By Krishna Adhikari
Kathmandu,23 Nov 2014: The SAARC region that houses worldâ€™s one fourth population is also diverse in terms of its natural heritage and geographical location.
The SAARC nations are vulnerable to water-induced natural disasters including storms, floods, draught, glacial outburst, heavy rainfall, avalanche and cold waves among others.
Side by side, geological calamities like earthquakes and landslides and human induced disasters are also equally posing hazard to the SAARC member states. According to a survey, 56 per cent people of the worldâ€™s disaster affected regions reside in South Asia and nearly 80 million people in the region are affected due to various calamities every year.
The risk of natural disaster in the SAARC nations is very high due to the South Asian countries’ landlocked to water-locked geographic situation.Â The SAARC region witnessed 900 plus serious types of disasters in the last 42 years. According to the World Bank (WB), 230,000 people lost their lives and property worth 45 billion US Dollars was damaged in the natural disasters from 1990 to 2008 in the region.
The Sidr Cyclone occurred in Bangladesh in 2007, the Koshi floods in Nepal and India in 2008, the flood in Uttarakhand and Kashmir in 2013 and the flood in Nepalâ€™s mid-western region in the same year as well as the recently occurred Hudhud Cyclone in south-east of India and the snowstorm that it induced in Nepalâ€™s Mountainous region are the recent natural calamities that wrecked havoc in the region.
According to the report of world risk index-2012, South Asia is ranked in the top position out of 200 countries.
The report states that Bangladesh is ranked in the topÂ fifth position while Afghanistan is in 40th position. Similarly, Bhutan is ranked in 55th, Sri Lanka in 63rd, India in 73rd, Pakistan in 74th and Nepal in 105th position.
Likewise, based on the ratio of effects of climate change, Bangladesh is in the top fifth vulnerable country followed by Pakistan and Nepal in 12th and 14th position, respectively.
Besides, the South Asian nations are also at high risk of climate change and its socio-economic status. The region is sure to face serious challenges due to climate change and its effects in the future.
So, formulation and planning of the development projects aiming to reduce the effects and risks of disasters is necessary. At a time when the SAARC is embarking on sustainable high economic growth rate in the Human Development Index of its member states, the measures to climate change resilience should be adopted immediately.
The environment ministers of the SAARC nations had unveiled the Male Declaration after holding a special conference in the Maldives in 2005 after the Tsunami in India in 2004. Based on the same declaration, a meeting of the experts of the SAARC Region formulated a SAARC Intensive Natural Disaster Management Strategy.
For the regional coordination during the time of disasters, the 13th SAARC Summit held in Dhaka in 2006 set up the SAARC Disaster Management Centre in New Delhi, India.
Furthermore, the SAARC nations have signed the Thimphu Commitment 2010 on climate change, SAARC regional framework for action 2011 and adopted the Declaration on Climate Change and the SAARC Action Plan on Climate Change to combat the disasters.
The SAARC ministerial meeting approved the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015) in 2005 and the 15th SAARC Summit endorsed it in 2007.
The 18th SAARC Summit should unveil concrete commitment for risks minimization, climate change resilience and sustainable development for the period after 2015.
Constitution of parliamentary special committees in all eight SAARC countries is an urgent need in regard to disaster management and climate change with the responsibility to carry out the supervisions of the disaster management bodies.
Despite much hue and cry, integrated and special initiatives to battle earthquake, flood and landslide, storm and other disasters are not adopted in the region in a true sense. Information exchange on possible rainfall ahead of flood and gender-responsive disaster impact reduction plan is the need of the hour. Regional cooperation and unity as well as political commitment and environment of trust among the peoples and governments of the SAARC region were needed for this. The impacts of disasters are not limited to a particular nation but are global.
Challenges are sure to galore in the path of sustainable development if the intercontinental issues like air pollution, deforestation, reduction of bio-diversity, water resource management, migration were not addressed in a strategic manner. So, exchange of information through promotion of mutual support among the SAARC nations, capacity building, good practice, skills and experiences and cooperation could ensure implementation of the framework to tackle the disasters.
Of the various agendas, environment and natural disaster should be incorporated for discussions in the upcoming 18th SAARC Summit as millions of South Asian peoples are losing their capacity to face the impact of climate change due to the delay in implementation of the pervious deals.
So, the 18th SAARC Summit to conclude on 27 November in Kathmandu should come up with the firm commitment with renewed action plan after the thorough review of the previous declarations taken in the fields of climate change and disasters.
(Translated by Mahendra Subedi)
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