Seoul: Asia’s poor will bear the brunt of disasters sparked by climate change and rapid urbanisation, a World Bank expert told a regional conference Tuesday.
“More than others, poor people pay for disaster with their lives,” the bank’s director for sustainable development in East Asia, John Roome, told the Asian ministerial conference on disaster risk reduction.
Last year, he said in a speech, six of the 10 countries with the highest death rates and GDP losses from natural disasters were in Asia.
And since 1997, 82% of all lives lost in disasters were in countries represented at the meeting in the city of Incheon west of Seoul.
“Climate change, coupled with unprecedented rates of rapid urbanisation, makes the potential impacts of disasters much worse,” Roome said, noting that the frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters had quadrupled in the past two decades.
Citing OECD estimates, Roome said Asia is home to six of the 10 most vulnerable cities -- Guangzhou, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh, Mumbai, Kolkata and Osaka.
“If additional measures are not put in place in Bangladesh, for instance, the damages from a single severe cyclone is expected to rise nearly fivefold to over nine billion dollars by 2050, affecting the poorest households most.”
Roome said a World Bank study estimated the global cost of adapting to a world which is two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer by 2050 at around $75-100 billion a year.
East Asia and the Pacific Region would pay the highest cost, with the bulk going on improving and adapting infrastructure, coastal zones, and water supply and flood protection.
Roome said Asia’s cities could reduce risks by breaking the link between urban poverty, squatter areas and disaster risk reduction through community-driven development programmes.
They should promote sound land-use, invest in early warning systems and make risk information widely available.