Are you familiar with the term ‘natural disasters’? It is a naturally disastrous event which could have a serious impact on the functioning community or society resulting socio, economic and environmental losses, such as loss of life, damages to the property, infrastructures and environment. These kinds of events are occurred by the natural forces and processes such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, tornados, volcanoes etc. If an event occurs in a place where no human is affected, we can’t name it as a natural disaster even though it is actually considered as a natural hazard.
Why is it important to know about natural disasters? During the past decades, the loss due to the disaster has been risen, especially the poors were affected, due to the change in climate, demographic, environmental degradation and unstructured settlement, etc. According to the global assessment report issued by UNISDR (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) in 2013, the direct economic losses have become past $100 billion during the three consecutive years without including the uninsured losses. Nepal is also one of the countries which has been affected by natural hazards, amongst the regularly occurred events, floods and landslides are the most serious ones affecting average of 100 causalities every year, according to official statistics of Ministry of Health (MoH) in 2013. The losses due to landslides happened between May to August 2014 were exceptionally heavy, resulting 215 deaths and 255 missing persons with millions of USD in destroyed property and infrastructure.
Is it possible to reduce natural disasters? UNISDR claims that “there is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster, only natural hazards.” Do you agree with this statement? Yes, we might not possibly prevent natural events from happening around us. However, we can actually reduce the damages caused by natural hazards through the well-prepared prevention as the level of the impact depends on the choices we make for our lives and for our environment.
How? Natural hazards can’t turn into natural disasters unless there is exposure to the hazards, as we mentioned. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should all move to a hazard free place, even if we remain within the potential hazard prone area, we could still reduce the severe impacts by lessening the vulnerability of people and property through building defense structures and resistant housing, good management of land planning and reforestation, improving preparedness and early warning activities, training local population for awareness raising and so on. It is highly important to note that “each decision and action can either make us more vulnerable or more resilient to disasters”. Let’s watch the video of UNISDR and get inspired to create a culture of prevention and make the earth a better place to live in!
(Writer is a PhD candidate working in the field of risk management applying geoinformation tools and will continue writing on disasters and information technology related topics in this blog.)