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Saturday, December 10, 2022
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    Addressing disasters and displacements

    Aqilah Rahman

    Home to most of the world’s population, Asia and the Pacific are the regions most affected by disaster placement over the past decade. Over 225 million internal displacements were reported in the region from 2010 to 2021, equivalent to 78 per cent of the global total during this period, according to a recent report by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

    Weather-related hazards accounted for 95 per cent of all disaster displacements across the region from 2010 to 2021, said the report, titled Disaster Displacement in Asia and the Pacific.

    Floods were identified as the main hazard, causing 113.6 million displacements followed by storms (98.2 million). Geophysical events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions were less frequent but accounted for almost 12 million internal displacements.

    Disasters in the region are estimated to have cost billions each year, excluding the economic impact of displacement itself. Climate change and rapid urbanisation may significantly heighten future displacement risk and related costs.

    HAZARDS

    Since 2010, floods have been the main cause of disaster displacements in Asia and the Pacific, accounting for half of the total displacements.

    Cities are often located in flood-prone river basins or coastal areas, putting these areas at high risk of displacement especially for communities that lack adequate drainage and water management infrastructure. Flood displacement is expected to continue along with urbanisation, with the risk mostly concentrated in South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific.

    Storms triggered 98.2 million internal displacements, of which 80 per cent were attributed tropical cyclones. Many of the displacements were pre-emptive evacuations led by the government but the areas are often left uninhabited with devastating impacts, prolonging the displacement of those who moved.

    File photo shows waves battering the shore in Miyazaki, southern Japan as a powerful typhoon approached. PHOTO: AP

    Earthquakes and tsunamis accounted for 10.2 million internal displacements from 2020 to 2021. While less frequent, impacts of earthquakes and tsunamis can be devastating particularly in Asia and the Pacific as the world’s most active seismic region.

    Several countries are located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, triggering 90 per cent of the earthquakes globally. Indonesia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines are particularly at risk of seismic activity including tsunamis. Other countries in continental Asia are highly prone to earthquakes due to the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates.

    Three-quarters of all active volcanoes in the world are located in the Asia and Pacific region, particularly the Pacific Ring of Fire. Since 2010, there have been 1.6 million internal displacements triggered by volcanic activity across six countries (Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Vanuatu).

    Slow onset hazards such as coastal erosion, droughts and melting glaciers are estimated to account for at least 760,000 internal displacements over the past decade. Below-average monsoon rains can cause severe droughts and affect livelihoods especially agriculture-dependent rural communities.

    In 2018, Pakistan recorded over 371,000 displacements due to drought – the largest displacement across Asia and the Pacific caused by slow-onset hazards.

    SUBREGIONS

    Across Asia and the Pacific region, East Asia recorded the highest share of disaster displacements (33.7 per cent), followed by Southeast Asia (30.7 per cent), South Asia (27.3 per cent), Central and West Asia (eight per cent), and the Pacific (0.4 per cent).

    East Asia, with about 1.6 billion people in the region, accounts for over one-fifth of the entire global population. Its high population density is a major driver of disaster displacement risk and the region is prone to various hazards including storms, floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Over half of the displacements were caused by floods over the past decade.

    Countries across Southeast Asia are among some of the most hazard-prone in the Asia and the Pacific region and around the world, particularly those located along the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Typhoon Belt.

    Inhabitants are exposed to a wide variety of hazards including seasonal storms and floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. The Philippines has been the most affected country, with five to 10 destructive tropical cyclones every year, making it one of the countries most at risk of extreme weather events in the Asia and the Pacific region and globally.

    With 61.4 million disaster displacements, South Asia accounted for the third-largest share of disaster displacement during 2010-2021 in the Asia and the Pacific region.

    Mass displacements were reported every year in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka due to floods, storms and earthquakes.

    Millions of the displacements are pre-emptive evacuations, but recurring and destructive storms may force people to repeatedly flee for prolonged periods.

    Countries across Central and West Asia are confronted with a wide range of hazards including floods and flash floods, storms, drought, and earthquakes.

    Climate change is expected to increase the likelihood of extreme weather events, especially droughts and glacier melt along with effects on water scarcity, food insecurity and conflict. From 2010 to 2021, the region reported almost 18 million internal disaster displacements.

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