Spiralling risks of disasters and persistent adverse impacts of disasters on the lives, livelihoods, economy and environment have posed serious threats to sustainable development. Rapid onset catastrophic disasters like earthquake, tsunami, volcanoes, cyclone and flash flood erode in a matter of few minutes and hours hard-earned gains of development of years and decades. Slow onset creeping disasters like drought engulf large areas of developing countries threatening food security, livelihood, nutrition and health of the vulnerable communities including women and children. The recurring disasters of flood, landslides, cloud bursts, hailstorms, heat and cold waves, forest fires, pest attacks, epidemics and technological disasters of mining, industrial and transport-related accidents cause innumerable losses of lives, assets, wealth and economy. Climate change is compounding the risks through its impact on increasing frequency and intensity of disasters. Now the deadly pandemics of COVID-19, affecting communities and countries across regions, killing people, and disrupting society and economy have added another dimension to the complex risks of disasters.
As per the global database of disasters, during the past two decades there were as many as 12732 disasters in which 1.47 million people lost their lives, 3.9 billion people were affected adversely, and economic losses of USD 2.47 trillion was suffered around the world. These could very well be conservative estimates as the global database does not include disasters in which either less than 10 lives were lost and/or less than 100 per were affected. Further, estimation of economic losses does not include either opportunity costs of disasters such as productions that did not take place or tourists who could not travel due to disasters or damages that are difficult to quantify such as psycho-social damages or damages to natural and cultural heritage or environment and eco-system services.
Considering the severe threats that disasters pose for sustainable development, the global communities have flagged ‘building resilience to disasters’ as one of the overarching goals of global development agendas. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction seeks to achieve ‘substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.’ UN Sustainable Development Goals are ‘determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path.’ The Paris Agreement on Climate Change professes to ‘foster climate resilience’ for ‘sustainable development and eradication of poverty’. Similar commitments for building resilience to disasters have been made in the New Urban Agenda and the Agenda for Humanity.
Scanning these global development agendas, the Third World Congress on Disaster Management held in Vishakhapatnam on November 2017 identified seven pillars for building resilience to disasters. These are resilient agriculture and livelihood, resilient schools and hospitals, resilient infrastructure, resilient cities and human settlements, resilient communities, resilient businesses, and the resilience of the vulnerable communities. The Fourth World Congress held in Mumbai in January 2019 deliberated on the challenges and opportunities for bridging the gaps between promises and action across all these pillars of resilience.