The Numerous Environmental and Meteorological Disasters that are Occurring in Asia have the Region in an Emergency. The Indonesian Earthquake is Joined by other Natural Disasters that Obey a Common Denominator: Climate Change, Which Brings with it Food Insecurity and Great Social and Environmental Damage.
Photo: Pixabay-Reference Image
Julián Andrés Pastrana Cuéllar
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Leer en español: Terremoto en Indonesia y otras catástrofes naturales que tienen a Asia en emergencia
A strong telluric movement on the Indonesian island of Java leaves, so far, a balance of 268 dead and more than a thousand injured, according to reports by the German media DW. The quake had a magnitude of 5.6 and had its epicenter near the town of Cianjur, located 75 kilometers from Jakarta.
With a depth of 10 kilometers, the powerful quake claimed the lives of hundreds of locals who were crushed to death under the rubble of buildings. Many of the victims were children who were in their schools at the time. The authorities of the Asian country estimate that 22,000 homes suffered damage and more than 58,000 inhabitants of the area were displaced. In addition, the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB for its acronym in Indonesian) reports that access to some isolated areas, to advance the rescue efforts, has been hampered by damage caused by the earthquake on the roads of the region.
This natural catastrophe is added to others that have affected Asian countries in recent months, such as the recent floods in Pakistan and the widespread droughts in various parts of the continent the previous summer. According to the United Nations (UN), this phenomenon has caused the death of 1,500 people, 552 of them children. Added to this, it is estimated that eight million people have had to move due to this natural event that has also left bridges and roads completely destroyed. Another side effect of these floods has been the spread of diseases such as cerebral malaria, for which there are no drugs.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that the UN estimates that it is necessary to wait at least six months for the water level to drop. One of the population groups most influenced by the catastrophe are Afghan refugees, since it is estimated that around 800,000 of them reside in districts directly affected by flooding.
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Extreme weather events across Asia wreak havoc
Indonesia and Pakistan are not the only countries hit by natural disasters in Asia. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), this entire continent is suffering the rigors of events of this type triggered by climate change. It is therefore not surprising that the Asian and Pacific islands, and countries like Pakistan, lobbied strongly at COP27 for climate justice. Although, it is true that the occurrence of an earthquake could not be attributed to global warming, this has been the trigger for other phenomena such as droughts, river floods and landslides.
At least, this is evidenced by the report on the state of the climate in Asia in 2021 prepared by the WMO, from which it is inferred that climate change is impacting people, the economy, and the environment, which in turn is worsening the food insecurity and holding back sustainable development. Despite the fact that there is still no report for 2022, the trend has continued.
Last summer was one of the strongest in the entire history of the continent. China saw the flow of its most important river, the Poyang, diminished by two thirds, and many hydroelectric plants saw their operation stopped or reduced. Likewise, several cities broke records in their record temperatures, exceeding 45 degrees Celsius.
According to this report, the economic losses derived from these natural disasters are increasing. For example, in the last two decades, "economic losses, the result of droughts, have increased by 63%, those caused by floods have increased by 23% and those due to landslides have grown by 147% ”. In this sense, these environmental and humanitarian concerns extend to the economic field, Martin Raiser, World Bank vice president for the South Asia region, noted in an October press release that South Asia faces a severe crisis. “ A pandemic, sudden changes in global liquidity and commodity prices, and disasters caused by extreme weather events were seen as potentially devastating risks, albeit unlikely to materialize. However, the three catastrophes have followed each other rapidly in the last two years and are testing the economies of South Asia,” said the expert.
As if that were not enough, so far in 2021, there have been 100 cases of natural hazards in Asia -mostly floods and storms- that claimed the lives of 4,000 people, affected 43.3 million individuals and caused economic losses due to the order of 35,600 million dollars.
Strengthening early warnings
In order to counteract these effects, Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary General, recommends strengthening early warning systems. “The United Nations initiative called Early Warnings for All will help protect the population from extreme weather events, whose intensity and frequency continue to increase. In this sense, in Asia there are great deficiencies that must be solved”, points out the manager.
For her part, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, states that "given that floods and tropical cyclones are the cause of the greatest economic losses in the region, investments in adaptation must be allocated as a priority to preventive and preparedness measures”.