|A power substation in Yingxhou, Sichuan Province was almost totally destroyed in the magnitude 7.9 Sichuan-Wenchuan earthquake in 2008.|
The statistics are startling. 75% of global flood mortality risk is concentrated in only three Asian countries: Bangladesh, China and India. 85 % of deaths from tropical cyclones are in just two Asian countries: Bangladesh and India. Indeed, Bangladesh alone accounts for over three-quarters of people dying from tropical cyclones. 85% of global earthquake risk is concentrated in only 12% of the earth’s surface—a large part of it in Asia. In 2009, six of the ten countries with the highest mortality rates and GDP losses from natural disasters were in Asia. 82% of all lives lost in disasters since 1997, are in Asian countries.
With the recent MDG summit in New York, I think it’s a good time to stop and take a look at the big water and sanitation picture. We know the numbers of people without access are daunting: 2.5 billion with no sanitation, 887 million without access to safe water. But more and more people are indeed gaining access. Since 1990, 1.6 billion have gained access to safe water. The world will likely even reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) set in 2015 to halve the number of people without access to clean water, according to the UN.
This is no small feat, and the world should take a moment to celebrate this success, and learn from challenges encountered along the way so that we continue beyond 2015 until everyone can access clean water and sanitation.
Usually, when we think of humanitarian relief, images of food drops or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps first come to mind but there is a whole world of altruism that has emerged which is helping behind the scenes in times of crises. Detailed maps are critical to delivering humanitarian relief to the millions of Pakistanis that have been affected by flooding.
|A recently released Post-Disaster Needs Assessment tells of big numbers: total damage and losses following typhoons Ketsana and Parma was US$4.3 billion. (Photo by Nonilon Reyes)|
My mind raced back to the remote town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar, as the Philippines government, development partners and the private sector were discussing the findings of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) in a recent dialogue in Makati City.
The PDNA—prepared by a team of local and international experts from the government agencies, private sector, civil society and development partners—tells about big numbers: total damage and losses following two typhoons, Ketsana and Parma, was US$4.3 billion. And resources needed for the Philippines to pick up the pieces and eventually get back on its feet is equally big—more than US$4.4 billion (pdf). There were discussions about how the PDNA could serve as a framework for recovery and reconstruction, but my mind kept telling me that one of the key principles to effectively address floods and disasters in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon—on top of the required resources, processes, and governance reforms—lies in the experiences of residents of that remote town in the Visayas Islands.
As advanced by my colleague James a few days ago, here's a second slideshow on natural disasters in Vietnam, this time showing prevention and mitigation measures put in place across the country. Again, the photos are striking. And the actions, varied and ingenious.
Some of my colleagues in the Vietnam office of the World Bank, working with Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspapers, recently organized a photo contest and exhibition on the topic of natural disasters. I thought I’d share some of the finalist entries, which are remarkable in their composition and relevance. It’s important to note that these pictures are not related to the disasters that have hit several East Asian and Pacific countries in recent weeks. Nevertheless, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to click through the pictures below, which focus on the human toll of natural disasters in Vietnam. Check back in a couple days for more photos from the same contest.
|For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain on Luzon, causing massive floods and destroying lives and property in Metro Manila. (Photo courtesy of IRRI Images under a Creative Commons license)|
Muelmar Magallanes, an 18 year-old construction worker, had already saved 30 people from the raging floodwaters last Saturday. Shivering and exhausted, he dived back into the murky waters to save a mother and a baby girl who were bobbing up and down among the floating debris and brought them to safety. Then he was gone, swept away by the torrents. His body was found the following day.
Magallanes is one of the more than 240 casualties caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana). For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain (double the volume brought to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina) on Luzon, causing massive floods in Metro Manila and the adjoining regions, destroying lives and property, and creating anguish and devastation in the metropolis.
|The Xe Bang Fai river in Laos started to break its banks over the last two weeks in some areas, causing testing to stop for the Nam Theun 2 project.|
The rainy season in Laos is well advanced now, and the Province of Khammouane, where most of the Nam Theun 2 Hydroelectric Project (NT2) is located, has been hard hit over the last two weeks. Just over a week ago there was 225mm of rain over central Khammouane in one night, leading to floods in several places around the province – including the provincial capital of Thakek. Apparently there were places in Thakek up to a meter deep in water for a while: a combination of heavy rain and blocked drains, according to a local official. Those of us who were in Lao’s capital Vientiane during last year’s floods will vividly remember this.
As a result of this heavy rain, the Xe Bang Fai River, which drains a significant part of Khammouane, started to break its banks over the last week in some areas. The Xe Bang Fai is very significant to the NT2 as it is the river that will receive the water discharged from the hydropower facility when it is operating. The incremental impacts of NT2 water on the regular flood cycle of the Xe Bang Fai river has always been a concern for the project, and was studied extensively.