DIE WELT (Germany)

Worldcrunch

Predicting earthquakes, floods, droughts and other assorted disasters is hardly an exact science. Still, as the just published 2012 WorldRiskReport notes, just how badly natural catastrophes hit comes down to how well prepared is the country’s government to respond.

In a risk index that includes 173 countries, experts of the Bonn-based United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU – EHS) have compiled information about not only just how at-risk these countries are but how well prepared for avoidance or minimization of the consequences of natural disaster.

According to the second annual report, the world’s most at-risk locations are the island states of Vanuatu and Tonga in the south Pacific that lie barely above sea level and could sink if it were to rise. Thirteen percent of the world’s population lives in coastal areas that lie less than 10 meters above sea level.

But while The Netherlands has the money to invest in protecting its coastline and area residents, Bangladesh (10th most at-risk nation) would be at the mercy of a catastrophe.

The report explicitly warns of the dangers of destroying natural ecosystems worldwide, which increases the risk of catastrophe. In the decade from 2002 to 2011, there were 4,130 catastrophes around the world, causing more than one million deaths and $2 trillion worth of economic damage.

New analyses show, the report says, that the situation today is more dramatic than had previously been assumed, and that the connection between environmental destruction and risk of catastrophe has been too little considered by governments. Catastrophe security should become part and parcel of all development policy, the report says.

After Vanuatu and Tonga, the most at-risk countries are the Philippines, Guatemala, Bangladesh, the Solomon Islands, Costa Rica, Cambodia, East Timor and El Salvador.

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