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Disaster Resilience

Mother nature and South Asian cities

Rana Amirtahmasebi's picture

Earthquake destruction

In South Asia, 302 million people will join the urban population between 2011 and 2030. If I were one of them, (and let’s assume for a moment that South Asia is one big happy country with no political borders and no religious or ethnic divides), where would I want to live to be safe from natural disasters?

Well, I would probably avoid cities in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan because they face a high risk of earthquakes and landslides. Cities in northern Pakistan are also at risk of heavy inland flooding. How about the coast? Nope. Data tells me that I should avoid coastal areas in Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka because I do not want my house to be blown away in a cyclone or washed away by a storm surge. Maybe I should live in Bangladesh. Yikes! Chittagong, Sylhet and Dhaka are all in very high earthquake hazard zones. And climate change will cause increased precipitation in eastern South Asia and across India, and warming waters in the Bay of Bengal, which, in turn, will increase the frequency and intensity of cyclones in Bangladesh and on the eastern coast of India.  Indeed, for nine cities around the Bay of Bengal, what is now a 100-year storm event may occur as often as every two to five years by the end of the century. So, those areas are out of the question too.

And the situation is only going to get more difficult.

Saving Lives from Cyclone Mahasen in Bangladesh

Masood Ahmad's picture
While Bangladesh played host to yet another deadly cyclone on May 17th, 2013, cyclone shelters provided a critical first line of defense to thousands of poor communities living along the remote coastline of the country. A million poor people fled from their homes to seek refuge before cyclone Mahasen struck the coast.