UNEP - Regional Office for Asia Pacific - Reducing Vulnerability to Disasters
UNEP helped countries in the Indian Ocean to be better prepared to the impacts of climate change and to future potential natural hazards, enhancing disaster risk reduction capacities of coastal zone managers and providing project managers, especially within the Mangroves for the Future initiative (MFF), with appropriate tools to integrate concepts of climate change adaptation into their projects.

UNEP, in collaboration with UN/ISDR, MFF, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) and other entities, empowered representatives from India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other six Indian Ocean countries, with knowledge on how to design and implement projects that enhance the protection of lives and livelihoods in coastal areas while improving environmental quality and ecosystem services. This work also contributed to ongoing country efforts to enhance collaboration between national level disaster management organizations and national environment technical institutes. UNEP also supported countries in the region, especially targeting MFF countries, to learn about climate change adaptation, ecosystem based adaptation measures and about the integration of its concepts into coastal zone management plans and projects.

By enhancing the knowledge of the importance of ecosystems services, especially the protective services and the role they play in climate change adaptation, UNEP also contributed to the understanding of the importance of the conservation and sustainable management of coastal ecosystems and the possibility this would provide for green jobs.

Asia has been assessed as one of the world hotspot for natural hazards and for its high level of climate vulnerability. In the last months of 2009 only, the region was hit by three major disasters, typhoon Ketsana, the Samoa tsunami and the Java earthquake – affecting around four million people, causing the death of more than 1200 people and widespread destruction of buildings and houses.

Natural disasters, some of which are becoming even more frequent due to the changes in climate, are not only causing loss of lives and natural resources but also undermining the development of the countries in the region, setting back years of efforts and financial contributions.

When coupled with effective early warning systems and preparedness plans, healthy ecosystems can play a vital role in helping countries adapting to climate change and mitigating the impact of natural hazards on coasts. Through its recent work, UNEP has been promoting the implementation of ecosystem based disaster risk reduction and ecosystem based climate change adaptation at regional as well as country level. At the same time the importance of addressing underlying vulnerabilities of local communities was also shared as crucial factor to facilitate resilience to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change.