Jakarta, March 24, 2010 — The tragic aftermath of the Japan’s earthquake and tsunami reminds the world once again that damages from natural disasters can be catastrophic, and that prevention is critical; a lesson that surely saved many lives in Japan. According to a joint World Bank-United Nations report, preventive measures can lower vulnerability to natural hazards such as earthquakes, storms, and floods.Prevention becomes all the more necessary as the estimated number of people exposed to storms and earthquakes in large cities could double to 1.5 billion by 2050.
Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: the Economics of Effective Prevention, launched today in Jakarta, argues that by 2100, even without climate change, damages from weather-related hazards may triple to US$185 billion annually. Factoring in climate change, costs could be pushed even higher. In the case of tropical cyclones, it would add another US$28-68 billion. But the report argues that much can be done to reduce the toll from such hazards—even in the face of increased risk from climate change.
"Seeing that most disaster mitigation efforts are financed through the contingency budget, the ability to properly take prevention measures becomes crucial. I find that the policy recommendations provided in this book are sensible to be implemented," said Agus Martowardjojo, Indonesia’s Minister of Finance.
A key message of the report is that “prevention pays, but you don’t always have to pay more for prevention”. Cost-effective prevention includes greater access to hazard-related information and providing secure building titles to encourage better repair and upkeep. Hazard-specific infrastructure is also encouraged: for example, schools that double as cyclone shelters or roadways that double as drains. Sometimes increased spending is warranted, for example to develop and maintain early warning systems, or bolster better building practices by increasing funding to universities for more local research.
“The issues presented in the report are relevant for Indonesia and the entire region. Since helping rebuild Aceh and Yogyakarta after the disasters there, the World Bank has been actively helping Indonesia cope with disasters, and more importantly in helping communities better adapt to these disasters,”says James Adams, World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific.
“This report can become a valuable resource for the Indonesian government in building up a disaster risk management system sensible to the country’s needs, geography and resource capacity,” says Stefan Koeberle, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia.
Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters is a two-year collaboration of climate scientists, economists, geographers, political scientists and psychologists. The report was praised by six Nobel Laureates. It was funded by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, a partnership of 35 countries and six international organizations, including the World Bank, which helps developing countries reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and adapt to climate change.