News / Asia

    UN Disaster Risk Reduction Chief Calls for Better Planning

    UNISDR's Margareta Wahlstrom (L) during a visit to Sri Lanka (file photo).
    UNISDR's Margareta Wahlstrom (L) during a visit to Sri Lanka (file photo).
    Ron Corben

    The United Nations’ disaster risk reduction chief says more planning is needed by governments to respond to the growing threat of disasters, especially triggered by climate change. UNISDR’s Margareta Wahlstrom says coastal cities in Asia also need to build in greater resilience in flood prevention and mitigation, together with improved urban planning.

    Wahlstrom, chief of the U.N.’s International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said in an interview with VOA that governments in Asia need to improve institutions linked with disaster management, and to plan better for future disasters.

    Flooding in Southeast Asia since June has affected almost 20 million people, with over 1,000 lives lost. Some 13 million people have been affected in Thailand, one of the hardest hit countries. Floods across Asia are reportedly the most severe in 50 years.

    Wahlstrom says better planning is essential to respond to future disasters.

    A woman pushes dogs in a makeshift container through a flooded street in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 28, 2011.
    A woman pushes dogs in a makeshift container through a flooded street in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 28, 2011.

    “The scale this year is extraordinary; the economic and human impact is extraordinary, but the big shift that has not yet fully taken place is that these are events - they must be planned for and therefore governments, business organizations, organizations like ourselves, need to set themselves up for these institutionally, forward planning, invest seriously in public education and awareness.”

    She says governments also need to better integrate policy in handling disasters.

    In Thailand, both the central government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Bangkok’s city government have faced local criticism for failing to coordinate the response to the floods. The central government is facing both legal challenges and a no-confidence debate in parliament over its handling of the disaster.

    The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned governments to prepare for more frequent and dangerous extreme weather events due to climate change. Such extreme weather events are likely to cause billions of dollars in losses to the region's economy and affect millions of lives.

    Wahlstrom says in Asia-Pacific cities on coastal plains, which are vulnerable to climate change-induced rising sea levels, better urban planning will be a major challenge.

    “So you need to focus on making Bangkok more resilient, or Manila or Jakarta, and I think we really have to be very clear - that’s a major challenge from a financial urban planning perspective to get that reasonable and right and balanced between people’s immediate aspirations for development.”

    In the case of countries like Cambodia that are undergoing rapid economic development, the solution lies in building new infrastructure and planning for the impact of future seasonal flooding.

    With a 30-year career in international disaster response and aid work, Wahlstrom says she is often inspired by peoples’ resilience in the face of such disasters.

    “If you were to ask someone who is actually sitting there, beyond asking for, if needed, some assistance for their immediate needs - what they would ask for is, well, ‘let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again; what measure can we take that we are safer in the future' - that’s where perhaps the big long-term planning is not in full sync with what people would advise us to do," she said.

    Wahstrom made her comments ahead of a U.N. climate change conference due to take place in Durban, South Africa, this week. The meeting will bring together over 10,000 officials from more than 190 countries. The aim is to put in place a new global change agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Treaty, which is due to expire in December 2012.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora