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close this bookNatural 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.)
close this folderINTRODUCTION
View the documentContext and objectives
View the documentGeneral characteristics of the region under study
View the documentStudy plan

Context and objectives

In 1996, the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) launched a regional approach initiative for natural disaster preparedness and prevention; this initiative focused initially on Central America, the Caribbean, SE Asia and Bangladesh. The first phase of this programme involved a diagnostic studies which constituted the basis for reflection and decision-making prior to the ECHO action plans as part of the Disaster Preparedness ECHO (DIPECHO)

As regards SE Asia, and Bangladesh, the diagnosis in the strict sense of the word was carried out by CRED-UCL in collaboration with Luc VROLIJKS, a CRED consultant (Cred/Vrolijks, 1997). The present study is aimed at supplementing this work and lays special emphasis on the consequences of natural disasters in the region, the damage-generating phenomena, the different criteria and levels of vulnerabilities and the risks incurred at regional and national scales. The study also aims at giving, in the same perspective, a graphical and cartographical base useful in the communication and decision-making.

The study entrusted to CIFEG (International Centre for Training and Exchanges in the Geosciences) by CRED-UCL and ECHO was carried out jointly by Robert D'ERCOLE and Patrick PIGEON from the department of Geography of Universite Savoie, Chamb, France. The study is based on a consistent documentation: scientific work, studies and reports collected by CRED-UCL, the United Nations offices in Geneva, the University of Savoie and that of Lausanne, Switzerland. The CRED-UCL Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) is, too, a key part of the study.

General characteristics of the region under study

The region under study consists of 7 countries: Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines (Fig. 1). These countries have an estimated population of 385 million inhabitants on a surface area of 2,382,000 km2, giving a population density of 162 inhabitants per square kilometre. Between 1960 and 1994, with the exception of Cambodia, all the countries showed high population growth rates (greater than 2% per year). The group of countries considered are far from being homogeneous and a number of differences have been observed especially in terms of surface area, population sizes and densities (Fig. 2). Despite its relatively small size (144,000 km2), Bangladesh has one of the highest population sizes estimated to be about 30% of the sample area and therefore has a very high population density (836 inhab./km2). On the contrary, countries like Cambodia and Laos have relatively low population sizes and low to very low population densities (21 inhab./km2 for Laos).

As shown by the urban growth rates, the societies considered are essentially from rural areas. With the exception of the Philippines where more than half of the population is from the urban areas, the urban growth rates are observed to fall in the range of 20-25%. On the other hand, as it will be noted in the analysis of the vulnerability criteria, the urban growth rates are on the whole very high.

Fig. 1 - The seven target countries

Fig. 2 - Principal characteristics of the seven target countries.


Population *

Area (km2)

Density *

Urban pop. rate **









































Source: Etat du Monde, (Edition La Duverte, 1997)
* Last census data of each country (different years).
** Estimation for 1995.

Study plan

This study consists of four parts.

The first part is an analysis of the consequences of natural disasters in South East Asia and Bangladesh that allows the drawing up of an overall assessment in terms of events, effects on humans and on the economies of the societies concerned.

The second part defines types of hazards and particularly in regard to their nature, frequency and spatial distribution. The analysis is based on a comparison between the potentialities and the phenomena that have occurred. A typological classification of the countries according to their degree of exposure to hazards is finally presented.

The third part is an analysis of the vulnerability of the countries in the region using a selection of socio-economic and demographic criteria. This analysis leads to a first classification of the countries based on these criteria. The degrees of vulnerability together with the degrees of exposure to natural hazards are then crossed and used to define the global risk levels of the countries under study and classify them according to their risk level.

The fourth part considers that the global approach to risks is insufficient since the diversities in each country are not taken into account. Therefore with a perspective of actions adapted to prevention and preparedness and considering the different physical and human characteristics, a synoptic assessment of the risks was effected on a national scale in order to identify different territories prone to risks.