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Disaster Convention Warned On Urbanisation Risk

"Most of the new citizens in urban environments end up in various slums, more often than not areas most prone to the devastation caused by natural hazards such as earthquakes, flooding and tropical storms," Wijkman said.
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Feb 02, 2006
Natural disasters will continue affecting the world's poorest people until decision makers address factors including rapid urbanisation and environmental destruction, a conference heard Thursday.

European parliamentiarian Anders Wijkman told an international convention on disaster prevention while the global proportion of people living in poverty had fallen in recent decades, they continued to live in risk-prone areas.

The earth's population had doubled in the past 40 years while people living in urban areas had increased five-fold, a trend that was continuing, Wijkam said.

"Most of the new citizens in urban environments end up in various slums, more often than not areas most prone to the devastation caused by natural hazards such as earthquakes, flooding and tropical storms," he said.

"By the year 2025, more than half the population in developing nations are expected to live in urban areas, and most will reside in areas at high risk."

The indiscriminate logging of forests, soil erosion and diking wetlands may well lead to future natural disasters because natural protection such as water retention and barriers against storms are removed, he said.

"The irony is that while disasters are triggered by natural phenonema, a healthy natural environment is very often the best possible protection against storms, heavy rains or droughts turning into disasters.

"The sad fact is that so relatively few decisions-makers are conscious about this."

Decision makers, from politicians to policy-makers to members of humanitarian organisations, needed to be made aware that most disasters are rooted in development failures, he added.

"The separation of development activities from humanitarian operations have to be reconsidered," Wijkman said.

"Risk reduction must be seen as a development concern and not, which is the case today, as primarily a humanitarian concern."

Suvit Yodmani of the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre said catastrophic disasters in the past two years including the Indian Ocean tsunami and several earthquakes meant urgent action was needed.

"We need to find ways to maintain this high level of political attention and leadership on the subject of disaster reduction, not easy when there are other competing development priorities," Suvit said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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