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Natural disaster losses seen tripling by century’s end

November 12, 2010, Business World

ANNUAL GLOBAL losses from natural disasters, excluding the impact of climate change, could triple to $185 billion by the end of the century, a joint report from the World Bank and the United Nations (UN) released Thursday night showed.

The report, titled “Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention,” added that from tropical cyclones alone, the world will lose an additional $28-$68 billion in damage each year.

The number of people in large cities exposed to storms and earthquakes, it said, could also double to 1.5 billion by 2050.

The report, also funded by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, is a product of a two-year effort by 70 experts from various disciplines and institutions.

It outlined measures preventing death and destruction from earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding.

The report said 3.3 million persons died from natural hazards in the 40 years to 2010, including almost one million from droughts in Africa alone.

Property damage between 1970 and 2008 amounted to $2.3 trillion, with earthquakes and droughts causing most of the losses.

Damage is disproportionately high in middle-income countries, while poor and middle-income countries suffer the most, the report said.

Suggested measures include governments providing easy access to information on hazards and risks; providing land titles to reduce the possibility of eviction or demolition; investment in safer structures; and for governments to remove rent controls to encourage landlords to maintain buildings.

Other recommendations are reorienting public spending to prioritize infrastructure maintenance; and provision of low-cost, multipurpose infrastructure that double up as cyclone shelters and roadways that double up as drains.

“Undertaking these measures does not necessarily require governments to spend more,” the report said.

It noted, though, that additional spending on early warning systems, specifically weather forecasting, is needed

“There have been many advances in predicting weather, with three-day accuracy now over 95% and more than half the seven-day forecasts correct. Few countries, however, have taken full advantage of this progress since many governments do not fund their hydro-meteorological services adequately,” it said.

Sought for comment, Susan Rachel G. Jose, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director for regional development coordination staff, said the government is including disaster-risk reduction guidelines in development plans of 50 provinces nationwide.

She told BusinessWorld in a phone interview that NEDA will be signing memoranda of agreement with regional offices and provincial governments to start the project.

Last Sept. 17, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III signed Administrative Order 1 directing NEDA to conduct capability-building activities on disaster risk reduction guidelines for planning offices at local, regional and national levels. It also directed local government units to adopt and use the measures.

Guidelines were subjected to pilot-testing in Surigao del Norte, Ilocos and Caraga regions.

NEDA expects the 50 provinces to fully incorporate disaster risk reduction measures in development plans by 2011, said Ms. Jose, adding NEDA is awaiting “expression of interest” from remaining provinces.

On an annual basis, she added, the country spends an average of P1 billion from the calamity fund on top of emergency funding from local government units and nongovernmental organizations.


Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has proposed the creation of a special trust fund with an initial budget of P50 million to better implement disaster-risk mitigation and climate change adaptation under the Climate Change Act of 2009, or Republic Act (RA) 9729.

Senate Bill 2558, which will amend RA 9729, proposed a “people’s survival fund.”

This will be “suppletory (sic) to any annual appropriations by relevant government agencies for climate change-related programs and projects and by local government units (LGUs),” but “flexible to allow co-sharing arrangement,” Mr. Enrile said in a statement


Fund sources are 10% from cash dividends of government-owned and-controlled corporations; 5% from industry emission reductions that use international carbon market instruments; and 10% of the 7.5% share of the Department of Transportation and Communication in the special vehicle control fund under RA 8794, or road user’s tax.

Contributions to the fund shall be exempt from donor’s tax.

Programs and projects to be financed, according to the bill, include forecasting and early warning systems.

A proposed People’s Survival Board under the Climate Change Commission created by RA 9729, will use and supervise the fund.

Photo by Reina/iCSC.