|Natural Disasters in South East Asia and Bangladesh - Vulnerability Risks and Consequences (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters - International Center for Training Exchanges in the Geosciences, 1998, 83 p.)|
The assessment of the natural disasters in Bangladesh and the other six target countries in South East Asia since the beginning of the century could be nothing but partial. Except the data concerning the direct consequences of natural disasters, very little information have been collected. The number, nature and cumulated effects of the minor events are difficult to estimate because of the insufficient data. The quality of the information collected is reduced by the political instability in some of the countries and varies as time goes by. However, the information compiled in the last 25 years is more complete and therefore more reliable.
Given these limitations, the first observation that can be made is the considerable effect that the natural disasters have in the area of study especially in a world-wide frame of reference. Despite the fact that the 7 countries occupy 1.7% of the total continental surface area with 6.7% of the world population, up to 12% of the events and more than 20% of the deaths and affected people have been recorded in the region on a world wide scale in the last 25 years.
Over the century, 700 disasters have occurred in the region of which 158 (23%) occurred between 1900 and 1979 and 542 (77%) between 1972 and 1996. These data and that concerning the deaths and affected people appear to show that the natural disasters are becoming more frequent and are also causing heavier consequences though one needs to be cautious about the limitations mentioned above concerning the availability of data.
The Philippines are unquestionably the country that has had the greatest number of disasters. Nearly 50% of the events have been recorded on these Islands. On the other hand, it is in Bangladesh that the greatest number of human deaths and affected people have been recorded. In the period between 1972 and 1996, two thirds of the affected people and about 80% of the deaths were from Bangladesh. These estimates are even greater on a century scale. The five other countries have the number of events adding up to 26% in the same period during which 5% of the deaths and 18.5% of the affected people were also recorded. The raw data nevertheless give very high values for all the countries in question in terms of the number of deaths and the affected people.
It is even more difficult to establish an economic assessment of the natural disasters in the 7 countries because of incomplete data which are not synthetic and that have variable estimations according to the different sources. It however appears very clearly that the natural disasters have deep-seated repercussions in the economic development of these countries (GDP, Public finance, Foreign trade, Price indexes...). Quite often, the GDP proportion affected by natural disasters goes beyond the 10% limit and is sometimes a result of one unique event (for example Bangladesh in 1988 and 1991).
Therefore the damages hit the 7 countries economic development particularly in some key sectors. Agriculture appears to be the most vulnerable activity because of its important role in the creation of national wealth and because of the needs of the population. The economic consequences, too, affect the activities linked with international trade (like export agriculture, tourism, craft and industrial activities) all of which have been rendered essential because of the national debts of the different countries. The development of these activities has called for the development of the transport system. The transport systems are particularly vulnerable as can be seen in the various examples giving the state of damage in this domain. Finally, the housing sector is one of the sectors most hit by natural hazards. A privileged relationship between the precarious settlements and the different sectors of the countries with a higher frequency and/or intensity of events has been clearly established, The effects of the natural disasters that the countries in the region have experienced are continuous and consequently have a particular tendency of increasing foreign dependence.