Asia is one of the regions hardest hit by natural hazards, with vast populations settled in particularly vulnerable urban and rural coastal areas. With global climate change predicted to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme hydro-meteorological events, early warning systems and disaster preparedness plans are necessary but alone are insufficient to reduce risk. Additonal measures are needed to address the underlying risk factors. The restoration, protection and sustainable management of ecosystems play a vital role in this regard.
Coastal ecosystems and associated watersheds provide a wide range of services to coastal communities, including food, building materials, fuelwood as well as shoreline protection against storm surges and floods. Therefore, in areas prone to natural hazards, using coastal ecosystems as natural protective “infrastructure” would not only decrease exposure but also enhance livelihood options and resilience of local people.
In recognition of the important role coastal ecosystems play in reducing risk, UNEP in collaboration with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR)
in the Asia-Pacific implemented a multi-stakeholder capacity-building initiative which was supported by the European Commission AIDCO programme. Implemented in 2007-2009, the project aimed to build the capacity of coastal zone managers as well as disaster risk reduction practitioners in South and Southeast Asia on disaster risk reduction approaches that maintain and enhance ecosystem services. With a special focus on India, Indonesia, Maldives and Sri Lanka, the project collaborated with national agencies responsible for disaster management as well as coastal zone development and environmental management, in order to strengthen partnerships and coordination amongst these key national actors. A major project output included interactive national training courses on DRR for coastal zone managers which received enthusiastic uptake from participants and positive reviews from an EU-sponsored external evaluation. The training exercise enabled coastal zone managers to improve land-use planning and design hazard mitigation projects based on maximizing ecosystem services.
At the regional level, the project also worked in collaboration with Mangroves For the Future
(MFF), a multi-agency, multi-country initiative which promotes coastal ecosystem restoration for sustainable development. A regional training manual was also developed in partnership with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC). With phase 1 of the project completed, UNEP is working together with UNISDR in mobilizing additional resources for phase 2, which is envisaged to include the delivery of the regional training course and field-based projects.
Also for further information on the implementation of Phase I at the country-level, please refer to the Disaster Risk Reduction section in UNEP’s Disasters and Conflicts Quarterly Progress Report.