia (with the Red Cross), a region devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Amongst other post-disaster recovery activities, we were working with 20 coastal communities, helping them with community-managed small grants and encouraging them to invest in disaster resilience within their communities.
 
To my delight, all 20 communities, independently, chose to invest in the restoration of their mangroves that had been completely or partially destroyed by the tsunami. To them, losing their mangroves was like losing their ancestors: Mangroves defended them, provided them with food and a livelihood, and made their coastline beautiful. The mangroves were their pride, and reclaiming the mangroves was of the highest priority for them as a community.

Why should we care about mangroves? Here are a few important reasons:

To build resilient cities, we must treat substandard housing as a life-or-death emergency

Luis Triveno's picture
Also available in: Español | 中文

Resilient housing policies. © World Bank
Why resilient cities need resilient housing.  Download the full version of the slideshow here

The scene is as familiar as it is tragic: A devastating hurricane or earthquake strikes a populated area in a poor country, inflicting a high number of casualties, overwhelming the resources and capacity of rescue teams and hospital emergency rooms. First responders must resort to “triage” – the medical strategy of maximizing the efficient use of existing resources to save lives, while minimizing the number of deaths. 

But if governments could apply triage to substandard housing, medical triage would be a much less frequent occurrence – because in the developing world, it is mainly housing that kills people, not disasters.
 
From the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to the 2017 Urban Resilience Summit, practitioners and policymakers have increasingly focused their discussions on how we can boost the resilience of urban areas.

But this is a problem with a well-known solution: Resilient cities require resilient housing.

To make housing more resilient, cities need to focus on two different but complementary angles: upgrading the existing housing stock, where most the poor live, while making sure that new construction is built safe, particularly for natural disasters. After all, if floods or earthquakes do not distinguish between old and new homes, why should policymakers? It is time for resilience to become part of the definition of “decent, affordable, and safe housing.”

 

Building African nations and communities’ financial resilience to climate and disaster risks

Christoph Pusch's picture
West African Sahel and Dry Savannas @ FlickR / CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems

Sub-Saharan Africa is making significant economic and development strides. Yet, natural disasters, combined with the effects of climate change, rapid urbanization, and conflict situations are threatening these gains, keeping vulnerable and poor communities in a chronic cycle of poverty:
  • 425 million people who live in Africa’s drylands are highly exposed to climate shocks, and this number is set to grow by at least 50% by 2030. We cannot fully quantify the human cost, but Kenya alone suffered losses of $12 billion in the 2008 to 2011 drought. Official development assistance (ODA) in humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa after the 2011 drought was $4 billion, 10% of all aid to Africa.
  • Africa’s coastal cities are engines of growth, but are highly vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise. In the last three years, major floods have hit cities such as Maputo, Dakar, Lagos and Douala. Like droughts, floods won’t go away. Along with periods of extreme heat, strong winds and coastal storms, they are likely to become more frequent.
  • Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, from March 2014, was the most widespread, and reached epidemic proportions. The poor bore the brunt, lost their jobs and incomes, had difficulty accessing medical services and suffered psycho-social trauma. On a macro-level, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are estimated to lose over $1.6 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015.
  • Conflicts and disasters often reinforce each other to worsen negative development impacts and increase human suffering. From 2005 to2009, more than 50% of people affected by disasters lived in fragile and conflict-affected states (globally). Fourteen out of the 20 most conflict-affected states are in Africa.

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