A three-day policy dialogue on the challenges of disasters caused by climate change, compound disasters, and the lessons learned from rapid recovery and prevention, was held in Chengdu, the People's Republic of China, from 10 to 12 June. The event, organized in collaboration with the Institute for Disaster Management and Reconstruction, Sichuan University, was attended by senior officials from the ministries of finance, and agencies involved in disaster risk management (DRM) in their respective economies in the Asia and Pacific region.
The workshop addressed two key DRM issues: (i) DRM challenges facing the region's economies, and (ii) best practices to manage disaster risks.
The Asia and Pacific region is one of the most vulnerable regions to natural disasters due to its geographic location. Not only does it experience the largest share of natural disasters, the region also accounts for the greatest number of disaster victims per year. Six of the top 10 countries in terms of people killed by natural disasters are in Asia (Sapir et al. 2013). According to ADBI's recent study, Disaster Risk Management in Asia and the Pacific, ADB member countries represent 57% of the global population but bear 88% of disaster-affected populations.
ADBI has recently concluded a joint study with ADB on DRM in the Asia and Pacific region. Recognizing that in 2015, two international frameworks (the Millennium Development Goals and the Hyogo Framework for Action) will draw to a close, the study was conducted to inform the international debate on progress with both frameworks to define ways to manage the debate and establish critical links to development policies and practices.
The policy dialogue on DRM systems introduced the key findings and conclusions of the study to regional policymakers by a team of international consultants who conducted the research. The study's key findings and conclusions were supplemented with case studies of four recent major disasters in the Asia and Pacific region: the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the 2008 Great Sichuan Earthquake in the PRC, and the 2013 Cyclone Phailin in India. Through the use of case studies of these major disasters, this policy dialogue identified the lessons and best practices to improve DRM systems.
The key workshop conclusions were as follows:
- While the number of disasters has increased, the majority of disasters are hydro-meteorological, with geological disasters showing a relatively stable trend.
- It appears that climate change has caused an increasing number of tropical storms, and increased both the size and impact of cyclones.
- However, developing countries will also need to improve their seismic surveys and take additional precautions.
- A compound disaster is an emergency situation with adverse consequences resulting from different, but related, disaster-agents, such as an earthquake followed by a fire outbreak. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake had extraordinary consequences and showed that hazards lurk beyond one's normal expectations.
- Reconstruction can occur on a massive scale with strong government support. However, the cost of operations should be given adequate attention.
- A comprehensive analysis of disaster preparedness must accompany any reconstruction plan.
- Due to rising populations in developing countries, designing collapse-proof buildings is too costly. We cannot rely solely on engineering, so different sectors will have to cooperate and coordinate to address disaster risks. Adequate risk assessment should be conducted through interdisciplinary cooperation.
- Economists will need to make assessments of cost-effectiveness in reconstruction for sustainable development.
- Mortality data is only helpful in evaluating past historical situations to provide a comparison with the scale of the human impact of disasters.
- Human losses are not covered by insurance because their expected life income could be misleading as the aged do not make any income.
- There is no unique single model with which to create a strong national DRM system. However, general principles should be followed.
- For most national reconstruction and recovery plans, responsibilities should be shared and indicated clearly for each stakeholder.
- An effective DRM system must shift from a top-down to a bottom-up design with investment in training and education. DRM training should be done locally to encourage people to plan and prepare for disasters. Sichuan University has launched a DRM master course, and hazard education has been made a core course for other undergraduates throughout the universitya highly commendable development.
- Disaster information should become a public good. Controlling disasters is an interdisciplinary process with the responsibility to be shared among different sectors. The key to achieving this is through information technology.
- One needs to study how reconstruction will impact the local ecology and ensure the sustainability of all disaster recovery and reconstruction plans.
- Social resilience is just as important to reconstruction as engineering resilience. Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, for example, Japanese investment banks opened their offices early the next business day in order to calm worried clients. This helped prevent a financial catastrophe, which could have compounded Japan's already serious situation after the disaster.