Shrinking the financial fallout of natural disasters

TOKYO, 9 December 2013 (IRIN) – Relief will be more easily and quickly available, and the economic fallout much more manageable, if governments project and plan fiscally for potential natural disasters and their human and economic toll well in advance, experts say.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has calculated that since 2000, economies have lost as much as US$2.5 trillion due to natural hazards. In 2011 Thailand lost around 5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to floods, and Japan lost some 4 percent of its GDP to the earthquake and tsunami.

The latest major disaster in the region, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, is likely to cause losses of around $12.5 billion, or 5 percent of the 2012 GDP in this lower middle-income country, Margareta Wahlstrom, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, told IRIN. – http://www.irinnews.org/report/99296/shrinking-the-financial-fallout-of-natural-disasters

Disaster dice loaded against poorest countries

TOKYO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It is often said that people in the poorest countries suffer most from climate hazards and the effects of a warming world. Now we have the data to prove it.

Between January 1980 and July 2013, climate-related disasters caused 2.52 million deaths around the globe. Of the total, a disproportionately high number of deaths – 1.28 million or 51 percent – were recorded in the world’s 49 least developed countries (LDCs), according to a recent briefing paper from the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). – http://www.trust.org/item/20131206094547-fy6ma/?source=hptop

Nepal’s shifting rains and changing crops

By Saleem Shaikh
October 17, 2013
Science and Development News Network International
www.scidev.net

A short video story on how shifting rains are leading to changing crop patterns.

Watch the climate video story on this weblink: http://www.scidev.net/south-asia/climate-change/multimedia/nepal-s-shifting-rains-and-changing-crops-1.html 

A Nepalese mountain farmer, in the scenic panityanki mountain village, packs cauliflower to send them to vegetable market in Kahtmandu, Nepal’s capital. SciDev.net/Saleem Shaikh

[KATHMANDU] With weather becoming more erratic every year as a result of climate change, Nepali farmers are progressively shifting their approach, turning vast areas of rice paddies into small-scale vegetablefarming. Vegetables are more resilient as they can be hand watered in case of drought. Farmers say that with rains that used to come in April now shifting as late as mid-June, vegetables that can be sown at the time the rains finally fall are now a better investment.

But large parts of their fields now remain uncultivated due to lack of water.

The situation raises concern among experts, who warn that a shift from rice to vegetable cultivation may harm food security. They also say that without adequate support from the government farmers’ livelihood could be at risk. According to researchers, there is now a need for insurance schemes, public subsidies and improved early-warning systems to forecast extreme weather.

Website: http://www.scidev.net/south-asia/climate-change/multimedia/nepal-s-shifting-rains-and-changing-crops-1.html 

Pakistan’s mountain farmers struggle with erratic weather

By Saleem Shaikh
Thu, 31 Oct 2013
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Short climate video story
Pakistan’s mountain farmers struggle with erratic weather

http://www.trust.org/item/20131031161044-3546f/

 

Farmer Bibi Baskiya describes the sudden cloudburst that damaged her maize crop just a few days from harvest time in Danyore, a village in Gilgit district in Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin area. TRF/Saleem Shaikh

Climate-resilient traditional rice poised for comeback in Sri Lanka

New research by the Colombo based economic think-tank, the Institute of Policy Studies says that traditional rice varieties that went out favor in the last 60 years with the advent of hybrids, are much more reseilient than their successors. My story for the Thomson Reuters Foundation http://www.trust.org/item/20131010112839-bhdna/?source=hptop

Pakistan’s mountain farmers ‘helpless’ in face of erratic weather

By Saleem Shaikh 
Thu, 3 Oct 2013 01:03 PM
AlertNet Climate, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Farmer Bibi Baskiya describes the sudden cloudburst that damaged her maize crop just a few days from harvest time in Danyore, a village in Gilgit district in Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin area. TRF/Saleem Shaikh

DANYORE, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – One night was all it took for Bibi Baskiya’s fortunes to be reversed. In June the young farmer had sown maize on half an acre of land in Danyore, a scenic mountain village in northern Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province.

On Sept. 12 it was sunny and the skies were so clear that Baskiya watered her crop from a nearby spring, certain there would be no rain. But that night, her hopes of a good harvest were destroyed.

“A sudden rainstorm and heavy winds flattened 80 percent of the standing crop,” she said. The maize is now only good to be used as fodder for her cattle, and she will not recover the cost of cultivating it.

Baskiya is one of many farmers in this remote region whose livelihoods are threatened by the effects of erratic weather and climate change. Experts say measures are desperately needed to help them adapt to unreliable rainfall, but few – if any – are available so far.

“We farmers are really helpless before the inconsistent weather,” said Baskiya. “We are thinking to abandon growing maize and wheat, and cultivate cash crops like tomato and potato instead that are short-duration and less water-intensive.”

Maize is the most important summer crop after wheat in northern Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin (UIB). The grain is harvested to eat, while the stover (dried stalks and leaves) is used to feed livestock during the winter.

“Owing to erratic weather patterns, the area under the staple crops in most of Gilgit-Baltistan province in UIB has shrunk alarmingly, and vegetables are now being grown as cash crops,” said Asmat Ali, director of the province’s agriculture department.

An estimated 70 percent of the wheat consumed locally must now be imported from Punjab province in eastern Pakistan and Sindh in the south, Ali added.

LIGHTNING STRIKES

Cash crop farmers are also suffering the consequences of extreme weather.

Ali Da’ad, 50, a vegetable farmer in Danyore, said his potato and tomato crops have been struck by lightning several times.

“There has been a significant escalation in lightning activity and thunderstorms over the last 10 years, particularly during summer months,” Da’ad said.

The lightning has triggered fires, damaging crops and endangering populated areas. At the same time, rainfall is increasingly unpredictable, causing crops to fail.

“In Gilgit district, rains are no longer even and fall patchily during the summer months,” Da’ad explained. “Sometimes it is intense and sometimes not.”

Muhammad Iqbal, chairman of Local Support Organisation Danyore (LSO-D), a nongovernmental group working for rural development, said rains are unequal even within Danyore village. “When it rains in the eastern part of the village, the west remains without it,” he said.

DELAYED SNOW MELT

Gilgit-Baltistan is home to the world’s largest frozen water reservoir, which feeds the Indus river system – a lifeline for Pakistan’s agro-based economy.

Farmers in the province depend on melting snow from April onwards to replenish streams, enabling them to sow seasonal vegetables and maize from late May. But Da’ad said prolonged winter weather is causing the snows to melt later, making it difficult to plant crops in time.

Nek Parveen of LSO-D said this year streams filled 50 days later than expected.

“Women wheat farmers in Sultanabad village (adjacent to Danyore) suffered substantial financial losses early this April, as they had to prematurely harvest after farmers sensed (the crop’s) growth had halted,” Parveen said.

According to Ghulam Rasul, a scientist at the state-owned Pakistan Meteorology Department in Islamabad, rainfall in the province has become less frequent but more intense over the past 50 years.

The decrease in winter precipitation and snowfall due to rising temperatures in the area is affecting Pakistan’s hydrological cycle and hampering the country’s agricultural growth, Rasul said.

“Investing in farmers’ climate adaptation capacity building and knowledge development can help them cope with impacts of climatic variability on their crops,” said LSO-D’s Iqbal.

HARD TO REACH

Iqbal sees a need for the construction of small or medium-sized reservoirs in the foothills and plains, so that water from streams can be harvested for use during the dry season and the winter, both for farming and domestic purposes.

But there has been little progress in the province so far, where development agencies are hampered by the inaccessibility of much of the terrain, political inertia, and a volatile security situation due to conflict between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim sects.

Jamil Uddin, who manages programmes in the Gilgit region for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), said his organisation plans to introduce climate mitigation and adaptation measures for the province’s farmers.

“Our experiences show that information-sharing programmes for mountain farmers and communities about better, proven adaptation and mitigation measures can enable (them) to cope with the aftermath of rapidly occurring climatic variability,” he said.

The AKRSP hopes to bring climate-resilient crop varieties and water conservation technologies to farmers.

According to LSO-D’s Iqbal, transmitting weather forecasts via FM radio and free SMS texts on mobile phones would help farmers, who now rely on indigenous techniques that are increasingly inaccurate as weather patterns become harder to predict.

Iqbal emphasised that helping mountain farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change is vital to support the livelihoods of rural people and maintain an acceptable level of food security.

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Weblinkhttp://www.trust.org/item/20131003130344-27fjs/?source=hptop

Climate change hits Ctg, Mongla ports hard

Wednesday, 02 October 2013

By Syful Islam

Impacts of climate change are frequently disrupting operations in the country’s two seaports causing huge financial losses, port officials have said.

Bangladesh is among the countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change where storms, cyclones, flash floods, poor rainfall, droughts, and river bank erosion have become increasingly visible nowadays.

Officials of the Chittagong port, in a recent report said that being located at the coast of the Bay of Bengal the port is exposed to cyclones and storm surges and highly vulnerable to tidal surges.

“Most of the disastrous events the port experienced are related to climate change and there has been phenomenal increase in their frequency, severity and unpredictability in the recent times.

“The most severe impacts have been visualised in terms of sea level rise leading to submergence of port areas,” Syed Farhad Uddin Ahmed, secretary of the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) wrote to the Shipping Ministry recently.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a report in 2007 said a one-metre rise in sea levels may swamp 17 per cent of Bangladesh’s low-lying areas and displace 20 million people by 2050. The IPCC in its Fifth Assessment Report, released on September 27, projected that by 2100 the sea-level might rise by 28-98 centimetres.

The World Bank Group in June this year said among the South Asian nations Bangladesh will be most affected by an expected 2° Celsius temperature rise in the next decades.

It said if temperature is up by 2.5 ° Celsius, the flood areas in Bangladesh could increase by as much as 29 per cent.

Mr Ahmed said occasionally the port operational works suffer badly and sustains damages and losses.

He told the FE that the canals and low-lying areas of the port area are being submerged even in high tide disrupting activities.

Citing some examples Mr Ahmed said during the cyclone Mahasen, the activities in Chittagong port were halted for 9 hours. The port operations remained suspended for over three days during the cyclone of 1991.

Port operations were also disrupted during major cyclones like Sidr and Aila which stuck Bangladesh’s coasts in 2007 and 2009.

Director of Mongla Port Authority Hawlader Zakir Hossain told the FE the port’s advantage is that it is located some 130 kilometres from the seashore.

“But natural disaster often disrupts activities of the port in one way or another. The cyclones Sidr and Aila had halted the port operations as those hit the nearest area with fierce velocity,” he said.

Sources said the CPA in 1992 had formulated cyclone guidelines to help contain the effects of such disasters and keep the port operational immediately after any major cyclone strikes. The cyclone disaster preparedness and post cyclone rehabilitation plan, initiated by the port is a useful tool for disaster management.

The SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Secretariat is preparing a plan of action for disaster management which the CPA thinks will help establish a regional disaster management system to reduce risks.

Most of Bangladesh’s export-import activities take place through the country’s two seaports.

http://fe-bd.com/index.php?ref=MjBfMTBfMDJfMTNfMV8yXzE4NTUwMg==

Pakistan’s Punjab builds model villages to withstand disasters

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 22 Aug 2013

A model village after construction in flood-prone Dera Ghazi Khan district, Punjab province, Pakistan. PHOTO/Punjab Disaster Management Authority

DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ayesha Fatima, a 29-year-old widow with two small children, burst into tears of delight when she was handed the key and ownership papers for her new home, a two-room, single-storey, disaster-resilient brick building.

Her former home, a mud-brick house, was washed away by devastating floods in 2010, forcing the family to flee for their lives, abandoning everything they owned except two goats.

While living in a makeshift tent outside a nearby primary school, Fatima’s husband died of pneumonia and she was reduced to begging to survive, she told Thomson Reuters Foundation in muted tones.

The village where Fatima now lives – ‘Basti Hote Lashari’ in Taunsa town in Dera Ghazi Khan district, 405 km (250 miles) from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad – is one of 22 model villages built to replace homes washed away by the floods.

Constructed with private-sector funds and technical expertise, the houses are strong and designed to withstand earthquakes and extreme climate events, including floods, as part of a “climate-compatible development” initiative by the Punjab provincial government.

Climate-compatible development focuses on “triple win” strategies that limit greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience and promote development at the same time.

Parts of Punjab have been hit yet again by monsoon flooding in recent weeks, underlining the need for measures like these to protect people, property and crops from natural hazards.

When Fatima moved into her new home, in June 2011, her role as the family breadwinner was transformed by the gift of two buffalos.

“I earn Rs800 ($8) a day by selling nine litres of buffalo milk and this is enough to feed my two children,” she said happily, while milking one of the animals. “My children have also resumed going to school in the model village.”

Thousands of other poor families also lost their homes to the 2010 floods, the worst in Pakistan’s history, which tore through Fatima’s village early one morning after days of torrential rain.

She was woken by a huge uproar and the cries of villagers: “Wake up … wake up, people … Floodwater is coming!”

“When I came out of my room, the gushing floodwater was just minutes away from our home. Getting hold of my two children and two goats, I fled to the higher ground along with my 54-year-old husband. We left everything behind to the floods,” she explained.

The family spent 45 days in a school building on higher ground. When she returned, she could see only mud bricks strewn around where her home had stood.

PRIVATE-SECTOR INVOLVEMENT

Some 1.9 million houses were damaged or destroyed by the 2010 monsoon floods, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. Around 2,000 people died and over 20 million were affected, more than one-tenth of the population, from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.

The World Bank calculated the economic damage at over $9 billion.

With financial support from the non-government and corporate sectors, the Punjab government has built 22 disaster-resilient showcase villages in seven of the severely affected districts, drawing on expertise from two private firms, National Engineering Services Pakistan and Associated Consulting Engineers.

The villages, costing nearly Rs1.35 billion, contain 1,885 single-storey homes, which have been handed over to people who lost their houses in the 2010 floods. The villages have schools, health centres and other community infrastructure, replacing what the floods destroyed.

“These will show how such villages can be better planned, built to higher standards and with improved community infrastructure and facilities. Other facilities are biogas plants, solar energy systems, livestock sheds, covered sewerage, brick-paved streets, parks, play areas, markets and community centres,” said Mujahid Sherdil, director-general of the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).

“The corporate sector played a pivotal part by extending support in both cash and in kind for the construction of disaster-resilient houses,” he added.

Sherdil told Thomson Reuters Foundation from his office in Lahore, the provincial capital, that public relief operations after disasters were often delayed by lack of funds, but that businesses could play a bigger role by immediately making financial contributions to meet aid needs under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.

The private sector’s role in post-disaster reconstruction in 2010 showed it can help society cope with disasters, as well as providing resources, expertise and essential services for rebuilding afterwards, he said.

CLIMATE-RESILIENT CONSTRUCTION

Dina Khan, manager of climate-compatible development projects in Pakistan for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), told Thomson Reuters Foundation the Punjab PDMA had asked her organisation to help it incorporate climate resiliency into its post-disaster reconstruction efforts.

CDKN in turn uses management and engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald to prepare guidelines on reconstruction in hazard-prone areas of the province, and to assess the climate compatibility of model villages being built.

Arif Hasan, an independent architect, said this kind of approach addresses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use fewer resources and put up buildings that can withstand weather-related disasters.

“There is an urgent need for implementation of such guidelines in highly disaster-prone Pakistan that will help the country adopt climate-resilient construction methods in disaster-prone areas,” he added.

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CDKN’s Asia director based in Islamabad, said Pakistan has inadequate guidelines for disaster risk reduction in the construction sector.

It is hoped the climate-compatible development initiative will pave the way for the country to adopt an effective national policy, and give the rural poor and local decision-makers the knowledge they need to reduce the impact of future disasters, he said.

“The Punjab government asked CDKN to help ‘build back better’ after the devastating floods in 2010,” he said. “Not only is this a strategic project for Pakistan, it is also a test case for climate-compatible development that promises to offer lessons for the international community.”

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan

Weblinkhttp://www.trust.org/item/20130822095211-5o2mi/