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Guidelines for cost-effective disaster management

Dec 13, 2011

Effective prevention of natural disasters is often possible and cost-effective, says Natural Hazards, Unnatural Disasters, a World Bank report dealing with the economics of effective prevention.

Natural Hazards, Unnatural Disasters

Published by: The World Bank, Dec 2011


Large natural disasters leave heavy economic footprints. Effective prevention and preparedness will reduce the disaster risk and take the burden off Finance Ministers, says the report released in the Indian capital by the Union Minister for Rural Minister Development Jairam Ramesh and the World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud Mohieldin.

The report, released in nine languages across 22 countries predicts rising exposure to storms and earthquakes in the coming years making Asia and Pacific regions most vulnerable to natural disasters. Going by the report’s estimates, India will experience thrice the number of earthquakes by 2050. This puts disaster management in the spotlight of future policy framework.

Disasters come with heavy economic loss, accompanied by even heavier burden of relief and reconstruction. They have dealt a serious blow to many economies by widening budgetary deficits. When floods struck Pakistan in 2011, the budgetary deficit rose from 4.5% to 7.5-8.5%. 

This report, prepared under the guidance of economist Apurva Sanghi, offers a number of policy guidelines to face and manage natural disasters while not overburdening the budget. 

Traditionally, government spending on prevention is lower than relief spending. The report underlines that creating institutions for disaster risk mitigation and preparedness which employ early warning systems, effective information dissemination, incentives to promote individual disaster prevention and smart infrastructures can significantly decrease the costs in dealing with natural disasters.

The first policy implication is to make information available on hazards public and accessible. Another aspect important for India is infrastructure. Talking to OneWorld, Apurva makes it imperative for India not only to invest in new infrastructure but to operate and maintain the existing infrastructure.

Shashidhar Reddy, Vice-chairman, National Disaster Management Authoity (NDMA) of India spotlighted the institutional arrangements India has in place to tackle natural disasters effectively. The initial focus of NDMA has shifted from the three Rs -Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction – to - prevention, preparedness and mitigation.

Cost-effective measures of disaster management can be seamlessly merged with the existing development policies. Jairam Ramesh announced that India’s rural employment guarantee programme will be upgraded to develop a mechanism to build resilience to natural disasters and adaptation to climate change. "We have the resources that can be put in place. All it requires is much more intelligent choice by local institutions which have the responsibility for implementing rural employment guarantee act and then providing the technical background," he said.

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