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  • DRR Voices blog: 13 Sep 2017 Erik Kjaergaard
    Disaster Risk Managment Specialist
    Asian Development Bank

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Blog Post  from

Erik Kjaergaard

Disaster Risk Managment Specialist
Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Erik Kjaergaard is Disaster Risk Management Specialist in the South Asia Department of the Asian Development Bank in Manila. Since October 2016, Erik has been seconded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to help ADB mainstream disaster risk reduction, climate change programming and resilience into its operations. Erik has been involved in the DRR field during the last 18 years and previously worked for UN agencies - including the UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP, OCHA, UNICEF and WHO - in Europe and Asia. He has been member of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid roster since 2009.

Flooding in South Asia and smart programming

Published on 13 Sep 2017

While international media provided extensive cover of the devastating flooding in Texas, triggered by tropical storm Harvey, a much larger humanitarian emergency in South Asia catches less of media attention. The monsoon season has nevertheless caused the deaths of more than 1,200 people, with 943 deaths in India (mainly Assam, but also Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh), 159 deaths in Nepal and 144 deaths in Bangladesh. The floods have damaged or destroyed schools and health facilities and forced millions to live in temporary shelters or relief camps. According to UN, approximately 40 million are affected by seasonal flooding in South Asia.

This situation warrants us to rethink the role of development banks like ADB in emergencies. In view of the scale of the disaster, a post-emergency credit from the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund on $3 million would only have limited effects. ADB support for early recovery and reconstruction, which could run to hundreds of millions, would have bigger impact, including for risk reduction via build-back-better requirements. But even recovery and rehabilitation support would only help to mitigate the damage done by the disaster.

A more substantive, long-term and sustainable response of a development bank like ADB would be to pursue active mainstreaming of disaster risk management (DRM) in areas impacted by flooding. ADB has past, ongoing and new projects in the pipeline – and the key question is how they factor in flood risk management in the short, medium and long-term.

Below follows simple guidance on how to mainstream DRM across country programmes, divisions and projects:

Step 1: Spatial analysis of the country programme and/or project

The first step consists of identifying which sectors, projects and/or activities take place in areas impacted by the current floods. Such spatial analysis can be done on a simple base map with cities and rivers – preferably also river basins and administrative borders - marked. Once the sectors and projects have been identified, we will know who has the potential to respond to the flood by smart programming.

Step 2: From hazard mapping to risk assessment

The mapping exercise of programme areas impacted by the current floods should ideally be expanded to a full-fledged risk assessment that goes beyond one-dimensional flood analysis by taking exposure (e.g. location of infrastructure and clients/beneficiaries) and vulnerability (e.g. design and maintenance of infrastructure as well as livelihood options of people) into consideration. Apart from guiding DRM measures and safeguarding development investments, such analysis would provide accurate planning scenarios for future multi-hazard contingency planning.

Step 3: Reprogramming

Based on the risk assessment, resident missions, sections and team leaders/project managers could explore opportunities to tweak their work plans in order to make them risk-informed and climate-smart. The importance of flooding and the specific vulnerabilities of beneficiaries would need to be analyzed in relation to programme interventions. The following parameters provide an analytical starting point:

  • Location: Rather than abandoning flooded areas, efforts need to be strengthened in the impact zone. The people who live here have the greatest development needs. They deserve infrastructural investments that can withstand future disasters. For this reason, it might be necessary to relocate and/or redesign existing and new infrastructure.
  • Beneficiaries: Focus on the most vulnerable population segments, who have least livelihood options when exposed to flooding. Women, children and elderly almost invariably have the greatest humanitarian needs. They also have often overlooked capacities to provide psycho-social support and act as change agents in their communities.
  • Timing: Encourage the government to speed up the implementation of activities that have the potential to mitigate the suffering of the affected population in flooded areas (e.g. public health campaigns to prevent water-borne diseases, social protection and livelihood support). Or conversely, work with government to understand the additional challenges that the floods pose to existing implementation plans and explore ways to support them to keep planned activities on track and preferably speed them up.
  • Approach: Consider new types of interventions (e.g. protecting critical infrastructure, incorporating DRM in training programmes and curricula, conducting specialized trainings for first responders and DRM and climate change awareness campaigns for beneficiaries).
  • Outreach: Undertake specific interventions to reach out to the often-overlooked population groups (e.g. socially excluded groups in terms of gender, caste, ethnicity, disability, household structure, and children/adolescents not enrolled in schools).

Whereas conventional targeting usually is based on development indicators only, a risk assessment will allow Resident Missions, Divisional Directors and Project Managers to target interventions based on a combination of development indicators and natural hazards and climate change. In this way, country programmes, sectors and projects become risk-informed/climate-smart.

Admittedly, the scope of reprogramming varies depending on several factors including the planning/programming stage. However, even without touching the Country Partnership Strategy and Design & Monitoring Framework, it is possible to reprogram by going through the analytical process above. ADB rules do allow support for disaster response and recovery, irrespective of DRM being covered in a Country Partnership Strategy.

In conclusion

Up to now, disaster risk management has often been interpreted as disaster response and recovery rather than emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction. The fact that international donors provide generous funding for response and limited funding for preparedness and prevention does not help to reinforce risk reduction.

Tragically – and somewhat ironically – the message of disaster risk reduction tends to blossom in post-disaster situations and suffer when business-as-usual returns. It doesn’t need to be in this way. We know which areas are likely to be impacted by what natural hazards and we have no excuse not to act before new emergencies unfold.

This post was first published on LinkedIn. You can read the original version here.

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