On The Line

Making Cities Safer . . . Before Disasters Strike

Rapid urbanization is a global phenomenon, and as populations concentrate in growing cities, they become increasingly vulnerable to natural and technological disasters. The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) recently launched the "Safer Cities" case study series to present useful strategies for urban disaster mitigation derived from analyses of real-life experiences, successful practices, and lessons learned in Asian cities.

Cities of Asia are changing the way they think about disasters. In the past, there was a tendency to respond to disasters as they occurred, with actions focusing primarily on response and relief. In recent years, a more comprehensive approach has emerged that focuses on actions taken prior to disaster to reduce human suffering, economic losses, and institutional collapse. This approach integrates disaster risk reduction with sustainable economic, social, and environmental development.

Asia is the most disaster-affected region of the world. In the last decade, nearly 60,000 people were killed and 190 million more were affected by disasters in Asia. This represents nearly 80% of fatalities and 90% of the total global population impacted by disasters. Exacerbating this problem, Asia is the fastest urbanizing region in the world, and nearly half of Asia's population is expected to live in urban areas by 2015.

Recognizing the challenges of urbanization and responding to the need for safer cities, ADPC implemented the Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Program (AUDMP) in 1995 (see the Observer, Vol. XXI, No. 2, p. 8), and the program has resulted in a range of strategies and mechanisms for urban disaster mitigation.

The AUDMP works to build the capacity of local authorities, national governments, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and other groups responsible for disaster mitigation. It also facilitates information sharing and dialog among key stakeholders to promote successful approaches in other cities and countries. The AUDMP currently has programs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The program's Safer Cities publication series highlights the experiences of Asian cities. It is designed to provide decision makers, planners, city and community leaders, and others with ideas, tools, policy options, and strategies for urban disaster mitigation. Key principles include broad-based participation, partnerships, sustainability, and replication of success stories.

The first three case studies in this series have been published. They include:

  • Safer Cities 1: Community Based Initiatives in Kathmandu Valley, January 2002. This study highlights lessons from a project in Kathmandu to establish a community-based disaster management process and implement a school earthquake safety program.
  • Safer Cities 2: Coping with Flood in Cambodian Communities, February 2002. This study features the development of an organizational framework for flood vulnerability reduction in 23 Cambodian communities.
  • Safer Cities 3: Mitigating Flood Risk in Cambodian Communities, March 2002. This research focuses on resource mobilization and proposal development, implementation of mitigation measures, and preparedness planning.

Three more case studies will be published this year dealing with public awareness and school earthquake safety programs in Indonesia and Nepal.

Christine Apikul, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, Bangkok, Thailand

Persons interested in receiving copies of the Safer Cities case studies should contact the ADPC, P.O. Box 4, Klong Luang, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand; fax: (662) 524-5350; e-mail: ccapikul@ait.ac.th; WWW: http://www.adpc.ait.ac.th.

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