Disaster Risk Management Systems in South Asia: Natural Hazards, Vulnerability, Disaster Risk and Legislative and Institutional Frameworks

The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the disaster risk reduction and management systems and its challenges in the countries of South Asia Region. All the member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) are highly prone to hydro-meteorological and geological hazards such as floods, landslides, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, heat waves, avalanches and tsunamis. Economic vulnerability analysis shows that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh exhibit the largest losses, which is due to large exposure at risk and the high level of hazards. Poverty, exposed population and lack of preparedness can be attributed to the vulnerability to the disasters caused by natural hazards. Bangladesh and India have the highest Multiple Mortality Risk Index (MMRI) whereas Maldives and Bhutan have the least. Although Maldives has the lowest MMRI based on the past disaster losses, the country has the high risk of tsunami, floods and potential risk of sea level rise mainly due to climate change. Urbanization, environmental degradation and lack of strong governance are exacerbating the vulnerabilities in most of the countries in South Asia. Political instability, border disputes, ineffective regional networks and climate change are triggering the hazard impacts. The occurrence and impact of disasters due to natural hazards are not confined to a country’s political boundary. Floods, earthquakes, forest fires and volcanoes have significant cross border impacts. Some examples of crossborder impacts of disasters include Koshi flooding in South Asia (2008), Kashmir earthquake (2005), Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004), and recurrent tropical cyclones in Bangladesh and India. Good governance, regional stability, economic prosperity and sound environmental management are required to have minimum impacts of a disaster. After the 2005 Kobe conference, many efforts have been initiated in line with the resilient building of the state in the SAARC region; however, there exists a huge gap in its implementation. For this, a sound disaster risk management system together with the strong coordination among the disaster risk management actors in the countries should prevail to augment the capacity building of the community and institutions and build their resilience capabilities.
 

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