A greater understanding of the occurrence and impacts of natural disasters in the region and the capabilities of response in the region can be gained from a variety of sources. These include national and international databases; regional international intergovernmental and international nongovernmental organizations (INGO) and programs; and national disaster agencies.
INTERNATIONAL DISASTER DATABASES
There have been increasing efforts to compile international datasets on natural disasters worldwide, five of which are examined here (cf. the review of hazards in South Asia by Gupta and Muralikrishna, 2010). These datasets differ in coverage and data quality; they have different filters, strengths, and limitations (see reviews by Beckman, 2009; Gall et al., 2009). Although these databases have some overlap, each offers different information and insights into disasters that have risen to an international level of recognition. Damage and loss estimation is particularly uneven. The ECLAC (2003) methodology is sometimes used for assessing damage and needs in major disasters, but it is not consistently applied for database development.1
Currently all databases need to be searched and compared independently. They include different types of hazards, and in some cases different definitions of hydroclimatic hazards (Table D.1). They present nationally aggregated data, and it is therefore important to compare them with national databases. The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) has reported on efforts to “harmonize” national databases in Asia (Below et al., 2010). One international database, for example, the DesInventar Global Assessment Report (GAR), hosts a national disaster database that is discussed under national programs.
Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of
Disasters EM-DAT Database (CRED EM-DAT)
The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at Louvain, Belgium, compiles the most comprehensive public-access database worldwide, the EM-DAT international disaster database.2 It has coverage from 1900 to the present for ten major categories of hazards (Table D.1). It also provides individual Country Profiles.3
Global Identifier Number (GLIDE)
The Asian Disaster Reduction Center in Kobe, Japan, has developed a uniform numbering system for disaster data management. Each disaster that meets a set of criteria is issued a global identifier number (GLIDE) and catalogued using this number.4 GLIDE
1 There are other INGOs that have natural hazards programs, for example, the United Nations Development Programme’s GRIP (www.gripweb.org). An important effort for detailed forensic case study analysis is under development (Burton, 2010; IRDR, 2011).
TABLE D.1 Types of Natural Hazards Recorded by International Dataset
|CRED EM-DAT||Dartmouth Flood Observatory Database||GAR||GLIDE|
|Drought||Dam release + heavy rain||Drought||Drought|
|Earthquake (seismic activity)||Dam/Levy, break or release||Cold wave||Cold wave|
|Extreme temperature||Torrential rain||Earthquake||Epidemic|
|Flood||Tropical cyclone||Fire||Extreme temperature|
|Insect infestation||Tropical storm||Flood||Flash flood|
|Mass movement Dry||Rain and snowmelt||Forest fire||Flood|
|Mass movement Wet||Snowmelt||Frost||Heat wave|
|Landslide||Severe local storm|
|Liquefaction||SLIDE (use LS/ AV/MS instead)|
|wave/surge(use TS/SS instead)|
numbers are used by disaster-related organizations worldwide (example.g., CRED). A strength of the GLIDE system is that it differentiates among many types of hazards (Table D.1). One weakness is that it does not provide consistent comments on damages or separate losses of life, livelihoods, and property into separate data fields. The GLIDE data do not indicate increasing disaster frequency over the past decade; however, they do support other observations about the relative high frequency of flood and storm events.
Munich RE NATHAN Database
The Munich RE NATHAN Database is a proprietary database used for insurance, investment and strategic planning purposes.5 Its historical archive includes 28,000 datasets with increasingly comprehensive coverage after 1980. Its annual map of losses in 2010 indicates that a large proportion of hazards in South Asia have been meteorological or hydrological events. Although some NATHAN data are publically accessible, some detailed NATHAN data are not publically available and were therefore not used extensively in this report.
The U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs maintains a comprehensive portal for humanitarian concerns worldwide called ReliefWeb.6 As of August 19, 2011, Afghanistan had the largest number of “Updates” in the region. Most of Afghanistan’s entries are conflict related, for which it ranks first worldwide with 27,231 Updates, followed by Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pakistan also has a high number of updates for both natural disasters and complex emergencies. In 2010, ReliefWeb reported the following number of humanitarian entries for the countries in the study area: Afghanistan, 27,674; Bangladesh, 4,838; Bhutan, 159; India, 10,201; Nepal, 6,089; and Pakistan, 17,120.
Dartmouth Flood Observatory Database and
Flood Remote Sensing Databases
The Dartmouth Flood Observatory Database,7 now hosted at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has compiled and mapped major flood events worldwide since 1985. Other agency websites provide detailed remotely sensed flood imagery, for example, the Global Flood Detection System,8 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Operational Significant Event Imagery,9 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or TRMM,10 the CREST,11 site, and others. As these
data and technologies expand, it will be important to make comparable investments in integrative field research on the human dimensions of flood hazards (Guha-Sapir et al., 2011).
ORGANIZATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL
Regional intergovernmental organizations and international nongovernmental organizations that focus on natural hazards and disaster reduction in the South Asia region offer different perspectives on, and approaches to, natural hazards. Although not intended as an exhaustive list, the following provides a summary of organizations of note along with information about their focus:
• Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC).12 This regional organization in Bangkok serves most countries in South Asia except, it appears, Afghanistan and Bhutan. The center offers professional training and a clearinghouse of information in association with the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok.
• Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network.13 The Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN) out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a consortium of 34 NGOs dedicated to humanitarian assistance in the Asia-Pacific region, organized to support regional networking and information sharing.
• Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. This organization convenes biennial meetings of government ministers in disaster agencies. The most recent meeting took place in Seoul, Korea, in 2010. It focused on disaster risk reduction through climate change adaptation,14 and it was followed by a biennial conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka.15
• Duryog Nivaran.16 This regional nongovernmental organization based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is devoted to decentralized disaster risk reduction, which bears comparison with ADPC’s community-based approach to disaster risk reduction.
• Integrated Water and Hazard Management Pro grammes.17 The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is a regional knowledge development and learning center based in Kathmandu, Nepal. The center supports three major projects on mountain hydroclimate hazards in the Himalayan region:
° Disaster Preparedness in the Himalayas Program is the broadest initiative in the field.
° The new INDUS Project for Capacity Building for Improved Monitoring of Snow, Ice and Water Resources brings together scientists from Indus Basin countries for joint discussions and possible collaboration.
° The HKH-HYCOS Project established a Regional Flood Information System in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan area.
• SAARC—Disaster Knowledge Network.18 SAARC is the main regional intergovernmental organization (IGO) for South Asia. It has added disaster reduction to its shared concerns, creating a regional center in New Delhi that networks members and agencies in each country. It has created a knowledge clearinghouse that includes country profiles with links to policies, institutions, and resources.
• U.N. ESCAP19 The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok has a Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction that was established in 2009 and is serviced by a Committee on Information and Communications Technology.
NATIONAL DISASTER AGENCIES
Nations in the HKH region have disaster agencies and databases that take a variety of forms and include different types of information, as discussed here. This is not intended as an exhaustive list; rather, it is included to provide additional context when considering the response of the region to natural and hydroclimatic hazards.
• Afghanistan has a cabinet-level Department of Fighting Disasters and a Department of Red Cross (i.e., 2 of its 11 government departments). It also has a National Disaster Management Authority).20 Afghanistan has limited data on hydroclimate disasters, its stream gauging only being resumed in the early 2000s after a two-decade lapse due to armed conflict and civil strife (Mack et al., 2010; World Bank, 2010a). International organizations still report and respond to natural hazards, though most international appeals and programs address Afghanistan’s pervasive “complex emergencies” that include civil strife.
• Bangladesh’s Ministry of Food and Disaster Management contains a Disaster Management and Relief Division. Its Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) strives to link disaster risk reduction with climate change and development planning (Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 2010a,b, 2011). A website search of these agencies and programs indicated no specific references to snow, ice, or glacial hazards, as compared with their emphasis on river and coastal flooding and sea level rise. For example, Bangladesh has an online list of 41 past disasters (floods and/or erosion, or cyclones) from 1986 to 200921 and it maintains a “Disaster Incidence Database” with a GIS interface categorizing floods, cold waves, and droughts.22 The country’s main disaster maps characterize the northern areas as affected by mountain flood hazards along the main river channels with drought hazards off channel. Below et al. (2010) reported that one national database had only 71 records and that 62 percent of them lacked damage data. By comparison, the international CRED EM-DAT data-set for Bangladesh has 477 records of which only 3.3 percent lack damage data. However, closer inspection of the Government of Bangladesh’s online list of 41 past disasters revealed that it contains more detailed damage data than CRED EM-DAT
• Bhutan has a Department of Disaster Management under the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.23 Its website emphasizes training programs, community-based disaster risk management, GLOFs (including lowering impounded water levels),24 and school safety. It also includes a disaster management framework, earthquake recovery, regional climate risk reduction, and annual plans.
• India’s National Disaster Management Authority was established in 2005 after the catastrophic Gujarat and Kashmir earthquakes.25 Disaster management is becoming mainstreamed across national policies and programs. A major section of the Government of India Planning Commission’s current 5-Year Plan for national development is devoted to the subject (Government of India, 2006a, 2008). India’s National Institute of Disaster Management26 established in 1995 as part of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) has aligned itself with the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata for advanced quantitative analysis of disaster risk and response. It publishes its own journal and publication series and convenes workshops, etc.
The subject of hydroclimatic hazards in the Himalayas is addressed in large measure through additional agencies, for example, the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Although India does not currently appear to have a national publically accessible online disaster database, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation’s Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council has produced a detailed Vulnerability Atlas of India with detailed district as well as aggregate data (Government of India, 2006b). Disaster management is on the concurrent list of the Constitution of India that gives joint authority to national and state governments. State governments are addressed below, but none of the states on the left bank of the Ganges River Basin affected by HKH flooding appear to have detailed disaster databases.27 As mentioned elsewhere in this report, security restrictions on access to streamflow data from India’s international basins constrain scientific analysis of hydroclimate risk reduction from the local to state, national, and international levels.
25 See ndma.gov.in/ndma/index.htm.
In other respects, India’s research capacity is the highest in the region. Kapur (2009) has compiled and analyzed 4,004 natural hazards research publications, limiting the search to hydroclimatic and geophysical disasters, and excluding related human crises (e.g., famines) and technological hazards (e.g., environmental pollution spills). India’s advanced remote sensing programs and meteorological research centers also give it a vital role in the region as a whole.
• Nepal’s Ministry of Energy has a Department of Water-Induced Disaster Prevention.28 Additionally, its Ministry of Environment has a Department of Hydrology and Meteorology.29 Although not on its national website, Nepal maintains a “Disaster Information/Inventory Management System (DIMS) (Below et al., 2010). The Nepal data are publically available on the GAR Database—National Disaster Inventory for Nepal.30 This database has approximately 16,879 records whereas CRED EM-DAT includes only 144 for Nepal and is a case in which the national database is superior to the international one.
• Pakistan is undergoing a process of administrative devolution under the 18th Amendment to its Constitution, enacted in 2010, which shifts many agencies on its concurrent list of joint federal-provincial authority to an exclusively provincial level of control. Important hazards-related exceptions include the Pakistan Meteorological Department under the Ministry of Defense, a Federal Flood Commission under the Ministry of Water and Power, a Pakistan Centre for Research on Water Resources under the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the semiautonomous Water and Power Development Authority—each of which has responsibility for different aspects of hydroclimate hazards management. Devolution of the Ministry of Environment raised questions about how climate change policies and programs would unfold at the national level (Aftab, 2011; Ghumman, 2012), but the federal cabinet adopted a national climate change policy and established a Ministry of Climate Change in 2012. At the same time, the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock were devolved, and irrigation has already been administered at the provincial level. The role of the National Disaster Management Authority,31 established in 2006, relative to provincial disaster management agencies will likewise be important—as hydroclimate hazards cross all of the provincial boundaries in Pakistan.