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Posts Tagged ‘Natural Disaster’

Better urban planning needed to dodge disasters

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 11, 2013


  • Developing world will have 4 billion in cities by 2030
  • Urban flooding is a top worry
  • “Compact cities” speed emergency response
  • Colombo’s remedy for flash floods: lakes and pumps

DownloadCOLOMBO, 9 April 2013 (IRIN) – With the world’s mega-cities growing even larger, policymakers – especially those in developing countries – need urban planning that will help these areas withstand the impacts of natural disasters.

The urban population in developing countries is expected to double to four billion people by 2030, from two billion at the start of the century, according to a recent World Bank report on urban planning.

The physical space of these cities is likely to triple in size to 600,000sqkm over the same period, the report revealed, noting that implementing the right planning policies will be “the key to resilient and sustainable development”.

Abhas K. Jha, a World Bank sector manager for urban and disaster risk management in East Asia and the Pacific, based in Washington, DC, told IRIN it is crucial for government officials to build cities’ “resilience” to disaster.

Need risk assessment

“An assessment of the risk levels, a cost-benefit analysis of available interventions, and an inventory of existing capacity and financial resources can guide decision-makers in cities or in national governments in the prioritization of concrete actions,” Jha said.

He added that the first step is to understand risks at the national, regional and city levels.

“We have seen that disasters can wipe out decades of progress, and that [these] impacts can be felt throughout the whole region and globally, too, through supply chains and trade patterns,” said the Bank expert.

O.P. Agrawal, an urban transport specialist and one of the co-authors of the World Bank report, said planning is paramount to avoid hefty disaster-related bills. “The sooner you get into planning cities, even those cities that are already large, the more cost-effective it will be.”

Having a lead agency helps, he said, “to get good urban planning off the ground” so city services know about one another’s plans, urban emergency services are handled more effectively and land use is regulated more easily.

Urban flooding

South Asia is home to some of the fastest-growing cities worldwide. Some of the main cities in the region include Dhaka, Bangladesh, which has a population of 13-15 million and is home to 37 percent of the country’s people, and Colombo, Sri Lanka, which has a population of 753,000. Both are the main economic engines of their countries and are prone to natural disasters, with floods being a top threat.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Must-Reads from Around the World: March 20, 2012

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 20, 2012

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaking during a Ramadan Iftar banquet in honor of Muslim clergymen, in Damascus, Syria, 24 August 2011. (Photo: SANA / EPA)


More Syria Leaks – Al Jazeera reveals details from confidential Syrian intelligence and security documents handed over by one of the government’s most trusted officials who recently fled to Turkey. The trove shows President Bashar Assad’s strategy to suppress anti-government protests, including orders to stop protesters from getting into Damascus and detailed security plans for crushing protests in the cities of Aleppo and Idlib, as well as warnings about countries trying to influence Syrian diplomats to defect and indications the government spied on last year’s Arab League monitoring mission in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »

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The World’s Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 20, 2011

Tiffany M. Luck

In Pictures: The 20 Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities
Earthquake Reaction And Overreaction
The World’s Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities
China’s Mandate Of Heaven
A Tale of Two Disasters
Quake Could Rock China Life
Economic Impact Of China’s Great Quake

The earthquake in China’s Sichuan province killed perhaps 15,000 people and left thousands of people buried under heaps of rubble.

And while a massive quake like this one–magnitude 7.9–would undoubtedly do damage to any world city, the death toll and degree of destruction has more to do with investment in well-designed infrastructure capable of handling a massive earthquake than the quake itself. Unlike the Beijing Olympic venues, built to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, the majority of China’s infrastructure in the area proved ill-prepared for a shock like Monday’s–felt as far away as Hanoi, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand.

Blame the mortality spread on exponential population growth, increasing poverty and lax or nonexistent building codes. In short: Poor nations–like China–run far greater risk of earthquake fatalities than rich ones.

In Pictures: The World’s Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities

GeoHazards International, a nonprofit research group aiming to reduce suffering due to natural disasters, measured the lethal potential of seismic disasters facing small and large cities in Asia and the Americas–areas most at risk for seismic calamity. The sample cities spanned both developed and developing countries. Variables measured: building frailty, potential for landslides and fires, and the rescue, firefighting and life-saving medical abilities of local authorities.

Kathmandu, Nepal, ranked first in the 2001 study, followed by Istanbul, Turkey; Delhi, India; Quito, Ecuador; Manila, Philippines; and Islambad/Rawalpindi, Pakistan–all of which could expect fatalities in the tens of thousands if disaster struck. The only first-world cities on the list were in Japan: Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe. Fatalities in these cities were estimated in the hundreds, not thousands.

Events since then show the estimates to be fairly accurate, if not low. The magnitude 7.6 quake that struck the Kashmir region of Pakistan in October 2005 killed more than 73,000 people, many in remote parts of the country, not dense urban centers like Islamabad. Geohazard’s study predicted a 6.0 hit on Pakistan’s capitol would kill 12,500 people.

In a 2004 paper, Brian E. Tucker of GeoHazards warned the problem would become worse, citing a study of estimated earthquake fatalities based on population growth and construction changes in northern India. One scary finding: A magnitude 8.3 earthquake striking Shillong might kill 60 times as many people as were killed during a similar size quake that hit in 1897, even though the population of the region has increased by only a factor of about eight since then. Reason: The replacement of single-story bamboo homes with multistory, poorly constructed concrete-frame structures, often on steep slopes, has made the population much more vulnerable. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thailand, Sinking: Parts of Bangkok Could Be Underwater in 2030

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 21, 2011

By Bruno Philip / Le Monde / Worldcrunch

This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global-news site that translates stories of note in foreign

Rain clouds fill the sky over Bangkok, Thailand, 01 July 2011. Narong Sangnak/ EPA

languages into English. The article below was originally published in Le Monde

BANGKOK — Day after day, Bangkok sinks. Inexorably. The most pessimistic experts are afraid part of Thailand’s capital will be submerged by 2030. Specialists complain about the absence of any policy in place to prevent a disaster that seems bound to occur.

This looming natural disaster risk will be a central challenge for the new government arriving after the July 3 elections. Climate change, rising sea level, coastal erosion: a variety of converging factors could lead to the end of the biggest city of the Chao Praya river delta, originally built up after a commitment on April 21, 1782 by the first sovereign of the Chakri dynasty. The family still reigns today.(Special: Top 10 Historic U.S. Floods)

The city continues to multiply demographically: some 10 million people now live in the center or in the suburbs of this megalopolis. Even the weight of the skyscrapers contributes to the progressive engulfing of Bangkok. The soils descend from 1.5 to 5.3 cm each year, and a big part of the megalopolis is already under sea level.

Sooner or later, the rising sea level will threaten more that 1 million buildings, 90% of which are residential. In the Samunt Prakan harbor, about 15 kilometers away from Bangkok, the suburban houses along the river are already flooded certain months of the year. In a report published by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Bangkok appears on the list of the cities threatened by climate change. Read the rest of this entry »

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Global warming swells glacial lakes, endangering thousands

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 16, 2010

BANGKOK, 16 September 2010 (IRIN) – As global warming shrinks glaciers along the world’s highest peaks, glacial

The natural dam of the Dig Tsho glacier lake was struck by an ice avalanche in 1985

lakes in Nepal are increasingly at risk of bursting the natural dams containing them – endangering the lives of tens of thousands in communities below, experts say.

Nepalese authorities have identified about 20 “priority” lakes at risk of leading to glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), and are using various methods to reduce the volume of water in some of them.

“With climate change causing the rapid melting of glaciers, the glacial lakes are growing so quickly that the risk of a disaster occurring throughout the Himalayas is increasing,” said Pradeep Mool, of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a Kathmandu-based organization funded by eight countries that researches climate change and mountain ecosystems.

“GLOFs come very fast, carry great big boulders; they can push down rock walls and destroy river banks. The destructive impact is very, very high,” Mool told IRIN by phone from Kathmandu.

GLOFs occur when the natural dams of ice or rock containing glacial lakes collapse because the lake has rapidly increased in size or its walls are shattered by earthquakes or avalanches. The resulting floods can cause rivers downstream to rise up to 35 metres, destroying everything in their path for up to 100km in only eight hours, he added. Read the rest of this entry »

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Water is a good servant but a bad master

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 4, 2010


JOHANNESBURG, 4 August 2010 (IRIN) – The floods in northwest Pakistan could be a foretaste of things to come if you go by a recent report warning that in the next two decades factors like climate change could make water-related humanitarian crises a new source of concern.

The waters of the Third Pole, produced by the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King’s College, London, said the region was not prepared to deal with such crises.

The flooded part of Pakistan lies in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region, billed as the most disaster-prone in the world, according to the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which serves as a regional policy think-tank for its eight member countries.

The HKH region is sometimes referred to as the Third Pole because it has the largest expanse of frozen water outside the Polar Regions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asia most at risk from natural disasters

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 31, 2010

NAIROBI, 31 May 2010 (IRIN) – Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran and Pakistan top a new ranking of countries at “extreme risk” of experiencing natural disasters compiled by a global risk assessment company.

The Natural Disaster Risk Index (NDRI), released on 27 May by Maplecroft, ranks 229 countries according to the human impact of natural disasters in terms of deaths per annum and per million of population, plus the frequency of events as well as the likelihood of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, storms, flooding, droughts, landslides, extreme temperatures and epidemics. Asia accounts for most of the disaster-related deaths since 1980.

Ranking countries most vulnerable to natural disasters over the past 30 years could enable businesses and investors to identify risks to international assets while supporting humanitarian efforts to push governments into investing in disaster risk reduction initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »

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