Floods reveal risk reduction gaps in Thailand

 
GENEVA, 17 October 2011 - The annual monsoon season in South East Asia continues to wreak havoc on lives and economies across many parts of the region with Thailand reportedly suffering from the worst floods in 50 years.

Media and government reports have also provided similar stories of destruction and human suffering across many areas in Cambodia, Laos, and the Philippines.

UNISDR’s Asia Pacific Office reports that due to the lack of disaster risk reduction preparedness (DRR) by many private sector companies in Thailand, more than 900 industrial plants in Ayutthaya, among them Honda and Toyota, have been impacted by floods, which have affected more than 200,000 workers.

Head of UNISDR’s Asia Pacific Office, Jerry Velasquez said, “Given what we are seeing, prevention measures need to be upgraded based on new meteorological data to accommodate the known emerging risks that have come about because of rising global temperatures and changing climate and weather patterns. At this point in time we really can’t continue to say that we are surprised by the unexpected.”

According to UN situation reports, 26 provinces in Thailand - one third of the country – are under water. Twelve provinces are still on high alert including Bangkok and some 2.4 million people have been affected countrywide; 700,000 are estimated to be children. In Cambodia, 17 out of 23 provinces continue to be flooded while 250,000 people have been affected in Viet Nam. Half a million people have been affected in Laos with damage to over 64,000 hectares of farmland, while 254,400 people in the Philippines have felt the brunt of a series of typhoons.

In an interview with ABC’s Radio Australia, Javed Hussain Mir, Director of Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said there are concerns for the regional economy, “though it's too early to put an exact figure on how bad. But with the estimates we're seeing, in terms of damage and cost of reconstruction, it could be anywhere from two to three billion in the region.”

According to Mir, “Damage to crops is a cause for concern in the long-term. In the short term this may not cause a sudden spike because there are, in the international markets, sufficient supplies, but in the coming months and the next year, if the situation is of the extent that's been estimated right now, it could cause further problems in terms of food supply and food price rises, especially in staples like rice”.

In 2007, a UNFCCC report - Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation – stated that “Under climate change, predicted rainfall increases over most of Asia, particularly during the summer monsoon, could increase flood-prone areas in East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia [..] In Central and South Asia, crop yields are predicted to fall by up to 30 per cent, creating a very high risk of hunger in several countries.”

UNISDR’s 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction – Revealing Risk, Redefining Development states that the scale of damage by low-severity extensive disasters such flooding is directly proportional to investments in prevention. “By conserving ecosystems, providing protective infrastructure, improving the safety of buildings and creating functioning safety nets, countries can significantly reduce vulnerability and disaster risks with relatively small levels of investment.”
The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015 The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015.
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