Harsh Central Asian winter shows need to boost disaster planning – UN agency

28 February 2008

The United Nations agency tasked with minimizing the threat posed by natural disasters today called on governments across Central Asia, which is facing its harshest winter in three decades, to swiftly implement measures so that they are better prepared to deal with the expected floods in the spring.

Floods remain the natural hazard that most affects the global population, with more than 164 million people suffering as a result of inundations last year, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) said in a press statement issued from its headquarters in Geneva.

Sálvano Briceño, Director of the ISDR Secretariat, warned that experts believe this year’s spring flooding is expected to be especially severe in Central Asia as temperatures inevitably rise and snow begins to melt.

Already, floods have brought damage to some regions of Kazakhstan, destroying roads, bridges, schools and swathes of farmland, while in Tajikistan authorities are repairing the national electricity system after services were disrupted because of the weather conditions. Parts of Afghanistan have also been hard hit.

Mr. Briceño called on the region’s governments to implement the Hyogo Framework of Action, agreed on by the world’s countries in January 2005 as a global blueprint for reducing the impact of natural disasters.

The framework includes strategies for improving emergency preparedness, strengthening public institutions’ capacity to respond during crises and ensuring there is more sustainable development, particularly in vulnerable areas, such as flood plains.

“Governments have managed to save lives, which is, of course, extremely important,” said Mr. Briceño, referring to the situation so far this winter in Central Asia. “But this disaster can have long-term consequences on people’s lives and livelihoods that also need to be addressed…

“We know how to save lives, which is an enormous victory, but we need to invest more in adaptation measures. We need to change our agriculture patterns and set up financial mechanisms that can allow people to survive from the long-term consequences of flooding.”

The Kazakh Government has started temporarily relocating some of the most vulnerable communities and both Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are setting up national programmes to prioritize their disaster policies.

 

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