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September 18, 2019

Accelerating climate change calls for better disaster preparedness

  • Myanmar is once again entering monsoon season and while the majority of the country is having its share of pouring rain and blowing winds, the nation’s dry zone has still not seen a drop. On the other hand, while there have been strong winds and lighting strikes occurring frequently we currently do not have to fear any approaching cyclones, storms or floods.
    However, we must not let our guard down. Natural disasters are spontaneous so we must make sure we have everything prepared to counter their effects. The increasing pace of climate change means we are now facing more natural disasters then before. They are no longer an unusual incident but something we get to see at least once a year, whether it be cyclones, earthquakes or flash floods.
    There are three seasons in Myanmar – hot, rainy and cold – but we are now experiencing lacklustre rain, warm winters and blazing hot summers. The monsoon season is also getting shorter and either doesn’t rain at all or lets loose torrents that end up flooding the country.
    In a recent meeting of the National Disaster Management Committee, its chairman Vice President U Henry Van Thio called on disaster risk management to constantly observe the changing weather patterns so that we can make necessary preparations, adapt our rescue strategies, and invest in emergency response programmes and long-term protection plans.
    It is inevitable that there will be losses when a natural disaster strikes, but early preparation can mitigate things considerably. For example, when Cyclone Fani hit the Indian State of Odisha on 2 May this year, it caused around US$7 billion in damages and the destruction was such that experts estimate it will take at least ten year to restore things. However, on a natural disaster of that scale, only 64 deaths were reported, showing how effective early preparedness can be.
    Echoing a similar experience, Cyclone Nargis’ entry into Myanmar on 2 May 2008 saw hundreds of thousands die due to a lack of proper preparation. It was a costly lesson. But eventually, we have improved our disaster management efforts and with the active participation of the people, who have experienced numerous calamities following Nargis, we have managed to reasonably reduce damages and casualties incurred from natural disasters.
    But now there is another issue. While more and more people are energetically engaging in early disaster preparedness and emergency response programmes, we need to ensure our surrounding natural environment does not deteriorate any further.
    If we cannot protect nature and our environment, then we will have difficulty keeping up with the increasing force and rate of natural disasters that occur due to deforestation and habitat destruction. Therefore, we implore everyone to keep their environment clean and promote eco-friendliness in order to preserve our natural world. After all, this is also part of disaster risk management.

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