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close this bookManaging Natural Disasters and the Environment (World Bank, 1991, 232 p.)
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Open this folder and view contentsStrategic issues
Open this folder and view contentsDevelopment: from vulnerability to resilience
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Editors’ introduction

The purpose of this volume is to explore the relationship of environmental degradation and vulnerability to disaster and their combined effects on both natural and man-made habitats. In the past three decades, the frequency of natural disasters has increased and the world has become increasingly aware of the relationship between the declining quality of the earth’s environment and the frequency and severity of earthly catastrophes.

On June 27-28, 1990, the World Bank sponsored a colloquium in Washington, D.C., to promote the exchange of experiences of and ideas about the environment and disaster management. The colloquium was organized by the Environmental Policy and Research Division of the Bank’s Environment Department in collaboration with the Agriculture and Rural Development Division of the Economic Development Institute and the Training Division of the Personnel Operations Department.

The colloquium was attended by about 170 people in a variety of agencies and institutions dealing with the environment and disaster management. The papers gathered here represent the concerns expressed at the colloquium and some of the lessons shared there about how to improve our management of disasters and the environment, through a better understanding of the important relationship between them.

The colloquium was held at the beginning of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), a time of great concern about reducing environmental degradation and preventing and mitigating disasters. On December 11, 1988, the United Nations designated the 1990s the IDNDR (through Resolution 42/169) in an effort to reduce the impact of disasters on development. The goals of the Decade are to:

· Improve each country’s ability to mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

· Devise guidelines and strategies for applying existing knowledge.

· Foster scientific and engineering endeavors to reduce loss of life and property.

· Disseminate existing and new information about the assessment, prediction, prevention, and mitigation of natural disasters.

· Promote programs of technical assistance and technology transfer, demonstration projects, and educating and training tailored to specific hazards and locations.

The organization of this volume

The contributions in this volume have been grouped around four main topics: strategic issues, development (from vulnerability to resilience), risk management, and the coordination of efforts to reduce vulnerability to disaster.

Papers in the first section examine the implications of strategic global, systemic, and survival issues. The magnitude of the problems we face is discussed in papers on the possibility of global climate change and the drastic effects it might have on daily life and national economies. Erik Arrhenius sums up current thinking on the subject: although there is no definite scientific consensus, there is increasing agreement among scientists that the “greenhouse gases” accumulating in the atmosphere will eventually raise the average worldwide temperature significantly, and such global warming may have profound effects. It is not clear when climate change will occur or what its precise effects will be, but should it take place the consequences could be disastrous. It is clear that we must formulate strategies for confronting potential disaster and measures to reduce our vulnerability to it. William Riebsame emphasizes the need for a prudent stance - not waiting for conclusive proof before making adjustments, and making adjustments that expand rather than limit future options for development, particularly low-cost options. Mary B. Anderson explains how inefficient and wasteful it is not to allocate resources to disaster prevention, now that all societies are potentially capable of forecasting and preparing for disaster. A case history of a Bank-financed project in Rio de Janeiro after Rio’s 1988 floods (by Mohan Munasinghe, Braz Menezes, and Martha Preece) illustrates how such disaster mitigation efforts increase the resilience of disaster-prone areas. Neelam Merani emphasizes the link between natural hazards and environmental degradation and Stephen Rattien highlights efforts in this direction being made by the U.S. Committee on the IDNDR.

Papers in the second section of the book explore the continuum of responses to disaster, from vulnerability to resilience, examining different approaches to ensuring the sustainability of development. Some experts discuss options for prevention and mitigation, including adjustment to floods (Frederick Cuny), and indigenous adaptations to drought, locust infestations, and other disasters in Africa (Thomas Odhiambo and Daniel D.C. Don Nanjira). A case study of Pakistan illustrates how to counter environmental damage through income-generating activities that involve the very refugee communities that caused the damage in the first place. Manuel Aguilera Gomez, Michael Cohen, and Jelena Pantelic discuss the important issue of vulnerability in urban settings. Case studies on vulnerability underline the importance of adopting recovery mechanisms that promote the resilience of both man-made environments in Mexico City, Nepal, and China and natural environments in China and Brazil.

The third section focuses on risk management. E.L. Quarantelli and Parviz Towfighi discuss the differences and similarities between natural hazards and man-made emergencies, and identify generic issues that help define how best to organize institutions to deal with them. Other experts discuss some other approaches to managing risk: through market mechanisms (Andrew Natsios), insurance (Lloyd B. Falck), coastal zone management (John R. Clark), disaster preparedness (Idris Nur), and disaster training (Brian Ward). Hassan Hassan and Wayne Luscombe discuss technologies available for assessing risk. Chen Hong describes how technologies are being used to reduce risk in China.

Section four describes local, national, and international efforts to coordinate prevention, mitigation, and recovery efforts. Jonathan Brown and Mohamed Muhsin highlight efforts to coordinate a flood reconstruction program in Sudan. Stephen Bender describes a framework for managing material hazards. Seyril Siegel and Peter Witham describe experiences the UN Development Programme has had in reducing vulnerability, Kenzo Toki describes Japan’s efforts to help developing countries, and Austin Fernando, Jurg Vittani, and Charles Sykes discuss the contributions of nongovernment organizations. A case study in Taiz illustrates efforts in prevention and mitigation at the municipal level.

To keep the text readable, footnotes and bibliographical references have been kept to a minimum. References for all papers will be found at the back of the book, as will a key to the acronyms and abbreviations that abound in the fields of development and disaster management.

The Colloquium was organized and coordinated by Alcira Kreimer, Senior Environmental Specialist. Michele Zador (consultant) assisted in the organization. Significant support came from Wilfried Thalwitz, V.N. Rajagopalan, Kenneth Piddington, Jeremy Warford, Alberto Harth, Surinder Deol, Nicholas Wallis, and Ernest Hardy. Cheryl Francis, Olivia McNeal, Mariatu Morton, Gail Thoms, and Marietta Visaya graciously provided administrative support. The thoughtful contributions of the panelists and moderators (listed on page 197), and the provocative questions and comments of those attending the conference reflected the uniqueness of the occasion - the convergence of specialists in two traditionally disparate areas, environmental management and natural disaster management. We are indebted to the World Bank for making possible both the conference and this volume based on it.

We are grateful to the authors of the papers in this volume not only for preparing the papers but for submitting to the whittling and other editorial changes needed to convert conference papers into a coherent reflection of the main conference themes. Under Bruce Ross-Larson, the staff of the American Writing Corporation - particularly writer-editor Pat McNees - provided invaluable help in shaping these papers into a book that might be useful for readers who could not attend the conference. Alison Strong did a thorough final proofing. Kim Bieler of AWC designed and desktopped the manuscript, but not before its many versions first passed through the hands and word processors of Cheryl Francis and Lydia Maningas.

The papers by Cuny and Quarantelli were not presented at the conference but were prepared for this volume. The case studies were prepared as a result of discussions held at the conference. The authors of the case studies - on which Martha Preece worked particularly diligently - gratefully acknowledge the extensive help provided by the following people: Arne Dalfelt (for the case study of the Da Xing An Ling Forest Fire Rehabilitation Project); Christian Delvoie, S. Kowalski, Jaime Larrazabal, Maryvonne Plessis-Fraissard, and Jerry Vargas Ugalde (the La Paz Municipal Development Project); Ricardo Halperin, Felix Jakob, and Tova Solo (the Mexico Housing Reconstruction Project); William Beattie, Daniel Gross, and Rene Ruivivar (the Minas Gerais Forestry Project); Mary B. Anderson, Iain Christie, Chandra Godivitarne, Linda Lowenstein, Pat McCarthy, Grant Sinclair, and Mateen Thobani (the Nepal Municipal Development and Earthquake Reconstruction Project); Daud Ahmad and Paul Cadario (the North China Earthquake Reconstruction Project); Guy Motha and Michael Saddington (the Pakistan Income Generating Project); Michel Pommier and Mario Zelaya (the Taiz Flood Disaster Prevention and Municipal Development Project); Robert Nooter, Joe Searce, and Ronald Parker (the Sudan Emergency Flood Reconstruction Project). Ronald Parker also prepared a summary of conference proceedings.