India’s bold initiative to fight disasters - GulfToday

India’s bold initiative to fight disasters

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Modi at the UN

Narendra Modi speaks at the UN General Assembly session. Reuters

India is building a coalition for disaster-resilient infrastructure. Announcing this at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 held in New York City, Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi invited other nations to join the initiative.

The global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) is slated to be a partnership of national governments, UN agencies and programmes, multilateral development banks, financing mechanisms, private sector, and knowledge institutions. The Coalition will promote the resilience of new and existing infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risks, thereby ensuring sustainable development.

PM Modi said, “What is needed today is a comprehensive approach that covers everything including education, values to lifestyle and development philosophies. What we need is a global people’s movement to bring about behavioral change; need, not greed is our guiding principal. So, therefore India is here today to present a practical approach and roadmap…In order to make our infrastructure resilient in the face of disasters, India is launching a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. I invite all member states to join this Coalition.”

Developed through consultations with more than 35 countries, the CDRI envisions enabling measurable reduction in infrastructure losses from disasters, including extreme climate events. It thus aims to achieve its objectives of expanding universal access to basic services and enabling prosperity as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while also working with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Established as a platform for generating and exchanging knowledge, the CDRI will conduct country-specific and global activities. It will provide member countries technical support and capacity development, research and knowledge management, and advocacy and partnerships to facilitate and encourage investment in disaster resilient infrastructure systems.

In its formative stage, CDRI will focus on developing resilience in ecological infrastructure, social infrastructure with a concerted emphasis on health and education, and economic infrastructure with special attention to transportation, telecommunications, energy, and water.

The CDRI will uphold the UN Agenda 2030 principle of leaving no one, no place, and no ecosystem behind, focusing on the most vulnerable regions and populations, while enabling inclusive and deliberative processes that recognize national and local efforts as primal.

India is among the nations that suffered the highest losses as this year’s monsoon killed 1673 people in floods and rain-induced buildings collapse. Countries have suffered over $80 billion worth of damages in the last 20 years due to natural disasters.

A report titled ‘Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2017’ was recently released by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). It states in its Executive Summary that between 1998 and 2017 climate-related and geophysical disasters killed 1.3 million people and left a further 4.4 billion injured, homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance. While the majority of fatalities were due to geophysical events, mostly earthquakes and tsunamis, 91% of all disasters were caused by floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather events.

The report points out that in 1998-2017 disaster-hit countries also reported direct economic losses valued at US$2,908 billion, of which climate-related disasters caused US$2,245 billion or 77% of the total. This is up from 68% (US$895 billion) of losses (US$1,313 billion) reported between 1978 and 1997. Overall, reported losses from extreme weather events rose by 251% between these two 20-year periods.

In absolute monetary terms, over the last 20-year, the US recorded the biggest losses ($ 945 billion), reflecting high asset values as well as frequent events. China, by comparison, suffered a significantly higher number of disasters than the US (577 against 482), but lower total losses (US$ 492 billion).

In the conclusion, the report highlights that it is just over three years since UN Member States adopted the Sendai Framework, the global plan to reduce disaster losses, which is fundamental to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Adding that reducing disaster risk is a cross-cutting issue for all the SDGs, especially SDG 1, on the eradication of poverty in all its forms, everywhere, it stresses that disasters are a major contributor to entrenched poverty in low- and middle-income countries. Since the Framework was adopted, some 60 million people in over 100 countries have been displaced by disasters, mainly floods, storms and droughts. These adverse events often take place in environments exposed to natural and man-made hazards, poverty, lack of protective ecosystems, and weak institutional capacity to prepare for, and respond to them.

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