From risk to opportunity: reducing the risk of disasters the natural way

Healthy ecosystems and sound environmental management can go a long way in protecting people from disasters. But this fact is not yet widely appreciated among the many parties responsible for reducing the risk of disasters and responding to them once they happen.

Mangrove coastline in Mozambique

The task of IUCN experts gathering in Geneva this week is to showcase the evidence that conserving biodiversity and improving the way we manage ecosystems such as forests, river basins and wetlands can boost human security and sustainability.

IUCN’s delegation will be talking to government agencies, insurance companies, humanitarian aid organizations, civil society agencies and many others at the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Human and economic losses from hazards such as floods, landslides and hurricanes are increasing at an unprecedented rate/intensity with environmental destruction and climate change as the main causes.

Environmental degradation reduces the capacity of ecosystems to meet people’s needs for food and water, and to protect them from hazards through flood regulation, slope stabilization and coastal protection.

“The services provided by ecosystems are not luxury but rather a basic necessity to disaster risk reduction. We must work with nature if we are to keep ourselves safe while facing an increasingly hazardous time,” says Radhika Murti of IUCN’s Ecosystems Management Programme.

“The lessons we have learned are that investing in nature-based solutions not only reduces risk by being better prepared, but can also be a cost-effective means to address restoration and recovery,” says Trevor Sandwith, Director of IUCN’s Global Protected Areas Programme.

“Global studies such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) indicate clearly that the maintenance of healthy and resilient ecosystems are a foundation of any strategy for sustainable development,” adds Sandwith.

There are many examples of nature-based approaches being successfully implemented. In Switzerland, management of ‘protection forests’ is approximately 5-10 times less expensive than the construction and maintenance of alternative technical measures to reduce risks from rock falls.

In South Africa, the Working for Water Programme has resulted in watershed restoration for job creation, business and skills development, water production, flood and fire risk management and biodiversity conservation.

Japan, a highly influential country in the disaster/humanitarian aid community, recently declared a national park along the entire coast that was affected by the March 2011 tsunami. It also plans to expand existing protected areas to restore the coastal and marine ecosystem, together with the associated fisheries and livelihoods, in cooperation with local communities.

The Global Platform is the world's leading gathering of stakeholders committed to reducing disaster risk and building the resilience of communities and nations. This conference aims to build the momentum of prior meetings into a sustained effort from all actors (governments, NGOs, international agencies and organizations, academic and technical institutions and the private sector) to take shared responsibility in reducing risks and reinforcing human resilience.

For more information please contact:
Radhika Murti [email protected]


Work area: 
Disaster Risk Reduction
Protected Areas
Social Policy
Protected Areas
Social Policy
Environmental Law
South America
North America
East and Southern Africa
West and Central Africa
West Asia
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