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Disasters

Sri Lanka: Building a more resilient economy

Smriti Daniel's picture



At the launch of the Sri Lanka Development Update (SLDU), our Twitter chat #SLDU2017: Environmental Benefits of Economic Management set out to explore how Sri Lanka could meet the twin challenges of increasing its physical and financial resilience.
 
The panel comprised experts from the World Bank - Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough; Senior Economist Ralph van Doorn and senior environmental specialist Darshani De Silva – and Kanchana Wickramasinghe, a research economist in the Institute of Policy Studies. Together, they unpacked the SLDU, discussed its key findings and fielded questions from across the region around its main themes.
 
The bi-annual report, notes key economic developments over the preceding months, placing them in a longer term and global perspective; in the Special Focus section, it explores topics of particular policy significance to Sri Lanka. 
 
Ralph started with the idea that Sri Lanka faces a window of opportunity during which key reforms could transform the country and its economy. He noted that Sri Lanka’s position in the global economy improved its global growth prospects, as well as that of its key export partners. Low commodity prices and the restoration of the GSP+ preferential trade arrangement with the EU had also combined to improve the outlook for the Sri Lankan economy.

For Idah, the country’s mood and the government’s commitment to change were critical to success:   
 
The panel delved into how natural disasters and extreme weather events posed a threat to Sri Lanka’s growing economy. In the short-term the damage was clear and serious, with losses amounting to several billions a year, as Idah noted in her blog. During the chat, she emphasised how Sri Lanka needed to be prepared for future disasters or it would cost the country enormously.
 
Kanchana pointed out that in the long-term, disasters could set back poverty alleviation efforts, especially in agricultural and rural areas, adding:
 

With the chat underway, questions poured in from an online audience who were interested in diverse issues – from managing Sri Lanka’s ongoing drought and its impact on the Northern Province to what insights the SLDU had to offer other countries in the region such as 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
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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.

When Afghan refugees come home

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
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When it comes to conflict and displacement, we often think about the refugees forced to flee their homes. Equally affected, however, are the ones making their way home after a trying time in exile—the returnees.

In South Asia, Afghanistan is a country experiencing a huge influx of returnees, many from Pakistan and Iran. In 2016 alone, the country welcomed 600,000 returnees. UNHCR predicts another 500,000 to 700,000 returnees by the end of 2017.

On top of that, conflict-driven displacement continues in Afghanistan. In a country of over 30 million people, there is an estimated 1-2 million of displaced population (UN-OCHA, UNHCR, IOM).

One can only imagine how much pressure the displacement crisis is putting on the cities and communities hosting refugees and returnees—starting with the challenge of providing basic services such as water and housing, let alone jobs and security.


In this video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Lead Social Development Specialist Janmejay Singh will unpack the challenge and share how innovative community-driven approaches are helping to support returnees in conflict-affected Afghanistan—through Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project and other World Bank-supported activities.

Bangladesh: Building resilience in the eye of the storm (Part 1/3)

Sameh Wahba's picture
 
 Ismail Ferdous/World Bank
Bangladesh, for its geographical location, is in the frontline of the battle against climate change. Credit: Ismail Ferdous/World Bank


This blog is the first of  a series on how Bangladesh has become a leader in coastal resilience.
 
While flying along the coast of Bangladesh earlier this year, I saw from the sky a vast, serene delta landscape, crisscrossed by innumerable rivers and contoured paddy fields.
 
Nonetheless, I was aware that this apparent quietude might well be the calm before a storm.
 
Indeed. the magnitude of threats faced by Bangladesh is unprecedented in terms of risk, exposure and vulnerability. And with a population of 160 million, the country is one of the world’s most disaster prone and vulnerable to tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods, a changing climate and even earthquakes.
 
However, the story of Bangladesh is one of resilience.
 
After the deadly cyclones of 1970 and 1991, which together resulted in the loss of at least half a million lives, the government of Bangladesh instituted disaster risk reduction policies and invested in infrastructure and community-based early warning systems to reduce risks from coastal hazards.
 
Over the years, these investments in cyclone preparedness and flood management helped save lives, reduce economic losses, and protect developmental gains. As a result, the government’s actions are globally cited as being proactive in investing in disaster risk management.
 
The World Bank has been a longstanding partner of the government in investing for resilience.

Local communities combat climate change in Bangladesh

Shilpa Banerji's picture
Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan/World Bank
Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable countries to flooding and climate change impacts. Photo Credit: 
Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan/World Bank

How can a country vulnerable to natural disasters mitigate the effects of climate change? In Bangladesh, resilient communities have shown that by using local solutions it is possible to combat different types of climate change impacting different parts of the country.
 
Every year, flash floods and drought affect the north and north-west regions. Drinking water becomes scarce, land becomes barren and people struggle to find shelter for themselves and their livestock. In the coastal districts, excessive saline makes it impossible to farm and fish.
 
The Community Climate Change Project (CCCP) has awarded grants to around 41 NGOs to address salinity, flood and drought-prone areas. With the help from local NGOs, communities innovated simple solutions to cope up with changing climate and earn a better living benefiting at least 40,000 people in the most vulnerable districts.
 
Raising the plinths of their homes in clusters has helped more than 15,000 families escape floods, and they continued to earn their livelihoods by planting vegetables and rearing goats on raised ground. Vermicomposting has also helped to increase crop yields. In the saline affected areas, many farmers have started to cultivate salinity tolerant crabs with women raising their income level by earning an additional BDT 1500 a month from saline tolerant mud crab culture in high saline areas.
 
Watch how communities use these three solutions to tackle climate change impacts.

Celebrating 15 Years of reengagement in Afghanistan

Raouf Zia's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو




Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, the World Bank suspended its operations in Afghanistan. Work resumed in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people and assist the government in building strong and accountable institutions to deliver services to its citizens.

As we mark the reopening of the World Bank office in Kabul 15 years ago, here are 15 highlights of our engagement in the country:

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