1 Adapted from the UNDP/UNDRO training
module, Disaster Mitigation by A.W. Coburn, R.J.S. Spence, and A.
Pomonis, Cambridge, June 1991.
Mitigation is one of the positive links between disasters and
development. Agencies, communities, and individuals can use their development
resources to reduce the risk of hazards through mitigation projects. They can
also ensure that their other development initiatives contain components that
mitigate against future disaster.
In its broadest usage, mitigation has become a collective term
used to encompass all actions taken prior to the occurrence of a disaster
(pre-disaster measures). This includes long-term risk reduction and preparedness
Many individuals and institutions, however, apply a narrower
definition to mitigation. They use mitigation to mean actions taken to reduce
both human suffering and property loss resulting from extreme natural phenomena.
The concept of mitigation accepts the fact that some hazard event may occur but
tries to lessen the impact by improving the communitys ability to absorb
the impact with minimum damage or disruptive effect. More simply stated, for
this group, mitigation is risk reduction.
Mitigation applies to a wide range of activities and protection
measures that might be instigated: from the physical, like constructing stronger
buildings or agricultural diversification, to the procedural, like standard
techniques for incorporating hazard assessment in land-use planning.
In the 1990s, a major effort is underway to encourage the
implementation of disaster mitigation techniques in development projects around
the world. The General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted the decade of
the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. The aim is
to make a significant reduction in the losses of life and material damage caused
by disasters by the end of the decade.
Disasters have, until recently, been seen in much the same way
as disease was in the early 19th century: unpredictable, unlucky and part of the
everyday risk of living. Concentrations of people and rising population levels
across the globe are increasing the risk of disasters and multiplying the
consequences of natural hazards when they occur. However, the
epidemiology of disasters - the systematic science of what happens
in a disaster - shows that disasters are largely preventable. There are many
ways to reduce the impact of a disaster and to mitigate the effects of a
possible hazard, accident, or conflict.
Just like the fight against disease, the fight against disasters
has to be fought by everyone together. It must involve public and private sector
investment, changes in social attitudes and improvements in the practices of
Governments can use public investment to improve their
countries infrastructure and to promote a physical environment where a
disaster is less likely to occur. Individuals must also learn how to act to
protect themselves. Just as public health depends on personal hygiene, so public
protection depends on personal safety.
The type of cooking stove an individual uses, and their
awareness that a sudden earthquake could tip it over is more important in
reducing the risk of a disastrous fire than having the community maintain a
large fire brigade. The type of house individuals build and where they consider
a suitable place to live affects the potential for disaster in a community more
than large engineering projects to reduce flood risk, or landslide stabilization
efforts or sophisticated typhoon warning systems.
Saving life and reducing economic disruption
The worst effects of any disaster are the deaths and injuries
caused to the population. The scale of disasters and the number of people they
are capable of killing is the primary justification for mitigation.
Understanding the way that people are killed and injured in disasters is a
prerequisite for reducing casualties.
Q. Summarize what you think are the principal
objectives of mitigation.
The principle objectives of mitigation include:
saving lives: reducing economic disruption: decreasing vulnerability; increasing
capability to resist disasters; decrease chance of civil conflict.