BANGKOK — Nothing erases development as suddenly and severely as natural disasters. When earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones strike, they wreak destruction not only across borders but across generations – reversing the hard-won progress of many years in poverty reduction, essential services, small businesses and economic opportunity. Disaster resilience in Asia and the Pacific is mission critical for the success of the new Sustainable Development Goals.
Between 2005 and 2014 there were 1,625 natural disasters reported across the region – with more than half a million deaths, 1.4 billion people affected and more than half a trillion dollars in damages. According to the new Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2015, produced by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Asia-Pacific disaster losses by 2030 could total $160 billion every year. This will take away much needed resources for the implementation of the sustainable development goals which the UN membership adopted in September.
The growing frequency of large and more intense disasters will have the gravest risks for people living in “extreme” and “high” risk areas. Across Asia and the Pacific, the 772 million people who still live under the $1.25 a day poverty line are those most vulnerable to disasters. Close to 1 billion city dwellers, in multi-hazard hot spots, living mostly in concentrated low income areas are predicted to be impacted by disasters by 2030, and degradation of ecosystems, already under stress, will reduce the natural defenses against these hazards.