Science and technology have made significant achievements across different fields and would surely be making further breakthroughs in many crucial areas of development like health, agriculture, energy, communication etc. These can accelerate the process of implementation of the ambitious and transformative global agendas of resilient and sustainable development, if the power of technology is harnessed and applied in innovative ways to address the critical gaps in key areas.
There has been some progress in hazard, vulnerability and risk assessments at global, regional and national levels, but down scaling such assessments at local levels and communicating the risks to the last mile have remained problematic in most of the developing countries. Recent advances in geo-spatial and information and communication technologies have opened new possibilities for risk assessment and risk communication in a very cost effective manner.
Similarly, there have been significant progress in early warning of hydro-meteorological hazards like hurricanes, tropical cyclones, tornadoes, floods, heat and cold wave, avalanche, forest fires etc., but similar progress are yet to be seen for early warning of landslides, cloudbursts, etc. Flood warning in most of the developing world has not progressed beyond forecasts of rainfall and river discharge. Breakthrough in seismological research is yet to take place for early warning of earthquakes, but advance sensor-based warnings for a few seconds are possible to pre-empt damages to critical installations and loss of lives.
Tremendous progress has been made in developing disaster resilient technologies for construction of houses and various types of infrastructure, which can significantly reduce damage and losses, yet there are formidable challenges in complying with standards and specifications of such technologies for new constructions and retrofitting of existing stock of houses and infrastructure.
New technologies have been developed for enhancing energy and water efficiency in irrigation and for promoting resilience of agriculture during drought, flood and other extreme climatic events, but such adaptive technologies and practices are yet to be adopted on a wide scale in most of the countries. New frontiers of research have also been opened for dealing with epidemics and pandemics and for emergency health management which can significantly reduce disaster mortalities and disabilities but here again there are huge gaps between the possibilities and the realities.
Technology can certainly be a game changer in building resilience. This would require transfer and dissemination of proven technologies from the lab to land, and from the developed to the developing countries. This would also require enhanced investments on fundamental and applied research for development of new technologies for dealing with the existing and emerging risks of disasters. Various global frameworks have created mechanisms for addressing these issues. Sendai Framework has proposed creation of ‘global technology pools and global systems to share know-how, innovation and research and ensure access to technology and information on disaster risk reduction’. UN Sustainable Development Goals have called for enhancing ‘North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through a global technology facilitation mechanism’. Paris Agreement on Climate Change established a Technology Mechanism for ‘strengthening cooperation for technology development and transfer at different stages of the technology cycle, with a view to improve resilience to climate change through mitigation and adaptation’.
During the past five years several initiatives have been taken for technology development and transfer for building resilience to disasters, but the impacts of the initiatives are yet to be seen in large parts of the globe.