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New approach needed to address flooding: WB

Update: February, 14/2012 - 09:46

HA NOI — Urban flooding has become an increasingly serious development challenge for fast growing low-and-middle-income countries in East Asia, including Viet Nam, according to a new World Bank guidebook released yesterday.

As developing countries transformed into largely urban societies, the concentration of people and assets has made urban flooding even more costly and difficult to manage, it said.

This is why there is an urgent need for integrated flood risk management related to urban planning and governance.

The guidebook, entitled "Cities and Flooding: A Guide to Integrated Urban Flood Risk Management for the 21st Century", provides forward-looking operational guidance on how to manage the risk of floods in a transforming urban environment and changeable climate.

"Urban expansion often creates poorer neighbourhoods which lack adequate infrastructure and services, making them more vulnerable to floods. The poor are hit hardest, especially women and children,".said World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific Region Pamela Cox, who led the launch of the book via cross-country videoconference from Tokyo yesterday.

"But rapid urbanisation also means we have the opportunity to do things right the first time, so cities and towns can support sustainable development, saving lives and money," she said.

Abhas Jha, lead author of the guidebook and urban specialist for Disaster Risk Management, said that recent large-scale disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the floods in Thailand and Australia emphasised the need for a new approach to disaster risk management and resilience.

"We need to design systems that recognise the complex and uncertain nature of flood risk management and its impacts. Design should be comprehensive, flexible and iterative to avoid an over-reliance on any one given solution which may not be enough to counter the dynamic nature of risk," he said.

According to the guidebook, the most effective way to manage flood risk is to take an integrated approach that combines both structural and non-structural measures.

This includes building drainage channels and flood-ways, incorporating "urban greening" such as wetlands and environmental buffers, creating flood warning systems as well as land use planning for flood avoidance.

Speaking of mapping risk and vulnerability, the Washington-based lender has already worked with partners to support meteorological services in the Lower Mekong Basin. This will assist cities in Viet Nam and Indonesia to develop a medium term resilience plan that takes into account the uncertainties and risks from natural hazards.

While floods are the most frequent among all natural disasters, causing widespread devastation, economic damage and casualties, theEast Asia and Pacific regionis particularly vulnerable.

The number of floods in Asia amounted to around 40 per cent of the total worldwide over the past 30 years. — VNS

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