Cover Image
close this bookDisaster Mitigation - 2nd Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1994, 64 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentUnited Nations reorganization and the Disaster Management Training Programme
View the documentIntroduction
close this folderPart 1 - Introduction to mitigation concepts
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe sanitary revolution: a paradigm for disaster mitigation
View the documentKnow your enemy: hazards and their effects
View the documentSaving life and reducing economic disruption
View the documentTargeting mitigation where it has most effect
View the documentVulnerability
close this folderSpecific Hazards and Mitigation
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFloods and water hazards
View the documentEarthquakes
View the documentVolcanic eruption
View the documentLand instabilities
View the documentStrong winds (typhoons, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms and tornados)
View the documentTechnological hazards
View the documentDrought and desertification
View the documentSUMMARY
close this folderPart 2 - Actions to reduce risk
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentReducing hazard vs reducing vulnerability
View the documentTools, powers and budgets
View the documentCommunity-based mitigation
View the documentThe menu of mitigation actions
View the documentSUMMARY
close this folderPart 3 - Mitigation strategies
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAims and methods
View the documentEconomics of mitigation
View the documentPracticalities of mitigation
View the documentOpportunities for mitigation: post-disaster implementation
View the documentEmpowerment and community-based mitigation
View the documentSUMMARY
close this folderPart 4 - Implementing organizations
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBuilding up skills and institutions
View the documentThe regional context: a problem shared
View the documentInternational exchange of expertise
View the documentSupporting decision-making: external specialists
View the documentKnowledge dissemination
View the documentInternational decade for natural disaster reduction
View the documentDisaster mitigation in UNDP country programming
View the documentInitial phases of the UNDP country programming exercise
View the documentSUMMARY
View the documentAnnex 1: Profile of selected United Nations agencies and their activities in disaster mitigation
View the documentAnnex 2: Acronyms
View the documentAnnex 3: Additional reading
View the documentGlossary
View the documentModule evaluation

Economics of mitigation

Perhaps the greatest difference likely to be encountered between the various countries served by UNDP and DHA, and between the various societies threatened by disasters, is the budgetary constraints on spending for mitigation. The Japanese Government spends over $2 billion a year on disaster mitigation and preparedness. This is more than the total annual government revenue of half the world's nations.

Mitigation investment has to be seen in terms of the price of protecting existing and future infrastructure.

In most of the developing nations threatened by disaster, capital for investment is at a premium. Investment in agricultural irrigation projects or in industrial manufacturing capability has a demonstrable effect in increasing economic output. Investing in disaster mitigation is likely to mean fewer resources left for irrigation projects, industry or hospitals. And yet not spending on disaster mitigation means that the investment in irrigation projects, industry and hospitals will be wasted if they are destroyed in a future occurrence of a hazard. The spending of a few percent extra on a new facility to build it a little stronger and protect it against a future threat is usually seen as prudent. Mitigation investment has to be seen in terms of the price of protecting existing and future infrastructure.

The level of investment that is justified to protect society, its economic activities and its built environment is a matter of political decision making, and the economics of risk. Choosing an appropriate level of safety for building codes, for example, is a matter of considerable debate in the engineering profession. The cost of providing safety is considerable and the stronger a building is, the more it costs. Structural resilience standards written into code requirements in United States, where GNP per capita is about $20,000 may not be directly applicable in countries with income levels of $1,000 GNP per capita, but the attitude to safety that the code espouses is applicable. Appropriate levels of investment in safety need to be defined for each country.

Decision making on appropriate levels of investment in disaster mitigation depends on how likely the hazard is to occur, and what would be the impact of the hazard if it does occur. The assessment of risk and use of vulnerability evaluation in decision-making is covered in the module on Vulnerability and Risk Assessment.

The nature of political administrations means that projects that result in tangible or demonstrable outputs within the lifetime of the administration (two, three, four years) are preferred.

The costs and benefits of alternative investment strategies need to be carefully evaluated. In a number of evaluations of disaster mitigation projects, it has been demonstrated that well-targeted investment will repay itself several times in the event of a disaster in reduced levels of direct damage cost. It will also have the additional benefits of saving life and reducing consequential losses to the economy and the costs of emergency operations. The use of a systematic framework of risk assessment to establish which hazards are most likely to occur and the probable effects will help define the priorities of a mitigation program - whether to build flood protection barriers or to establish a public information campaign for cyclone-resistant housing, for example.