Every person visiting Central Asia is impressed by the beauty of its distinctive landscape and nature: majestic mountains, alpine lakes and rivers, and vast steppes. But that beauty is under threat—seriously impacted by unsustainable anthropogenic activity. The tragedy of the Aral Sea is a stark reminder of how fragile our planet Earth is. The effects of climate change caused by human activity on nature is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing us now.
The role climate change plays in exacerbating the intensity and frequency of natural disasters have long been established. More severe weather, wildfires, heat events, rise in sea level, and loss of ice caps are just some of the consequences of global warming that directly and indirectly endanger lives and livelihoods.
Central Asia is a region already particularly vulnerable to a variety of natural hazards, including floods, earthquakes, droughts, and mudslides. Over the past 30 years, the region suffered from 140 natural hazards—geophysical, hydrological, meteorological, and epidemiological events—that impacted more than 10 million people and caused more than $3.7 billion in damages.
We expect that with the increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related hazards and the growing exposure of people and assets to them, we will continue to see more climate-related disasters. In turn, the resources required for disaster response and recovery pose a significant burden on public finances and a huge toll on governments’ budgets, often diverting resources away from other much needed investments in infrastructure and services.
What can be done?
One approach is to work together as a region to coordinate our efforts in disaster risk management by exchanging knowledge, information, and technology, as disasters know no borders. There is also a need to shift the focus from response and recovery to prevention and preparedness, which would reduce the effects of disasters, enable more effective response, and thus better protect people and their well-being and safeguard developmental gains.
For the past three years, we at the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) have been implementing the Strengthening Financial Resilience and Accelerating Risk Reduction in Central Asia program (SFRARR, The Program), funded by the European Union. The Program supports all five Central Asian countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan— to improve financial resilience and risk-informed investment planning toward building disaster and climate resilience across the region.
A key focus of SFRARR is to enhance regional cooperation to better manage disaster risks in Central Asia. The Program partners with the Centre for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction, which provides a platform for regional cooperation between the governments in Central Asia. The Program has also been backing the work of the Regional Scientific and Technical Council for Emergency Situations (the Council), established in 2019. The Council provides technical advice and inputs as well as supports and enhances knowledge exchange and collaboration on a range of disaster-risk issues including natural hazards, hydrometeorology, and climate change.
SFRARR will produce a regional multi-hazard risk assessment, which is the product of inputs from and exchanges between the five Central Asian countries. Such a hands-on process pulls together stakeholders and communities across the region for a common purpose and contributes to enhancing regional cooperation essential for better protecting lives and livelihoods.
Beyond that, SFRARR contributes to prevention and preparedness in Central Asia by helping the countries to better understand and quantify disaster and climate risks for improved planning and decision-making. For example, data on the assets exposed to disaster and climate risks were collected and shared while a homogenized database of structures, infrastructure, and crop assets was assembled. This material went toward producing the regional multi-hazard risk assessment. This information and the eventual risk assessment it underlies will allow countries to know the amount, location and types of assets at risk—critical to devising appropriate preventive and preparation measures.
SFRARR will be completed by the end of 2023. Looking ahead, we will continue our work on finalizing the regional multi-hazard risk assessment for the region, support related technical activities for the five countries as needed, as well as organize regional workshops to share achieved results. We know that SFRARR is only a part of the much larger ongoing efforts on managing disaster risks and building climate resilience in Central Asia. Governments, people and other development partners are also working hard on other initiatives and efforts in this area.
As the world celebrates the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day, it is important to remind ourselves of the fragility of our environment—we must invest in our planet today to ensure a brighter future tomorrow.
For more information about the SFRARR Program, please contact Ms. Chyi-Yun Huang, Senior Urban Development and Disaster Risk Management Specialist, SCAUR at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Mr. Stephan Zimmermann, Disaster Risk Management Specialist, GFDRR at email@example.com