Act now, save later


Author: Iain Willis

The World Resource Institute (WRI) issued a startling report last week highlighting the urgency to update global flood defences. The report notes that if no action is taken to improve existing flood defence measures, the global population at risk of river flooding could rise by three-fold in the next 15 years, costing the world economy an unprecedented £340bn a year. The WRI cite a combination of climate change and population growth as the key protagonists for this projected increase.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the greatest risk is identified to the fast growing economies of Asia, with India, Bangladesh and China accounting for 56% of the global population exposed to future river flood risk. With much of this flood risk uninsured, these are worrying projections, but given the timing of this news, it strikes me that the WRI report could also provide a very real catalyst for much needed change.

For 10 years the United Nation’s Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) has tirelessly put pressure on local and national stakeholders to double their efforts in disaster risk reduction. Despite a suite of high profile flood disasters during this period, notable humanitarian casualties, and greater evidence of anthropogenic climate change, the HFA has struggled to gain leverage among nation states.

If we are to avoid the potential flood risks posed by the WRI findings, perhaps further focus should begin to be placed on the real cost-benefit of flood risk mitigation. The UN’s recent #ActNow campaign pointed out that for every $1 USD spent on global disaster risk reduction, $7 USD can be saved from the future costs of disaster response and recovery that would have occurred.    

The WRI report could be very well timed given that the 14th March 2015 will mark the start of the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR). Coordinated by the UN and with a host of world leaders, scientists, NGOs, and economists set to descend on the small Japanese city of Sendai, flood risk reduction will undoubtedly be high on the agenda!

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