Bangladesh became a model in disaster preparedness in the time that passed between the two cyclones.
Realizing the need for change, Bangladesh trained women as their disaster preparedness champions, because women were more comfortable leaving their homes after hearing other women calling for people to evacuate. Deepali Roy Assistant Editor Geospatial World Owing to its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Asia Pacific region is extremely susceptible to natural disasters.
According to the International Disaster Database, between 1980-1989 and 1999-2009, the number of disaster events reported globally increased from 1,690 to 3,886.
The Asia Pacific region is being characterised by growing wealth and is emerging as a market to reckon with on the global economic map. Myanmar is exposed to a number of natural hazards, some of which have caused devastating damage in the recent past.
An estimated 70 percent of the population resides in rural areas, most engaging in agricultural activities. Myanmar is highly vulnerable to climate change and lacking resilience, making it extremely vulnerable to destruction. CyclonesCyclones have historically caused the most destruction of natural disasters in Myanmar.
Earthquakes, Tsunamis & LandslidesEarthquakes pose a hazard for many locations throughout the country as Myanmar is located on one of the two main earthquake belts in the world. Fire is the most frequently reported natural disaster in Myanmar with approximately 900 cases per year. Adaptation & Local ContextIn addition to local NGOs, other local actors are involved in DRR and response efforts. From 1991 to 2010, the Philippines was one of the top five recipients of disaster risk reduction grants from the international community with a total of $834.6 million in grants , primarily from Japan. With thousands of separate islands and a political system that focuses on the community – or barangay – as its basic unit, DRR in the Philippines is best addressed from the ground up. With escalating risks and uncertainty around the globe, cities are challenged with understanding and circumventing those risks to stay vital. Recognizing that they have much to offer each other, communities and businesses are often working together to pool their experience and knowledge. Rath said that cities that have successfully implemented innovative resilient solutions have been able to “identify and communicate co-benefits. One of the first projects he worked on for the Resilient Cities Challenge was with the city of El Paso. Causes for the escalating heat proved to be a lack of reflectivity, impermeable surfaces and lack of green space. Growing populations around the globe have created larger cities, as well as greater concentrations of risk. While some cities have worked to put resilience plans in place to reduce the impact of flooding and other disasters, there is much to be done and businesses are vulnerable, especially small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Development of flood defenses to protect inhabited areas from flooding caused by extreme weather events and increased rainfall. Urban planning and relocation of buildings, including adapting to future developments that allow greater resilience to the consequences of climate change.
Development of emergency warning and response plans—emergency response planning is a core pillar of resilience strategy.
To subscribe to The Monitor, enter your email address and we will deliver all our latest content directly to your inbox. I would like to introduce Bonna, a girl born one November night in 2007 in Mazer Char, a coastal village in Pirojpur District of Barisal Division, Bangladesh.
The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) was held in Sendai, Japan, in March. Sendai is far away from many of us and a high-level conference such as WCDRR might not appear relevant to most people — but it is. Through the aim of improving livelihoods and living conditions through scientific research and community-led action in Bangladesh, the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the International Centre for Climate Change and Development and Munich Re-Foundation entered a five-year research-to-action partnership and launched the Gibika project at seven sites. Bonna’s village is one of three coastal Gibika sites where communities are facing cyclone related threats. The government of Bangladesh has worked hard to improve cyclone preparedness in the country’s coastal areas, especially since Cyclone Sidr in 2007. Disaster awareness and preparedness in Bangladesh’s coastal communities have improved remarkably through these initiatives. Recent improvements in communication infrastructure — such as better and more reliable mobile phone networks and higher availability of mobile phones — and immediate disaster response and relief, are other factors that have contributed to reducing the numbers of lives lost during more recent cyclones such as Aila (2009), Nargis (2011) and Mohasen (2013). However, in 2014, the Gibika research team (including myself) sought to get a better picture of the level of disaster preparedness and awareness and — after careful consultation, repeated site visits and research sessions with the communities in the coastal study sites — we found some serious gaps, limitations and constraints. One example of these gaps became apparent when we visited one of the study sites last year.
Disaster preparedness tools: warning flags, radios, sirens, audio speaker, life-vest, helmet and uniform provided to one of the study site communities in coastal Bangladesh. So, while on paper this coastal study site seems well prepared for cyclone threats due to the existing early warning system, it is not. This is why Gibika’s first project action, which will begin this year at the first project site, will focus on eliminating whatever constraints and gaps — be they cultural, social, practical or technological — that are currently decreasing the disaster preparedness level of the community against cyclones.
Many community members at the Gibika study sites said that there is too much focus on post-disaster relief and too little focus on disaster risk reduction. The world population has almost doubled in the last 45 years, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s 2014 annual report, and the number of people living in cyclone-prone areas has tripled. A group of young men playing volleyball in front of the cyclone shelter as the sun goes down in Gabtola, one of the coastal study sites in Bangladesh.
The WCDRR in Sendai highlighted the value and importance of disaster risk reduction, disaster awareness and preparedness tools like a well-functioning early warning system. The Sendai Framework is about effective preventative action and decreasing climatic disaster risks, limiting losses and damages and, above all, saving lives. Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson is based in Dhaka and manages the Gibika (research-to-action) project on behalf of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), International Centre for Climate Change and Development and Munich Re-Foundation. Storm shelters were built, early warning systems installed, and cyclone preparedness programs implemented. Women often died in cyclones because they didn’t hear warnings or because they were responsible for children and their elders as well. The redesign of evacuation centers also played a huge part of disaster risk management, with new shelters having designated spaces for women and children.
For long, countries in this region have been facing nature’s fury in the form of cyclones, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides and storms.
These gains can slip out of the hand if they are not protected from the risks and impacts of disasters.
According to the UN Risk Model, Myanmar ranks as the ‘most at risk’ country for natural disasters.
Climate change and global warming will cause drought and water shortages in the central region, and the change in sea level will lead to a rise in water level in the delta region, increasing the risk of flooding. During the 20th Century, at least 18 earthquakes occurred along the Central Lowland where the Sagaing Fault passes.Areas most vulnerable to earthquake are Bago-Phyu, Mandalay-Sagaing-Tagaung, Putao-Tanaing, and Kale-Homalin. Rates of fire are higher in the Yangon, Bago, Delta, Sagaing and Mandalay Divisions.Risk of fire is highest during the hot season from mid-February to mid-May.
Many interviewees described immediate local responses to natural disasters coming predominantly from family members and faith groups. It is estimated that of that funding, over $500 million was spent on emergency response, and not on preparation or resiliency programs.The World Bank reported that a lack of coordination and insufficient scope of roles and responsibilities have hindered disasters management across agencies and sectors in the Philippines. Due to the wide range of vulnerabilities and cultural contexts, these efforts are best supported with flexible and adaptable approaches implemented with knowledgeable partners. Since its founding in 2001, Give2Asia has raised $237 million in gifts and donations from corporate, foundation, and individual donors for community partners in Asia. Much as in the business world, municipalities are moving towards resilience—the capability to survive, adapt and grow no matter what types of stresses are experienced. Helping to foster this is a project called the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.


It is projected that a rise in sea levels and increased intensity of events will amplify the impact of hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, floods and droughts. Only 26% of SMEs have taken action to protect themselves, yet 54% are worried about the impact climate change could have on their business, and the number rises to 75% in emerging markets, the study found.
RIMS makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. As a result, a new 10-year global framework for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience is to replace the Hyogo Framework for Action. The deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded in world history, Cyclone Bhola, struck Bangladesh in 1970.
One example is the Cyclone Preparedness Programme undertaken in collaboration with the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society that seeks to minimize loss of lives and property during cyclones through disaster preparedness and increased response capacity — ie, disaster risk reduction and disaster risk management. However, it is important to remember that much of this work — such as handling early warning systems, disaster training in communities, etc.
The existing disaster risks will have to be more effectively managed to reduce these shortfalls. Currently, there is an established early warning system for cyclones — including audio speakers, sirens, volunteers, and hoisting flags — in all the coastal study sites. Me and my family, my husband and our three children, got caught in the flood and were pulled away.
One of the problems is that, even if the communities have the tools, they are sometimes not used properly or at all, or are sometimes even sold for some quick money.
To maximize the effectiveness of a system such as theirs, there is a need to repeatedly evaluate and, together with the local people, determine how to improve the community’s disaster preparedness. Risk awareness and disaster risk reduction initiatives will need to work together to achieve this. For example, out of 303 intervention efforts (everything from disaster relief programs, to infrastructure initiatives or disaster risk trainings) listed in the three coastal project sites, 82 focus on disaster relief and only 10 on disaster preparedness.
Economic losses, in particular, continue to threaten people all over the world and human development overall.
Thirty-seven years later, the equally powerful Cyclone Sidr arrived, but in its wake casualties numbered only around 3,500, the female to male death ratio dropped 5 to 1. Some didn’t want to go to the shelters without the accompaniment of their husbands or another male. Further, according to a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), people of the Asia Pacific region are four times more likely to be affected by natural disasters than those living in Africa, and 25 times more likely than those living in Europe or North America.
It therefore becomes imperative to reduce disaster vulnerability and protect both the lives and development gains from impact of disasters. Coastal regions, particularly Rakhine State and the Ayeyarwady Delta Region, are at high risk for cyclones, storm surges and tsunamis. Villagers engage in deforestation, over-cultivation and poor resource management, leading to flood, drought or landslides.
Drastic changes in weather conditions can have a huge effect on Myanmar and wipe out any humanitarian, political and economic progress.
Strong winds and storm surges (flooding) associated with the cyclones have caused the most damage.
Important cities that lie in these areas are Taungoo, Taungdwingyi, Bagan-Nyaung-U, Kyaukse, Pyin Oo Lwin, Shwebo, Wuntho, Hkamti, Haka, Myitkyina, Taunggyi, and Kunglong.Tsunami vulnerable areas of Myanmar include Rakhine State, the Irrawaddy Delta Region and Taninthayi in the South. The high incidences of fire in Myanmar result from climatic conditions including temperature, use of flammable construction materials, unplanned development and other social factors.
As coordinated response to major disasters has been week in the past, these groups have played a significant role in filtering immediate aid to affected populations.Faith groups often have the facilities and networks to distribute aid in a timely manner. Give2Asia has demonstrated its effectiveness in serving the needs of international philanthropy with its on-the-ground presence, knowledge of diverse social and economic conditions, and the expert matching of donor interests with innovative and effective grantees. The project has selected 100 cities around the world and provided funding for them to hire a chief resilience officer. We also know that social cohesion drives economic activities in urban areas as well,” he said. The conference was the largest ever held on DRR with an estimated 40,000 people from all over the world participating in conference-related events. Bhola is said to have killed about 500,000 people in the country, though some state the death toll was closer to 1,000,000. However, despite national and international warnings announcing Cyclone HudHud in the Bay of Bengal, no warning flag was raised in the community we were visiting. The strong wave took us all the way to the school building where we managed to crawl up on the rooftop,” Alo Rani told researchers in Dalbanga South. Through well-functioning disaster risk reduction, people living in these areas will have better opportunities to save their assets, livelihoods and lives. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 adopted at the conference is a step towards action and towards making the world a safer place. It is about making sure that people receive training on what steps to take when a cyclone is approaching — how to best prepare, plan and act in a short amount of time. Also, while the region generated one quarter of the world’s GDP, it accounted for a staggering 85 per cent of deaths and 38 per cent of global economic losses during 1980-2009.
While countries in the region are making it a priority and sprucing up their efforts, , good efforts also need to be matched by new multidisciplinary policy approaches, as UNESCAP observes. Much of the country is also exposed to flooding and landslides during rainy season in addition to drought and fire during dry season.
On the other hand, natural disasters continually destroy people’s livelihood, push them into poverty and prevent them from rising above the poverty line (Oxfam, 2014). Of the cyclones that caused the greatest disaster, 11 of them made landfall in Rakhine State and 2 in the Ayeyarwady Delta Region.
Interviewees also cited that although these groups have been quick on first response relief efforts in the past, they lack the technical capacity and knowledge of DRR to engage in activities beyond first response.
While the government has passed laws and policies for these purposes, the regulations are not heavily enforced. This little girl was given the name because she was born the same night that the devastating Cyclone Sidr hit — a horrifying night that is etched into the memory of many Bangladeshi citizens. Instead of talking to this energetic little girl, who convinced me to put flowers in my hair, I could have ended up visiting a family who lost their child that night. The roads were already blocked by then with broken trees,” reported Abdul Somed Molla, who was interviewed by the Gibika team in Mazer Char. More effective disaster risk reduction will not only improve the resilience of the most vulnerable people living in disaster-prone areas, it will also help increase resilience on a national, international or global level by reducing post-disaster relief expenditure.
It is about making sure that when the next ‘Bonna’ is born, somewhere in the world, she will be kept safe in the arms of her father while waiting out the cyclone in a robust shelter. One of the key tools in reducing risks and in ensuring that efforts before and after disasters are more effective and efficient, is geospatial technology. As Myanmar falls on one of the two main earthquake belts in the world, much of the country is prone to earthquake.Though fires make up 73 percent of reported disaster events, storms and cyclones have caused the greatest damage and loss of life. Some tourist areas of Southern Rakhine State situated on the coastline have higher vulnerability than other mangrove covered areas.The tsunami of 2004 killed 31 in the Delta Region, 22 in Rakhine State and 8 in Tanintharyi. Faith groups have played an important role in filling the gaps of the system and working to meet the needs of their communities. When we researchers queried local volunteers, we were informed that HudHud was only a signal three (level of alert in the warning system that is based on strength of wind expected to occur within a certain amount of time) and therefore no flag needed to be raised. Within the last 10 years Myanmar has been impacted by two earthquakes, three cyclones, one tsunami and other small scale hazards.Cyclone Nargis of 2008 was the worst natural disaster in the living memory of Myanmar leaving 138,373 people missing or dead.
Myanmar has in intricate system of rivers contributing greatly to local economies and transportation of goods. They are often seen supporting community led livelihoods, education, health and other activities projects.Many local NGOs also operate activities with focus in fields such as livelihoods, health, environment or social work that contribute to the efforts of DRR, but they themselves do not use the term DRR. However, according to the national Cyclone Preparedness Programme, during signal one through three, one flag should be raised. Since 2012 cyclones have affected over 2.6 million people, floods over 500,000 people and earthquakes over 20,000. In addition to the NGOs included in this report, communities around the country will be home to locally developed projects covering a broad range of fields.


It was also not clear where the early warning tools are kept and who was responsible for the flag hoisting. Myanmar coastal regions are at moderate risk of Tsunami.Landslides in Myanmar occur predominantly as a result of earthquake or heavy rainfall. Several community members expressed a lack of trust in the early warning system and the cyclone shelter. There is risk of flooding during the monsoon season, which runs from mid-May to October every year. They occur predominantly in mountainous regions in the Western, Southern and Eastern regions, but also include collapse of river banks on major river ways. In addition public awareness campaigns and community disaster preparedness training in flood prone areas can help communities strengthen their resilience to floods.The impacts of climate change and global warming can reduce the water level in the central Dry Zone, while the water level in the Delta Region may rise due to the change of sea level. Further research into the climate change influences on flooding in Myanmar would need to be conducted.DroughtDry zone and drought related hazards are a risk in Magwe, Mandalay and Sagaing Regions. Farmers in this zone are mainly commercial, cultivating a variety of crops in a double cropping and rotational system.Natural resources in this area have been depleted due to soil erosion and deforestation. The natural resources of the dry zone are being depleted more rapidly than they can be renewed.Flash floods occur in mountainous regions in the upper reaches of river systems. These occur in Karen, Kachin, Shan, Mon and Chin States.Riverine floods occur along major rivers. In the case of an earthquake, which all infrastructure is within the primary impact zone of earthquake faults?
Using geospatial information, officials can pinpoint hazards and evaluate the risk and consequences of potential emergencies or disasters. It is essential to analyse critical infrastructure (facilities essential for the operation and sustainability of health services, food services and government operations) that is or could be damaged or destroyed to restore vital services and government operations. Decision makers can assign response resources to the highest life safety and facility repair priorities. Another critical mission that geospatial technology supports is establishment of emergency supply chain management, says Dr.
A GIS can display areas where services have been restored in order to quickly reallocate recovery work to priority tasks. However, various other technologies are increasingly contributing to various aspects of disaster management.
Mohaizi Mohamad, CEO, Geomatika Technology, says that LiDAR technology is needed to create a highly accurate GIS-based topographic layer for automated hydrological systems analysis and flood plan delineation for flood readiness.
Elaborating on the benefits of this technology for flood readiness and speeding up the projects related to flood analysis, Mohaizi says that official solutions for flood control are engineering based which are ineffective in combating extensive monsoon floods. He observes that a highly accurate, 10 cm topographic height data is the requirement for hydrological spatial analysis and LiDAR survey is one of the quickest and most accurate methods to produce the requisite digital elevation model (DEM). Using the LiDAR-derived DEM, hydrologists can predict the extent of flooding and accordingly plan mitigation and remediation strategies.
Citing the instance of Malaysia that has been witnessing floods at an alarming level in recent years, Mohaizi informs that LiDAR data was used over the MADA territory in Kedah area in Malaysia for the analysis of data accuracy for flood detection and prevention. The main purpose of the LiDAR data was to design new drainage system to enhance the existing drainage and irrigation systems for all paddy areas in MADA. Optimum accuracy of LiDAR data can be further achieved through use of real time kinematic (RTK) GPS surveying, says Mohaizi. RTK surveying utilises short observations times and enables surveyors to move between stations. The use of a network of reference stations, instead of a single reference station, allows modelling of systematic errors in the region, thereby reducing errors.
This technique ensures that all LiDAR data achieve the accuracy of up to 5 cm on clear ground, explains Mohaizi. David Hisdall, Vice President Asia Pacific & Australia, InterMAP points out instances of two tsunamis that hit different countries in the Asia Pacific region. On 26 December, 2004 a major tsunami hit south western Sumatra in Indonesia, causing damage across the Indian Ocean. Much of the damage was in locations far from the epicentre, where there would have been sufficient time to be warned of the potential disaster. On March 11, 2011 a tsunami of similar size and magnitude took place off the east coast of Japan. While this event produced even larger waves, it resulted in a loss of life of less than 25,000 people. David says that much of the reduction in loss of life can be directly attributed to preparedness, making warning system an important element in the efforts to save lives in case of occurrence of tsunami.
To be effective, safe areas for each community must be selected and evacuation routes prepared and signs posted.
This planning requires detailed information based on accurate predictions of where the water will go during an event. This data is gathered from coastal modelling software that uses accurate 3D information to predict the probable paths that inundation will take once it makes landfall. Following this modelling and route planning, regular tsunami evacuation drills need to be carried out so that the local population is well versed in responding to the warnings. IFSAR technology provides cloud free imagery and high resolution digital elevation data that can aid planners in selecting safe areas and planning access routes. Elaborating on the benefits of IfSAR data in disaster management, David says that since IfSAR is not affected by smoke, fog, cloud or darkness, it allows more complete coverage over large areas, making it a suitable source of geospatial data for selection of tsunami safe areas and evacuation routes. In many areas not just in Asia Pacific but across the world, IfSAR data offer the only viable means of monitoring active volcanoes or mapping strain building up around faults, detecting earthquakes and modelling risk, says David.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is undertaking the micro mapping Disaster Risk Exposure Assessment and Mitigation (DREAM) project.
Under the project, the Department will acquire geospatial data with LiDAR and airborne radar interferometry (INSAR) technologies. The project will produce detailed topographic information that will enable the creation of more accurate flood inundation maps. This activity determined each barangay’s vulnerability to coastal erosion, storm surges and coastal flooding. Areas in Metro Manila at high risk during natural disasters may now be known through an accurate hazard map.
The Australian government has formally handed over the 3D maps of the capital to the Philippines government. 65,000 geo-hazard maps identifying disaster-prone areas have been distributed to local governments in the Philippines.
In addition, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council would also soon come out with multihazard maps in 13 provinces. The Information and Communication Technology Ministry of Thailand has introduced an online mapping application to let users find flood status of different locations.
The system features data evaluation from all state agencies, including the Royal Thai Survey Department and the Department of Highways. The Ministry is looking to further develop the application on top of the government's GIS for future flood planning and drought prevention measures. The conference, held in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organisation, especially focussed on the use of geospatial information in disaster management in the Asia Pacific region. A general problem is that data is available, but centralised repositories recording datasets are often not in place. There is no capacity at national levels to access or use satellite images, and it takes weeks to obtain needed information which is too late for the response window, observed the conference.
The application of remotely sensed data for regional risk assessment is needed to translate to the ground level. Authorities (bureaucrats and politicians) who are in power and in a position to help people affected by disaster, do not often know what the data means, much less how it can be used to create appropriate policies.



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