By Nandan Sharalaya
Climate-induced disasters will increasingly be viewed as the norm rather than the exception in the South Asian region. Rapid and unplanned urbanization over the last decade has also meant that cities have accumulated serious hazard exposure over a very short period of time. In a country like India, out of a total geographic area of 329 million hectares, about 45.64 million hectares are flood-prone. Annually, an average of 7.55 million hectares of land is affected and 1,560 lives are lost. The underlying lesson is that in the face of great natural disaster risk, governmental response will have to become more anticipatory than reactive.
Investing in resilient infrastructure does not come cheap and funding remains a key constraint. While the risks cannot be mitigated wholly, exposure of the vulnerable population to these risks can be greatly reduced. Investing in early response systems, reservoir management and storm-resistant housing have been particularly successful in several Southeast Asian cities.
The private sector also has a very important role to play in building a city’s resilience. For example, if a city in Bangladesh decides to shop for catastrophe insurance, potential insurers which will include some of the world’s leading insurance companies would assess the city’s vulnerabilities through a systematic process and make a decision on whether the city can be insured or not.