Special Evaluation Study on ADB's Response to Natural Disasters and Disaster Risks

Four of five cities classified as extreme risks among the world's fastest growing urban areas are in Asia. The region accounts for half of the estimated economic cost of disasters over the past 20 years. By one estimate, floods and landslides cost the People's Republic of China some $18 billion in 2010 alone, and Thailand an estimated $45 billion in 2011. Policymakers need to recognize that investments in disaster risk management are an essential means to sustain growth.

This evaluation distinguishes between two broad categories of disaster-related operations - those in disaster prevention and those in disaster recovery. If only those projects focused predominantly on disaster prevention are taken into account, the share of disaster-related investment was one-third, compared with two-thirds spent on disaster recovery after disasters had struck. Given that $1 spent on disaster prevention can obviate the need for considerable spending later - at least $4 on disaster recovery by some measures calculated by the United Nations - ADB should consider giving greater emphasis to disaster prevention in its dialogue with clients, if not in actual lending, particularly in the many high-risk countries.

Although disaster recovery projects have been much more successful than ADB supported projects overall, many disaster recovery projects were mainly concerned with the somewhat limited objective of restoring particular types of infrastructure in the affected areas, rather than rehabilitating livelihoods, or increasing disaster resilience by building back better. On the other hand, the disaster prevention projects that ADB supported usually delivered infrastructure as planned, but were often still less likely to be sustainable in the medium and long term. Weak organizations and limited financial resources assigned to maintenance were main reasons for this.

This evaluation brings out a few considerations of broader interest. First, in measuring against stated objectives, we need to take extra care to assess if the objectives are relevant enough. Second, country demand, especially as expressed by a particular government ministry, can only be one input to ADB strategy for being most helpful.

ADB needs to integrate climate change and natural disaster programs, and to improve its capacity in both. Additional expertise is required for profiling natural disaster vulnerability zones, managing disaster aftermaths, and increasing funds for disaster risk financing. ADB should create the demand in countries for disaster risk reduction activities to tackle the increasing risks.

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