Floods and Regional Disaster Preparedness: Too Little, Too Late?

Heavy rains in Thailand and Cambodia since July 2011 have resulted in high socio-economic costs from flood damage and has claimed at least 500 lives. For Thailand with areas only two metres above sea level, the flood is said to be the country’s worst in the past 50 years, with a third of its provinces declared disaster zones. However, such incidents are not all that new nor unexpected, for two main reasons:

Picture by Philip Roeland

Firstly, various studies have highlighted the increasing vulnerability of Southeast Asian countries to weather–related disasters. Among these is the Report by the International Development Research Centre, which has highlighted areas in Southeast Asia that are highly vulnerable to various environmental hazards. Similarly, other reports, such as those by the World Bank, United Nations and World Wide Fund have highlighted the socio-economic factors that increase vulnerabilities, such as rising population densities in cities. Secondly, there is existing knowledge and solutions to control floods, based on the region’s long experience with disasters. These factors are particularly significant in Southeast Asia, which is home to at least three megacities – Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila.

Yet, in spite of such information, there remains a strong dose of inertia within states to effectively integrate climate change adaptation strategies with disaster preparedness…

To read the rest of this commentary published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies [in pdf],  please click here.

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