© Press Association Images
© Press Association Images

South Asia struggles to build resilience against natural disasters

posted by Marino Donati
in Risk
23 March 2016

More than 80% of the population in South Asia is exposed to severe natural hazards, according to research.

Data from Verisk Maplecroft found that 1.4bn people in South Asia are acutely exposed to at least one type of natural hazard, and live in areas where there are insufficient resources to recover from an extreme event.

The research forms part of the company’s Environmental Risk Dataset, which helps companies identify risks to assets, personnel and supply chains. It examined 11 types of natural hazards, including tropical cyclones, floods, winter storms, earthquakes, wildfires and tsunamis covering 198 countries.

Populations in India (ranked 1st), China (2), Bangladesh (3), Indonesia (4), Philippines (5), United States (6), Japan (7), Nigeria (8), Brazil (9) and Pakistan (10) face the greatest exposure to natural hazards, according to Verisk Maplecroft’s Natural Hazards Population Exposure Index.

In terms of countries’ ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a natural hazard event, Africa has eight out of the nine most vulnerable countries, with South Sudan (1), Burundi (2), Eritrea (4), Chad (5) Niger (6), Sudan (7), Mali (8) and DR Congo (9) all considered an extreme risk. Only Afghanistan (ranked 3) was outside the continent.

Africa apart, South Asia is the most vulnerable region, Verisk Maplecroft said. The Natural Hazards Vulnerability Index rates Japan (183) and the U.S. (173) as ‘low risk,’ and China (126) medium risk. Bangladesh (37), Pakistan (43) and India (49) are rated high risk with weaker institutional capacity, financial resources and infrastructure.

Verisk Maplecroft said that the research highlighted a lack of resilience to hazards across the South Asia region, especially in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The company said that despite record levels of economic growth in these countries, governments there had found it difficult to improve resilience to natural hazards, leaving investors open to disruption of business continuity and threats to human capital.

Flooding is one of the biggest risks in South Asia, the research said, with 113 million people in India acutely exposed. Seventy six million are exposed in Bangladesh and 10 million in Pakistan.

Record flooding from monsoon rain in South India at the end of last year cost the country more than US$3bn (£2.1bn) and displaced more than 100,000 people, Verisk Maplecroft estimated.

At a city level, the most exposed are: Manila, Philippines (1), Tokyo, Japan (2), Jakarta, Indonesia (3), Dongguan, China (4), Dhaka, Bangladesh (5), Kolkata, India (6), Osaka, Japan (7), Mexico City, Mexico (8), Delhi, India (9) and Sao Paolo, Brazil (10).

Poor governance, weak infrastructure and high levels of poverty and corruption increase the economic and humanitarian impact of significant natural hazard events, according to Verisk Maplecroft.

James Allan, director of environment at Verisk Maplecroft said the data highlighted the scale of the task facing governments and business in mitigating the threats from natural hazards.

“With overseas investment pouring into the emerging Asian markets, companies have an increasing responsibility to understand their exposure and work with governments to build resilience,” he said.

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