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What Countries Are Most Exposed To Disasters? Depends On Sea Level, Smart Planning

DIE WELT (Germany)


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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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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