South Asia is highly prone to weather and water related disasters such as floods, drought, thunderstorms and cyclones. In the past two decades, over 50% of South Asians - more than 750 million people, have been affected by at least one natural disaster.
The social and economic costs of such hazards have been staggering with almost 230,000 people dead and USD 45 billion in damages between 1970 and 2008. In Bhutan, damages related to the 2009 cyclone Aila were close to USD 17 million. Almost 45 million people were affected by the 2017 floods. Investments in disaster early warning systems can be critical in saving lives and assets and strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities. International experience suggests that for every dollar invested, the estimated benefits are in the range of two to ten US dollars.
The performance of the region's key economic sectors such as agriculture, aviation, water, urban infrastructure, fisheries, hydropower, and tourism depends upon weather information based services. However, users and communities have limited access to weather information products tailored to these sectors. Development of hydromet services can make a critical contribution in enhancing the performance of these weather dependent sectors and improving livelihoods of local communities.
Building on efforts made by each country, and support provided by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Bank has been proactively investing in hydromet modernization efforts in the region. The program takes a bottom up approach with national level operations under implementation in several countries in the region including Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh and others such as in Pakistan under preparation. These operations seek to transform the provision of hydro-meteorological services by supporting national hydromet agencies in developing and delivering user oriented information services and disaster early warning systems. Going forward, it is important to consider how to solidify these ongoing investments and support them through regional collaboration.
These discussions are important and timely given the transboundary nature of weather and climate risks that affect all countries in the region.
Additional PPT: Asia Regional Resilience to a Changing Climate (ARRCC) Programme and The Met Office Partnership by Julian Menadue, ARRCC MOP Project Executive, United Kingdom Met Office