To respond or to prevent?

11 Oct 2012

UNDP’s Disaster Risk Reduction Programme Specialist Herman Bergsma on high costs of natural disasters in Georgia

This Saturday 13 October, the world celebrates the international day for disaster risk reduction.

In Georgia disasters, particularly floods and droughts, continue to cause ever greater human and physical damage and loss. Georgia spends millions of dollars on emergency response and short-term recovery, while disaster risks remain.

Floods in 2007 in Georgia caused an impact of $246 million, while drought in 2000 caused impact of $183 million. (Source: National Environment Agency, Disaster Risk Atlas)

The total economic losses of climate-related natural disasters and land erosion are estimated to be at least $2.7 billion over the last 30 years according to a UNDP-commissioned regional Climate Change impact study.

The recent extreme hail, windstorm and flash flood in July 2012 caused a total economic impact (damages and losses) of over $ 123 million, seriously affecting 20,000 families in Kakheti region and causing damage to 5,255 residential houses and the municipal water, gas and electricity distribution systems.

Costs of emergency repairs to one of the water distribution systems exceeded $2 million. The system is now operational, but its exposure and vulnerability to flash floods remains.

A practical illustration for the need for a disaster risk reduction approach was provided by a post disaster needs assessment that was carried out jointly by the government of Georgia, the World Bank and the United Nations in August 2012.

Among other issues it identified that the two decades backlog of maintenance on municipal rivers and local drainage systems combined with a local utility infrastructure that has outlived its design life, substantially increased the risk of storm water flooding and flash floods at a time when development investments increase the exposure to flood risk.

Disaster risk reduction can sustainably reduce the existing risks as it takes into account all risk considerations across sectors and budgets and arrives at a solution which provides the best cost benefit ratio to inform the carefully planned investment of scarce public funding.

UNDP in Georgia continues to be a strong advocate for disaster risk reduction, and continues its advocacy efforts and provision of technical expertise and advice to a range of partners, through disaster risk reduction think-tanks, the Who Does What Where in disaster risk reduction database, technical support to integrating the approach in regional development strategies, and public awareness.