Dealing with disasters...naturally

06 May 2011 | News story

IUCN calls for effective management of the natural environment to strengthen the resilience of communities to cope with disasters. The devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan shows the catastrophic impact that the sheer force of nature can have on communities, no matter how prepared a country is.

More than 2,000 policy makers and practitioners from governments, international organizations and the private sector will meet in Geneva from 8-13 May for the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, to share information on how to reduce the risk of disasters and to plan the way forward.

Environmental concerns are often sacrificed in the process of rapid reconstruction following natural disasters.

IUCN calls on governments to commit to sound environmental management and whenever possible, natural infrastructure, as a preferred and more economic option to deal with disasters,” says IUCN’s Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre.We must ensure that effective environmental assessment takes place during and after disasters.”

Climate change and natural disasters are putting millions of people at risk, especially women and children.

Vulnerability to disasters is compounded in areas where natural resources have been degraded”, says Edmund Barrow, Head of IUCN’s Ecosystem Management Programme. "Conserving and reinforcing natural resources must be a priority for sustainable recovery strategies—healthy natural environments can provide buffers to extreme events and support more resilient livelihoods.

Many disasters, such as floods, droughts, and storms, involve water, and climate change intensifies the threat from these hazards.

Water provides solutions—healthy river basins, wetlands and coasts provide water storage, flood control and coastal defences which increase communities’ resilience to disasters,” says Mark Smith, IUCN Water Programme Director. “Investments in nature should be integral to policies aimed at adapting to climate change and disaster preparedness.”

Ecosystems in decline are increasing the vulnerability of people to disasters, how they prepare for them and how they recover.

Investments in preventive measures, including maintaining healthy ecosystems, are seven times more cost effective than the costs incurred by disasters,” says Radhika Murti, Programme Officer for IUCN's Ecosystem Management Programme.

IUCN urges delegates to consider the value of environmental solutions in planning for disasters and to recognize and restore nature’s role in reducing the risks.

For more information contact:
Radhika Murti - Programme Officer for IUCN's Ecosystem Management Programme, e. radhika.murti@iucn.org