Afghanistan is highly prone to intense and recurring natural hazards such as flooding, earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, and droughts due to its geographical location and years of environmental degradation, resulting in the frequent loss of lives, livelihoods, and property. Since 1980, disasters caused by natural hazards have affected 9 million people causing over 20,000 fatalities.
Moreover, decades of conflict have undermined Afghanistan's coping mechanisms and protective capacity. This increases the likelihood that hazard events turn into disasters with large humanitarian and economic consequences.
The creation, understanding and accessibility of hazard, exposure, vulnerability and risk information is crucial for effective disaster risk management. However, information regarding current and future disaster and climate risk was extremely limited in Afghanistan.
With support from the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming DRM in Developing Countries (Japan Program), and in close cooperation with the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Agency, the Establishing Critical Risk Information (ECRI) Project has produced a comprehensive multi-hazard risk assessment at the national level, including in depth assessments for selected geographic areas.
The results of the risk assessment are visualized in the Afghanistan Risk Profile and the online geospatial Afghanistan Disaster Risk Info GeoNode. The risk assessment and disaster profile are the first of its kind in a fragile conflict state and have already contributed to raise awareness on current and future disaster risks in Afghanistan. These tools are helping the government to better understand the country’s exposure to multiple natural hazards and take proactive measures to address their preparedness to disasters and thereby avoid further pressures.
- The Afghanistan Risk Profile provides information on each of the hazards; floods, earthquakes, drought, avalanches and landslides, and key recommendations for risk mitigation measures to improve protection.
- The Afghanistan Disaster Risk Info GeoNode maps out risks in an open data format so users can run their own analysis and it is possible to zoom in on specific geographic locations to assess risks and plan accordingly. Users also find cost-benefit analysis for floods and earthquakes to showcase how these can inform development planning and implementation.
Very importantly, these tools are now being used by government counterparts to mainstream disaster and climate considerations into their budget and planning processes. Additionally, World Bank teams have been trained to use the GeoNode’s risk information to incorporate resilience aspects into the planning, design, and implementation of World Bank investments in Afghanistan. Notable examples of how the ECRI is informing current and planned investments include:
- The Education Quality Reform in Afghanistan Project: This new education project, currently under preparation, sets out to support reforms and results outlined in the National Education Strategic Plan, including school construction. The ECRI will inform and support an assessment of the existing portfolio of schools in Afghanistan to identify vulnerabilities and areas for improvement to strengthen the overall resilience of schools to natural hazards.
- The Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project for Afghanistan aims to improve road transport connectivity across the Hindukush mountain range. The ECRI is informing a risk assessment of two transport corridors, including the Salang Pass, to identify vulnerabilities and risk mitigation measures.
- The Citizens' Charter Afghanistan Project is a National Priority Program (NPP). The Citizens Charter is the first ever inter-ministerial, multi-sectorial NPP in Afghanistan, where Ministries will collaborate on a single program using a programmatic approach, including rural development, education, health and agriculture and irrigation. Community Development Councils (CDCs) will be linked to sub-national government to improve communications and coordination from the community to the district, provincial and national levels, which will increase Government visibility and accountability. ECRI is informing a review and update of infrastructure designs and site selection, training of engineers and CDCs and strengthened awareness of natural hazards.
- The Irrigation Restoration and Development Project provides support for the rehabilitation of irrigation systems covering about 300,000 hectares of irrigated areas; the design and construction of a limited number of multi-purpose small dams and appurtenances; and establishment of hydro-meteorological facilities and services. The ECRI will inform the assessment of new irrigation schemes and dams as well as support a national roadmap on hydromet services and early warning.
- The Afghanistan Rural Access Project will enable rural communities to benefit from all-season road access to basic services and facilities through the rehabilitation and maintenance of rural access infrastructure. ECRI is supporting ARAP in identifying locations where natural hazards threaten the all-seasonality of the road network and propose design strengthening and maintenance improvements to mitigate the identified risks.
The Japan Program is also connecting Japanese expertise to support flood resilient irrigation design and dam safety in Afghanistan through providing technical support for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) and Technical Knowledge Exchange on Dam Safety. In this way, the Program aims to continue to strengthen efforts to make development more resilient in Afghanistan, through both risk-informed policy making and technical support.