Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction in Asia (RELIEF KIT workshop)

Representatives from government agencies responsible for Disaster Risk Management and the environment came together at an IUCN workshop in New Delhi to discuss the role of ecosystems in disaster risk reduction. Held from 1-2 November, the workshop was organised through IUCN’s RELIEF Kit project and was supported by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and the Japan Biodiversity Fund. 

Participants participate in group discussions to explore the role of biodiversity and nature based solutions to DRR

Asia is highly biodiverse, from the Himalayas to the Indo-Burma hotspot, the Borneo rainforests, and Coral Triangle. Five of the world’s most mega-diverse countries are in Asia: China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and the Philippines. The region is also characterized by high magnitude and intensity natural disasters.

“We need to give priority to ecosystem conservation; otherwise our development will be limited,” said Dr. Hoang Van Thang, Vice Minister, Government of Vietnam

Discussions centered upon the Regional Assessment on Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction and Biodiversity in Asia, a report that highlights national experiences on Eco-DRR with specific emphasis on biodiversity conservation. The assessment includes a review of policy and practice related to the application of ecosystem-based approaches to address disaster risk reduction (DRR) including the impacts of climate change. IUCN engaged with partners and experts from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka Thailand and Viet Nam to develop the assessment report.

“There is a strong mandate for working on Eco-DRR within the Union - through the various Resolutions adopted at the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress,” said Mr. Anshuman Saikia, Regional Programme Support Coordinator, Asia Regional Office, IUCN.

IUCN has been implementing nature-based solutions through regional initiatives like Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities (EPIC) and Mangroves for the Future (MFF).  IUCN is also part of the Partnerships for Ecosystems for Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR), a platform to promote and scale-up implementation of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and ensure it is mainstreamed in development planning at global, national and local levels. 

“Communities have been living with disasters for thousands of years and they have come up with ways to handle those disasters suited to their particular situations. This wealth of traditional knowledge and traditional approaches should be drawn upon when designing eco-DRR approaches,” said Dr Scott Perkin, Head, Natural Resources Group, Asia Regional Office, IUCN 

The workshop enhanced understanding of the role of biodiversity and ecosystem services in disaster risk reduction, as no-regret solutions for immediate disaster risks and longer term climate change impacts. Bio-engineering solutions to natural and climate related disasters are known to be more sustainable and durable over longer periods of time in comparison with civil-engineering solutions (which have limited life-spans). Participants highlighted that hybrid solutions that integrate ecosystem-based and hard solutions are effective in mitigating disaster impacts.  

The workshop precedes the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, organised by UNISDR. The RELIEF KIT project, operational in six regions around the world, will launch the global synthesis report at the CBD COP 13 in Cancun in December this year. 

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