As extreme heatwaves and wildfires burn across the world, scientists predict that the worst of the weather is yet to come.
I had the honour to be invited to attend the first ASEAN Forum on Disaster Resilience, hosted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force in mid-August this year. As we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic, it felt wonderful to be able to connect with many friends that I have worked with over the years on disaster preparedness and response in our region and beyond. We’ve come a long way in the 20 years since the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) was formed, in the 12 years since the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) was born, and through several massive and difficult crises.
Amidst the intricate web of challenges posed by disasters, the beacon of disaster risk reduction emerges as a resolute symbol of preparedness and resilience. Within the dynamic breadth of Southeast Asia, a region deeply touched by the consequences of climate change, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is firmly committed to strengthening disaster resilience in partnership with the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management.
Many disasters may be inevitable as the forces of nature are increasingly becoming unpredictable and destructive. However, their adverse impacts can be reduced through effective collaboration, preparedness, and response. The value of such cooperation cannot be overstated. ASEAN, a region that is vulnerable to various natural and human-induced disasters, has been working together with various partners to enhance its capacity and cooperation. One of the key partners in this endeavour is Japan, which has established the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). JAIF stands out as a pioneer development cooperation instrument contributing significantly to the ASEAN region in its quest for effective disaster management, response, risk reduction and mitigation, and the creation of resilient communities.
Viet Nam, with its extensive coastline, is highly susceptible to various hydro-meteorological hazards, including severe storms, cyclones, typhoons, floods, landslides, and coastal erosion. Approximately 70 per cent of the country’s population residing in coastal areas are exposed to these risks.
Thailand’s diverse geography contributes to its multifaceted disaster risk profile. The country experiences annual monsoon rains, resulting in flooding, especially in the central plains and northern regions. Thailand is also prone to tropical storms and cyclones during the monsoon season, which can bring destructive winds and heavy rainfall.
Singapore, a bustling island city-state in Southeast Asia, may appear as an oasis of tranquillity amidst the chaos of the modern world. Behind the scenes, the city-state is constantly preparing and ever-ready to respond to a range of hazards with its robust disaster management framework. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is the national focal point for disaster management and coordinates with multiple stakeholders and partners for a whole-of-society and whole-of-government response strategy.
Situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Pacific Typhoon Belt, the Philippines is prone to various hazards due to its geographical location. Floods, storm surges, landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and drought are the common hazards that the country deals with constantly.
The words “disaster” and “climate change” have become well-known because of the intensive and extensive disasters that are happening everywhere. The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia and it shares borders with several countries such as India, Bangladesh, China, the Lao PDR, and Thailand. Myanmar has a diverse and complex geographical landscape that plays a significant role in its susceptibility to a range of natural disasters. Its location, topography, and geological features contribute to its exposure to natural disasters such as cyclones, floods, and landslides. Additionally, earthquakes occur along the Sagaing Fault Zone, a substantial transform fault zone in the central region. These factors lead to the occurrence of devastating natural disasters throughout the region.
In December 2014, Malaysia experienced its worst monsoon flooding. The East Coast region was the hardest hit, particularly Kelantan. The flood affected more than 500,000 people and resulted in more than 700 million US dollars in losses and damage to the infrastructure.
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