Lessons from Nepal's earthquake tragedy

image
Because Nepal's towns and cities are located on or near fault zones it remains critical to invest in and prioritize earthquake-proof infrastructure. UNDP Photo

The numbers of those who have perished are still rising following Saturday's massive earthquake in Nepal. The quake -- the country's largest in 80 years -- hit a notoriously vulnerable area. While our attention right now needs to focus on urgent relief and aid to the affected population, including livelihood support, very soon we must address the reality: that it was widely known that a major earthquake was going to strike Nepal. It is expected to happen again and we need to be prepared. For those of us working in disaster risk reduction and recovery, the earthquake is no surprise. Nepal's Kathmandu Valley is densely populated, seismically active and struggling to cope with weak infrastructure. Some areas remain extremely hard to reach. Over the years, numerous studies, analyses and commentaries pieces have emphasised that a major disaster is highly probable in this very vulnerable region. Risk-blind development and disasters While brought on by a geological incident, the disaster in Nepal is very much the result of human action and development choices. Poor infrastructure, a lack of compliance with building codes, and high levels of poverty that have elevated vulnerabilities mean that the likelihood of an earthquake having devastating impact is significantly... Read more

Can we really blame it on the rain?

For the last 10 years, I have been working on gender-mainstreaming in economic policies and development programmes in Asia. Using this lens to analyze the deep-rooted iniquities that still characterize much of the world today has become all the more relevant. There is a growing mountain of evidence that policies as well as external shocks such as climate change affect men and women differently, given locations and social and economic strata among other things. A new research paper Blame it on the Rain?: Gender differentiated impacts of drought on agricultural wage and work in India, published earlier this year confirms what we have known intuitively for a long time. The author, Kanika Mahajan, was one of 80 fellows who attended a two-week course on gender and macroeconomics that I organized with financial support from the Government of Japan. After the course, she applied the knowledge and techniques to her own country’s context and assessed the impacts of climate change on women and men in farming communities. Her findings provides us compelling evidence and insights in designing climate finance policies and programming. Rice, a staple food in Asia, is a water-intensive crop, and the cultivation of rice requires more labour days, particularly for women,... Read more

Why more tigers in India is good news for us all

image
There were roughly 100,000 tigers in 1900; that number has tumbled to 3,200 in 2014. UNDP Photo

My first encounter with a wild tiger was pure drama. I was on safari in India’s Nagarhole National Park and only a few minutes into our game drive, the forest erupted into bedlam.... Read more

Inspired by China, Made in Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s cities are growing at breakneck speeds. A decade ago, the country’s economy was still largely agricultural. Today, more than 60% of the national GDP originates in the cities, and by 2030, the population living in urban areas is expected to double at 80 million. Small wonder then, that infrastructure and services have not been able to keep up. Long queues and repeat visits are common if you have some business with city officials. Citizens frequently face a variety of complexities in registering a birth or death, in paying bills (e.g. tax, fees), or requesting connections to municipal water supply.... Read more

Lessons from the Past Help to Prepare for the Future

image
We have seen that involving communities in the recovery process brings special commitment and speeds up recovery. UNDP Photo

In China there is an old proverb that goes: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” As we look at how things have changed since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami we can see how UNDP has worked with partners to educate people across the spectrum, to ensure that fewer lives are lost when disaster strikes. For years, we have been working to support governments in reducing risks from disaster, in helping communities build resilience, and in assisting to set up early warning systems.... Read more