India extremely vulnerable to displacement of people due to natural disasters

Floods are among the primary hazards of concern and account for most weather-induced displacements, says a report prepared by the Asian Development Bank and the Internal Monitoring Centre

PTI Photo (File)
PTI Photo (File)

Gyan Pathak

With 41.4 million people displaced due to natural disasters between 2010 and 2021, India has emerged as the most vulnerable in South Asia in this respect, followed by Pakistan (16.4 million), Bangladesh (14.1 million) and Nepal (3.3 million). South Asia, as a whole, accounts for 61.4 million such people.

These are among the 10 most vulnerable countries in Asia and Pacific region, according to a new report titled ‘Disaster Displacement in Asia and the Pacific: A Business Case for Investment in Prevention and Solution’ jointly prepared and released by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Internal Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

The total number of people displaced in the region due to natural disaster and hazards was 225 million, accounting for over three-quarters of the global number.

The other six countries out of the 10 most vulnerable countries in the region were China with 70.43 million people displaced during the decade, Philippines (49.3 million), Indonesia (6.5 million), Vietnam (4.7 million), Japan (4.6 million) and Myanmar (3.7 million).

In comparison, East Asia (75.9 million) and Southeast Asia (69.2 million) had the highest number of people displaced due to natural disasters – nearly two-thirds of Asia and the Pacific – followed closely by South Asia. Central and West Asian (17.9 million).

Though the number in the Pacific stood at 914,000, the lowest in comparison to all the subregions, it runs the greatest displacement risk relative to its size of population.

The 225.3 million displacements in Asia and the Pacific include 5 million displacements due to Cyclone Amphan across South Asia in 2020, 2.6 million due to the Gorka earthquake in Nepal in 2015, and 15.5 million due to floods in the People’s Republic of China in 2010.

This represents an annual average of 18.8 million and is equivalent to around 78 per cent of the global total during the period. It does not include the estimated hundreds of thousands of people displaced in Pakistan due to severe flooding since June 2020.

These figures included individuals who have been displaced more than once. In this sense, the number of internal displacements does not equal the number of people displaced during the year. Although it would be fair to assume that a high number of internal displacements is linked to high population exposure – as would be the case in highly populated countries like India and China – the number of disaster displacements cannot be looked at relative to the population of a country.

Floods are among the primary hazards of concern and account for most weather-induced displacements. Three countries with the most internal displacements caused by floods in the Asia and Pacific region are China with 40.4 million displacements, India (29.9 million), and Pakistan (15.2 million).

Most displacements associated with floods are urban, as cities are often located in flood-prone river basins or coastal areas. Rapid urbanisation in highly and densely populated countries like India, Bangladesh, and China contributed to heightened flood displacement risk, especially in unplanned and informal settlements that lack adequate drainage and water management infrastructure.

As a result, poor communities tend to be unevenly affected by the impacts of floods and resulting displacements.

India is also among the three countries with the most internal displacements, with about 11.3 million caused by storms, while Philippines ranked the worst (41 million), followed by China with 27.1 million displacements.

Asia and the Pacific is also the world’s most active seismic region. The Pacific Ring of Fire – where tectonic plates meet – trigger around 90 per cent of the earthquakes globally. The continental Asia is also highly prone to earthquakes due to the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates.

Below average monsoon rains also cause severe droughts which severely affect rural communities, whose livelihood depend on agriculture. The scarcity of water during summer is another problem.

India is among the countries that suffers heavily from this problem. India is also among the three most affected countries due to slow onset of hazards, after Afghanistan and China.

Poorer households are often disproportionally affected in a disaster, as documented in India, the report says.

The report discusses the role of climate change in disaster displacement, noting that the effects of climate change are becoming visible, and are projected to increase displacement as the frequency and intensity of hazards changes and impacts on food insecurity and water scarcity.

It also looks at the social and economic impacts and what steps are being taken to better prevent and prepare for disaster displacement.

The report analyses the impact of floods, storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic activity on each subregion in Asia and the Pacific, and how disaster displacement disproportionately affects vulnerable groups such as women, children, and the elderly.

The report also discusses the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as a gauge on measures undertaken to address both natural and manmade hazards and highlights the need for political, technical, and financial support in a regional concerted effort to reduce the impact of disasters on lives, livelihoods, and economies.

“Disaster displacement is already eroding the development gains in Asia and the Pacific and threatens the long-term prosperity of the region,” said ADB’s Chief of Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management

Thematic Group Noelle O’Brien, adding, “We need to strengthen policies and action on disaster risk management to ensure the region doesn’t regress on its development goals.”

“Disasters are costing Asia and the Pacific hundreds of billions of dollars,” said IDMC Director Alexandra Bilak. “However, the ultimate cost still lies in the millions of lives that are affected by unmitigated disaster displacement every year,” he added.

(IPA Service)

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