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disaster risk management

Protecting Bhutan’s cultural heritage

Dechen Tshering's picture
Cultural heritage is an extremely important aspect of Bhutan and is one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness, the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s development


Culture defines the sovereignty and identity of Bhutan and its people.

And the intricate beauty and uniqueness of its traditional architecture are known around the world.

As such, cultural heritage preservation is one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness, the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s development, and is embedded in all its national development policies.

In this context, the Royal Government of Bhutan has made it a priority to sustain both tangible and intangible aspects of its culture with dedicated offices under the Department of Culture of Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MOHCA), which work closely with local governments.

This work is critical as Bhutan’s monuments are vulnerable.

The 2009 and 2011 earthquakes damaged hundreds of historic monasteries and fortresses known as dzongs, including the Lhuntse and Trashigang Dzongs (2009) and the Paro Tadzong (2011).

Also, fires triggered some of the worst disasters in Bhutan’s cultural history.

The famous Paro Taktshang, nicknamed the Tiger’s Nest and the Wangduephodrang Dzong were burnt down in 2008 and 2012 respectively.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Dzongs of Bhutan is their strategic location.

How can Sri Lanka better protect its people against disasters?

Thomas Walker's picture
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050

Sri Lanka has a long history of coping with weather impacts.  

About two thousand years ago, the country built one of the world’s first irrigation system to control its water supply.

This feat of engineering, which boasted hundreds of kilometers of channels, tanks, and innovative valve pits, helped the great kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa flourish into sophisticated societies and protect their people against hunger.

Not unlike these early civilizations, modern social protection programs have sheltered those affected by disaster through financial assistance and other forms of support.

Today, building resilience to natural disasters and other shocks is more critical than ever.

Since 1980, the frequency of natural disasters worldwide has increased by 250 percent, and the number of affected people has more than doubled.

Sri Lanka is no exception. The country ranked fourth most vulnerable to climate change in 2016.

Further to that, a recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050.

The losses caused by significant shocks like natural disasters have long-lasting consequences.

Children, especially, can suffer permanent damages if they are not educated or fed correctly in their critical early years.  

And the loss of assets, livestock, and crops can severely hurt small business owners and farmers and further discourage them from investing.

Sadly, natural disasters hit the poor the hardest as they tend to live in disaster-prone areas, work in agriculture, and usually don’t have savings or access to credit.

When a shock hits, wellbeing declines as people cut back on food and other essentials due to their loss of income or the high cost of rebuilding their homes.

And while some people gradually restore their standards of living, some never fully recover and get stuck in poverty.

But the poor aren’t the only ones who need to worry about shocks.

Today, a third of Sri Lankans are just a shock away from falling into poverty.

Our analysis of the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey reveals that a 20 percent sudden decrease in household welfare—or consumption shock—would more than double the poverty rate: almost 1 in 10 Sri Lankans would be poor.

If the shock triggered a 50 percent decrease in consumption, one in three Sri Lankan families would fall into poverty.

How can Bangladesh increase its resilience to disasters through data sharing?

Debashish Paul Shuvra's picture
 
How can Bangladesh increase its resilience to disasters?

Schools across Bangladesh are highly vulnerable to floods, cyclones, and earthquakes. How can the country mitigate and respond to the risks of these natural hazards?

By using the GeoDASH platform - a geospatial data sharing platform - the Directorate of Primary Education of Bangladesh has assessed 35,000 schools with respect to the type of infrastructure, water and sanitation facilities, access to roads, and overall capacity during natural disasters.

The GeoDASH platform is a reliable and extensive geographic and information (geospatial) data network.

These data are Geographic Information System (GIS) and other geolocation services-based information to represent objects or locations on a globally referenceable platform to enable mapping.

For example, locations of road network data can be merged with the flood risk map to get a single map for identifying vulnerable road communication in flood-prone areas.

This type of data will allow the Government of Bangladesh, communities, and the private sector to create, share and use disaster risk and climate change information to inform risk-sensitive decision making.

From Japan to Bhutan: Improving the resilience of cultural heritage sites

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
This page in: 日本語
 Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018
When it comes to their heritage buildings, both Bhutan and Japan have one common enemy: Fire. A view of Wangduephodrang Dzong in Bhutan which was destroyed by fire in 2012. Credit: Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018

About 2,749 miles, three countries, and a sea separate Kyoto, Japan, and Thimphu, Bhutan. The countries’ languages are different, and so are their histories.

But when it comes to their heritage buildings, both nations have one common enemy: Fire.

And to help prevent fire hazards, there’s a lot Bhutan can learn from Japan’s experience.

To that end, a Bhutanese delegation visited Tokyo and Kyoto last year to attend the Resilient Cultural Heritage and Tourism Technical Deep Dive to learn best practices on risk preparedness and mitigation, and apply them to Bhutan’s context.

Such knowledge is critical as Bhutan’s communities live in and around great heritage sites.

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.

Building safer houses in Northern India

Hyunjee Oh's picture
The State of Uttarakhand is endowed with vast natural resources, and is one of the most frequented pilgrimage/ tourist destinations in India. However, the State also has a very fragile terrain that is also highly prone to earthquakes.
The State of Uttarakhand is endowed with vast natural resources, and is one of the most frequented pilgrimage and tourist destinations in India. However, the State also has a very fragile terrain that is also highly prone to earthquakes. Credit: GFDRR/ World Bank
This blog is part of a series exploring the housing reconstruction progress in Uttarakhand, India.
 
In June 2013, a heavy deluge caused devastating floods and landslides in the state of Uttarakhand located in the Himalayan foothills. The disaster – the worst in the country since the 2003 tsunami—hit more than 4,200 villages, damaged 2,500 houses, and killed 4,000 people.
 
Since 2013, the Government of Uttarakhand with support from the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has helped the people of Uttarakhand restore their homes, build better roads, and better manage future disaster risks through the Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project (UDRP).
 
Central to the project is rebuilding 2,382 houses that are more resilient to disasters. The project has promoted an owner-driven housing reconstruction model, whereby beneficiaries rebuild their houses on their own with technical and social support from a local NGO, using guidelines issued by the project for disaster resilient housing.
 
Watch how we’ve helped build safer houses for the people in Uttarakhand:
 
Building Safer Houses in Northern India

 

When in the eye of a storm….

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
Abandoned fishing boats lay on the banks of the dried Siyambalankkatuwa reservoir in Sri Lanka's Puttalam District, Aug. 10, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Amantha Perera
Abandoned fishing boats lay on the banks of the dried Siyambalankkatuwa reservoir in Sri Lanka's Puttalam District, Aug. 10, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Amantha Perera
This year, yet again, flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains came and receded. Meanwhile, this year alone, more than one million people have been hard hit by the worst drought in 40 years.
 
The media, with few exceptions, have moved on to other topics and a sense of calm pervades. 
 
We are in the eye of the storm -- that misleading lull before mother nature unleashes her fury once again. 
 
In Sri Lanka alone, costs from natural disasters, losses from damage to housing, infrastructure, agriculture, and from relief are estimated at LKR 50 billion (approx. USD 327 million).  The highest annual expected losses are from floods (LKR 32 billion), cyclones or high winds (LKR 11 billion), droughts (LKR 5.2 billion) and landslides (LKR 1.8 billion). This is equivalent to 0.4 percent of GDP or 2.1 percent of government expenditure. (#SLDU2017). Floods and landslides in May 2016 caused damages amounting to US$572 million.   
 
These numbers do not paint the full picture of impact for those most affected, who lost loved ones, irreplaceable belongings, or livestock and more so for those who are back to square one on the socio-economic ladder.
 
Even more alarming, these numbers are likely to rise as droughts and floods triggered by climate change will become more frequent and severe. And the brief respite in between will only get shorter, leaving less time to prepare for the hard days to come.
 
Therefore, better planning is even more necessary. Sri Lanka, like many other countries has started to invest in data that highlights areas at risk, and early warning systems to ensure that people move to safer locations with speed and effect.
 
Experience demonstrates that the eye of the storm is the time to look to the future, ready up citizens and institutions in case of extreme weather.
 
Now is the time to double down on preparing national plans to respond to disasters and build resilience. 

It’s the time to test our systems and get all citizens familiar with emergency drills. But, more importantly, we need to build back better and stronger.  In drought-affected areas, we can’t wait for the rains and revert to the same old farming practices. It’s time to innovate and stock up on critical supplies and be prepared when a disaster hits.
 
It’s the time to plan for better shelters that are safe and where people can store their hard-earned possessions.
 
Mobilizing and empowering communities is essential. But to do this, we must know who is vulnerable – and whether they should stay or move.  Saving lives is first priority, no doubt. Second, we should also have the necessary systems and equipment to respond with speed and effect in times of disasters. Third, a plan must be in place to help affected families without much delay.
 
Fortunately, many ongoing initiatives aim to do just that.

Bangladesh: Building resilience in the eye of the storm (Part 3/3)

Sameh Wahba's picture


This is the third of a three-part series, Resilience in the of the Eye of the Storm, on how Bangladesh has become a leader in coastal resilience.
 
Over the years, Bangladesh has taken major strides to reduce the vulnerability of its people to disasters and climate change. And today, the country is at the forefront in managing disaster risks and building coastal resilience.
 
Let’s compare the impact of the Bhola Cyclone of 1970 to the far stronger Cyclone Sidr in 2007. The 1970 cyclone was then the deadliest in Bangladesh’s history, and one of the 10 deadliest natural disasters on record. Official documents indicate that over 300,000 lives were lost, and many believe the actual numbers could be far higher. 
 
By contrast, Sidr was the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in Bangladesh. This time, fewer than 3,500 people lost their lives. While tragic, this represents about 1% of the lives lost in 1970 or 3% of the nearly 140,000 lost lives in the 1991 cyclone.
 
The cyclones of 1970 and 1991 were unprecedented in scale. Yet, they steered the country into action.

Climate in Crisis: How Risk Information Can Build Resilience in Afghanistan

Julian Palma's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
Afghanistan is vulnerable to a number of natural hazards, including earthquakes, flooding, drought, landslides and avalanches, as well as hazards arising from human interaction. Among low income countries, Afghanistan is second only to Haiti in terms of the number of fatalities caused by natural disasters between 1980 and 2015. In the last few years, however, the Afghan Government has increasingly understood how the consequences of extreme weather events and disasters add to existing security risks. Severe and prolonged droughts, for instance, have increased food insecurity, causing on average $280 million in economic damage to agriculture each year. Natural disasters and climate-related shocks affect 59 percent of the population, concentrated in economically poorer regions, as opposed to security-related shocks (15 percent).[1]
 
The availability of disaster risk information is particularly important for a fragile state like Afghanistan where 4 out of 5 people rely on natural resources for their livelihoods.[2] To strengthen resilience, investments in Afghanistan need to incorporate information on natural hazards in their planning, design and implementation. To help support government efforts, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), in close cooperation with the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), recently produced a comprehensive multi-hazard assessment level and risk profile[3], documenting information on current and future risk from fluvial and flash floods, droughts, landslides, snow avalanches and seismic hazards. The main findings, methodology and expected outcomes were recently discussed and presented to the Disaster Risk Management community of practice within the World Bank Group. A number of takeaways from the discussion are presented below:
 
What is Afghanistan’s risk profile and vulnerability?
  • Flooding is the most frequent natural hazard historically, causing average annual damage estimated at $54 million; large flood episodes can cause over $500 million in damage
  • Historically, earthquakes have caused the most fatalities, killing more than 10,000 people since 1980
  • 3 million people are at risk from very high or high landslide hazard
  • Droughts have affected 6.5 million people since 2000; an extreme drought could cause an estimated $3 billion in agricultural losses, and lead to severe food shortages across the country;
  • An estimated 10,000 km of roads (15 percent of all roads) are exposed to avalanches, including key transport routes like the Salang Pass

Bangladesh: Building resilience in the eye of the storm (Part 2/3)

Sameh Wahba's picture

Photo: Swarna Kazi / World Bank

This is the second of a three-part series, "Resilience in the of the Eye of the Storm," on how Bangladesh has become a leader in coastal resilience.

 
With a population of 160 million, Bangladesh is situated at the epicenter of some of the deadliest cyclones the world has ever experienced. Catastrophic events are the norm rather than the exception. A severe tropical cyclone can strike every 3 years and 25% of the land floods annually.
 
The network of the mighty Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna rivers makes its meandering journey through the delta into the Bay of Bengal forming the coast of Bangladesh.
 
The jagged coastline of Bangladesh spans hundreds of miles and is subject to multiple challenges: 62% of the coastal land has an elevation of up to 3 meters and 83% is up to 5 meters above sea level. These low-lying areas are highly vulnerable to natural hazards.
 
Earlier this year, I got a chance to see first-hand the challenges that this demanding landscape had brought onto the communities of a remote coastal village. What struck me most when speaking to members of this coastal community was their courage and resilience. Aware that a calamity can hit anytime, they struggle to protect their livelihoods affected by saltwater intrusion, and their own lives which are increasingly at risk due to rising sea levels, and exposure to more frequent and devastating storms and cyclones.
 
By 2050, the coastal population is projected to grow to 61 million people, whose livelihoods will increasingly be at risk due to the impact of climate change.
 
Triggered by climate change, seawater inundation could become a major problem for traditional agriculture. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (2014), climate-related declines in food productivity will impact livelihoods and exports and increase poverty. In Bangladesh, it is estimated that these factors would cause a net increase in poverty of 15% by 2030.
 
To mitigate against such risks, the government has been investing in strengthening the resilience of the coastal zone. Over the years, Bangladesh has become an example of how protective coastal infrastructure, together with social mobilization and community-based early warning systems, is helping to build resilience.

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