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close this bookAn Overview of Disaster Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1992, 136 p.)
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View the documentForeword to the 2nd edition
View the documentIntroduction to this training module
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close this folderChapter 1. Introduction to disasters
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View the documentThe disaster problem
close this folderCausal factors of disasters
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View the documentPoverty
View the documentPopulation growth
View the documentRapid urbanization
View the documentTransitions in cultural practices
View the documentEnvironmental degradation
View the documentLack of awareness and information
View the documentWar and civil strife
close this folderChapter 2. Disaster terminology and phases
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close this folderPhases of a disaster
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View the documentRapid onset disasters
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close this folderChapter 3. Linking disasters and development 1
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentDisruption of development by disasters
View the documentHow development may cause disasters
View the documentDevelopment opportunities afforded by disasters
close this folderChapter 4. Natural hazards
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close this folderCharacteristics of particular hazards and disasters 1
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View the documentEarthquakes
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View the documentVolcanoes
View the documentLandslides
View the documentTropical cyclones
View the documentFloods
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View the documentEnvironmental pollution
View the documentDeforestation
View the documentDesertification
View the documentPest infestations
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View the documentChemical and industrial accidents
close this folderChapter 5. Compound and complex disasters 1
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View the documentSocio/political forces
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close this folderChapter 6. The disaster management team, roles and resources
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View the documentThe UN Disaster Management Team
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View the documentRoles and resources of UNDP, UNDRO, and other UN agencies
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close this folderChapter 7. Disaster preparedness
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View the documentComponents of disaster preparedness
View the documentPreparedness for slow onset and sudden onset disasters
View the documentPreparedness within the United Nations 2
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close this folderChapter 8. Vulnerability and risk assessment 1
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close this folderChapter 9. Disaster response
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close this folderAims of emergency and post-disaster assistance
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close this folderChapter 10. Disaster assessment 1
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close this folderChapter 11. UN response to disasters 1
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close this folderChapter 12. Rehabilitation and reconstruction
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close this folderChapter 13. Mitigation 1
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View the documentTargeting mitigation where it has most effect
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close this folderChapter 14. UN assistance to disaster mitigation
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View the documentDisaster mitigation as a development theme
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close this folderDisaster risk reduction planning checklist
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View the documentDisasters and Development (DAD) Project Review Form
View the documentAppendix - GA Resolution 46/182, Strengthening of the Coordination of Humanitarian Emergency Assistance of the United Nations

How development may cause disasters

The side effects of well-meaning development efforts sometimes have disastrous consequences. Development projects implemented without taking into account existing environmental hazards may increase vulnerability to natural disasters. For example, projects designed to increase employment opportunities, and thus income, usually attract additional population growth. Low-income people may then have to seek housing in areas previously avoided, on hillsides or in floodplains. The costs of relief assistance after a landslide or flood can easily outweigh the benefits to the economy of more jobs. Similarly, development projects may lead to negative political consequences that increase the vulnerability to civil conflict.

Some types of development projects commence without fully assessing their impact on the environment. This can occur even in programmes resulting from a disaster, such as reconstruction projects that increase demand for wood to fortify houses. The resulting deforestation can then bring increased vulnerability to mudslides and possibly long-term environmental changes.

Development projects may even consciously force a choice between reducing disaster vulnerability and economic vulnerability. A project’s design may require a trade-off between the two and force a decision between the lesser of two evils.

Q. Can you describe how development can contribute to vulnerability based on the following examples of negative consequences?


Watershed erosion ____________________________________________
Deforestation _________________________________________________
Loss of biological diversity _____________________________________
Lack of soil and land management _______________________________
Air and water pollution _________________________________________
Inadequate urban sanitation and waste disposal ___________________

Marine and coastal zone development ____________________________

See next table for examples of answers to this question.

Table 3.1 Examples of development leading to disasters or increased vulnerability

From Disasters and Development: A Study in Institution Building, Intertect, January, 1991.


Development activity



Construction of chemical plant generating employment

Deaths due to inadvertent release of chemicals, increased health problems, hazardous or toxic waste accidents

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries

Introduction of new species to control pests

Uncontrolled expansion of new species into environment, bringing crop failure

Irrigation schemes

Flooding where canals counter natural water flow

Increase in pesticide or fertiliser use to augment crop yields

Contamination of potable water supplies

Natural resources

Construction of hydroelectric dam

Displacement, salinization

Drilling of water wells in marginal areas

Desertification due to population clustering around wells

Transportation, communications Education

Road building in rain forests

Landslides, deforestation

School construction on earthquake fault line

Deaths/injuries due to structural failure

Development issues, policy and planning

Centralisation of planning process

Famine due to lack of organisation of local governments

Concentration of tourist facilities on vulnerable coastlines, unstable hills

Exposure of large populations to risk of death/injury/loss in storm surge, high wind storms, tsunami, landslides