Natural disaster loss costs India nearly $87 billion - GulfToday

Natural disaster loss costs India nearly $87 billion

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.


A damaged vehicle is seen under a fallen tree on a road after heavy winds caused by Cyclone Tauktae, in Mumbai, India, May 18, 2021. Reuters

A recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said that India lost $87 billion last year due to disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts. The United Nations weather agency said in its State of the Climate in Asia report that India’s loss was second to China, which lost $238 billion in 2020. It cited estimates by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Japan, Iran, Bangladesh and the Republic of Korea were among the other countries to suffer damage due to extreme weather in 2020. Losses in Japan was marginally less than India’s at $85 billion.

Extreme weather and climate change impacts across Asia in 2020 caused the loss of life of thousands of people, displaced millions of others and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while wreaking a heavy toll on infrastructure and ecosystems. Sustainable development is threatened, with food and water insecurity, health risks and environmental degradation on the rise, according to a new multi-agency report.

Droughts were responsible for most of the damage. Last year was the warmest on record in Asia, with mean temperature 1.39 degrees Celsius above the average between 1981 and 2010. According to the report, drought was responsible for 82% of India and China’s average annual economic loss (AAL) in 2020. Floods and storms accounted for affecting approximately 50 million people in Asia and causing 5,000 human deaths. Flood and storms caused India to suffer the maximum economic loss of $26.3 billion followed by China ($23.1 billion).

India along with China and Bangladesh also reported for most of the disaster-related displacement globally in 2020. The damage due to weather-related events was significant when it was translated into the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). In that case, the damages in India, Bangladesh, Iran, and Pakistan exceeded 0.5 per cent of GDP.

Cyclone Amphan, one of the strongest storms ever, hit the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest straddling India and Bangladesh, in May 2020, displacing 2.4 million people in India and 2.5 million people in Bangladesh, the report said.

Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar are most vulnerable to extreme climate events such as floods, droughts and cyclones in India, according to the Climate Vulnerability Index by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a New Delhi-based think tank. It adds that overall, 27 Indian states and Union territories are vulnerable to extreme climate events, which often disrupt the local economy and displace weaker communities and more than 80% Indians live in districts vulnerable to climate risks.

The Indian Ocean is also warming up rapidly, along with the Pacific and the Arctic, all of which saw record temperatures on their surface. Sea surface temperatures in and around Asia are increasing three times more than the global average, particularly in the Arabian sea, WMO said. Warmer sea surface increase the probability of severe storms. The State of the Climate in Asia 2020 provides an overview of land and ocean temperatures, precipitation, glacier retreat, shrinking sea ice, sea level rise and severe weather. It examines socio-economic impacts in a year when the region was also struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn complicated disaster management.

The report shows how every part of Asia was affected, from Himalayan peaks to low-lying coastal areas, from densely populated cities to deserts and from the Arctic to the Arabian seas. Many places suffered extreme heat, including a record of 38 degrees Celsius in Verkhoyansk in Russia, the highest known temperature anywhere within the Arctic Circle. The East Asian and South Asian summer monsoons were unusually active, the report said. Combined with frequent cyclones, floods and landslides, they led to loss of life and caused widespread displacement in many countries.

The report combines input from a wide range of partners including the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and other UN agencies, national meteorological and hydrological services as well as leading scientists and climate centres. It was published ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, as one of a series of regional analyses to inform decision- and policy-makers as well as regional and national investment.

It provides a snapshot of climate trends, extreme weather, and associated risks and impacts in key sensitive sectors. The report highlights lessons for climate action in Asia and identifies pathways for addressing critical gaps and challenges.

Related articles