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Disaster Mitigation
in Asia

30 November 2009
Issue No. 74

This newsletter is published through the Program for Hydro-meteorological Disaster Mitigation in Secondary Cities in Asia (PROMISE), funded by USAID/OFDA, commenced from October 2005.  The objective of the program is to contribute towards reduction of vulnerability of urban communities through enhanced preparedness and mitigation of hydro-meteorological disasters in South and Southeast Asia. Six cities highly vulnerable to hydro-meteorological disasters were selected for implementing demonstration projects on disaster mitigation by urban communities from 2006 to 2009 – Chittagong (Bangladesh), Hyderabad (Pakistan), Jakarta (Indonesia), Dagupan (Philippines), Kalutara (Sri Lanka), and Da Nang (Viet Nam).  The program is now being implemented in Jamalpur (Bangladesh), Pasig (the Philippines), and Matara (Sri Lanka).


Typhoon Parma vs. PROMISE

On October 8, Dagupan City in the Philippines was submerged by the worst flooding in Northern Luzon history with over 500 casualties and at least PhP 7 billion-worth of damage to properties.  Other cities and municipalities were also badly affected by floods that came from a combination of rain from Typhoon Parma and emergency dam.  Unlike the neighboring localities, Dagupan City was well-prepared even before the storm entered the country and had no casualties.

The eight high-risk barangays had undergone pre-emptive evacuation triggered by the end-to-end flood early warning system; this system was previously reinforced by community-based disaster risk management processes, several evacuation drills and flood simulations.  Dagupan City Government concentrated on assisting medium- and low-risk barangays that were all reached by flood waters.  The City Disaster Coordinating Council (CDCC) and Barangay Disaster Coordinating Councils (BDCCs) took a major role in preventing death and major damage while waiting for rescuers to reach their areas during the crucial hours, thanks to the Community-Based Emergency Response training, and assistance from external rescue teams.  The city’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC) had monitored the preparations for possible evacuation, and later had to manage 18 evacuation centers sheltering 155,000 people, and some high-rise buildings that became temporary shelters for 30,000 people.  The evacuation centers had been prepared but supplies.  Standard Operating Procedures developed as a project activity enabled the EOC to monitor survivors’ relief needs, put out an appeal, and distribute the received relief items accordingly.

These components of a disaster preparedness system were developed and institutionalized through the capacity building and initiation of PROMISE.  Dagupan passed its first test after the end of PROMISE, and now the program hopes to carry the lessons forward to the new cities. 

PROMISE Activities for November and December 2009:

  •       BANGLADESH – Jamalpur has a population of 132,700 and the area of 53.28 km2, where 58% of the land use is for agriculture. To the east, Jamalpur is bounded by the Brahmaputra River while Jamuna River is at the west.  The city is prone to floods, cyclones, soil and river erosion and water logging.  Of the city’s 12 administrative wards, wards 10, 11 and 12 are low lying areas and densely populated by poor, landless and vulnerable communities.  Contributing factors of floods and water-logging include river bank erosion, shallow water table, inadequate water retention areas, inadequate flood protection structures, poorly maintained and inadequate drainage network, and poor solid waste management.  PROMISE BD will run from November 2009 to August 2010.  Its activities are to identify the most vulnerable communities in Jamalpur and reduce their vulnerability through: (1) participatory risk assessment and action plan development; (2) community-based mitigation activities; (3) training of trainers on community based emergency response; and (4) advocacy for mainstreaming DRR by reviewing the Jamalpur Pouroshava Development Plan and making recommendations based on the participatory risk assessments and action plans.
    PROMISE BD held its inception meeting for the Extension Program activities in Jamalpur City on 23 November 2009 at Conference Room in Jamalpur Municipality.  The main objective of this meeting were to obtain consensus on a proposed project work plan and to form a Technical Working Group (TWG) in Jamalpur that will have the project activities as focus.  At the end of the meeting, there was a consensus among the participants, and a 17-member TWG was created to meet once a month on the same date as the municipality’s general meeting.  In addition, the municipality will provide full support for the project, and space on its premises to establish an EOC.  A Memorandum of Understanding will be inked out to this effect, to be signed by ADPC and the Municipality.

  •         PHILIPPINES – Pasig is part of Metro Manila in the Philippines. It is a primarily residential and industrial city but has Ortigas Center, one of the top business districts in the metropolis with numerous high-rise office buildings, residential condominiums, commercial establishments, schools and malls.  Pasig City is affected by riverine flooding from Pasig River, and local flooding from typhoons.  Pasig City has an award-winning emergency preparedness program. However, the recent Typhoon Ketsana in September 2009 made the city government realize that their preparations were not enough for floods that magnitude and their impacts.  PROMISE RP will run from November 2009 to August 2010.  Its activities are to identify the most vulnerable communities in Pasig City and reduce their vulnerability through: (1) participatory risk assessment and action plan development; (2) mitigation and preparedness through a review of the city’s SOPs and disaster risk management plans; (3) capacity building of city emergency responders, and awareness-raising in schools; and (4) advocacy through workshops for mainstreaming DRR.
    The city’s TWG for PROMISE RP underwent the first of a two-part CBDRM ToT training course.  PROMISE RP held the kick off meeting on November 27.  The main objective of this meeting were to obtain consensus on the proposed project activities.  Present were more than 100 people including Hon. Mayor Roberto Eusebio, city officials, members of the TWG, barangay captains and some stakeholders, as well as representatives from the country project partner, the Center for Disaster Preparedness.

  •       SRI LANKA – Matara is a city with a population of 76,000 in 2007, and located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka ithin a rapidly developing urban commercial center.  Nilwala River flows through the city to the Indian Ocean. During monsoon season, the river carries flood waters from the hills to the flat lands, often causing severe damage to crops, agricultural lands, and the urban built up area.  Rapid urbanization and high in-migration exacerbate the flood disaster risk almost every year despite the structural mitigation measures already taken.  PROMISE SL will run from October 2009 to August 2010.  The project implementing partner is The Asia Foundation (TAF), whose main focus is local governance, and has added disaster risk reduction to the areas it supports.  Project components include: (1) Hazard, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment and Development of City Hazard Map; (2) Mitigation and Preparedness; (3) Training and Public Awareness; and (4) Advocacy for Mainstreaming Risk Management.
    PROMISE SL held the kick-off workshop on November 13.  The workshop featured: a welcome address by the Hon. Mayor of Matara ; an introduction to the Disaster Management Centre; a presentation on PROMISE Regional experience by ADPC; a technical presentation on experience of PROMISE in Kalutara by the National Building Research Organization; an introduction of the Matara project by the Asia Foundation; an overview of storm water drainage study by University of Moratuwa; and discussion and agreement on the project activities.  Activities for next month are the organization of a national conference on DRR, and preparations for ward-level community workshops for preparing the hazard map.

A. From the Region

(1) ADPC Holds Regional Meeting for Landslides Early Warning Systems

Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) organized the “Regional Meeting for discussion and promotion of Early Warning Mechanisms for Landslides in Asian Region” from 25 to 27 November 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. Throughout the three-day meeting, representatives of partner institutions from nine member countries, ADPC, and the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) discussed the prevalence and mechanisms of rainfall induced landslides, landslide monitoring techniques, and early warning systems. The meeting is part of the Asian Program for Regional Capacity Enhancement for Landslide Impact Mitigation (RECLAIM), funded by the Royal Norwegian Government. 

(2) Mirinae floods Viet Nam central highlands
(based on a report from IRIN)

Thousands were evacuated from low-lying areas, residents reinforced their homes with sandbags and fishing boats were ordered into port as Viet Nam prepared for the storm that hit on November 2.  Despite those efforts, 98 people died and more than 60,000 homes were flooded, damaged or had collapsed, according to the CCFSC.  Phu Yen Province was the hardest hit, with 69 people dead.  Officials said 600mm of rain fell in a 24-hour period, the heaviest rain in about 60 years.  The disaster happened a week after a meeting in Hanoi to address Vietnam's weather forecasting abilities wherein government meteorologists were lamenting the country's outdated technology and inexperienced forecasters. 

(3) Moving a country’s capital out of an earthquake risk zone
(based on a report by BBC)

BBC made a report that the Iranian expediency council, has approved plans to move the capital by 2025.  The government is said to be reacting to calls from Iranian seismologists, who have long warned that Tehran lies on at least 100 known fault lines, and would not survive a major quake intact.  Read the BBC article here:

(4) Weather modification, anyone?
(based on an article by Disaster Research)

The Beijing Weather Modification Office may have precipitated its early snowfall (
vQ3bVtBd3FOFdQfAqT3Sx5EQ), while Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is planning to intercept clouds and make them dump their snow before they reach the city.  Finally, in 2008 Microsoft’s Bill Gates and other investors have filed five related patent applications for a process to stop hurricanes (

B. Calls for Submission

(5) Call for Papers: 1st International Conference on Sustainable Built Environment: Enhancing Disaster Prevention and Mitigation

Organizer: Faculty of Civil Engineering and Planning of the Islamic University of Indonesia.  Scheduled for 27 to 29 May 2010, the forum is organized for the exchange of ideas, the sharing of knowledge and experience as well as for the dissemination of information about built environment in different parts of the world.  Participants from a range of backgrounds and professional disciplines in built environment management, who anticipate having, disaster mitigation and reconstruction responsibilities, are invited to participate in this seminar.  Topics of interest include: Risk assessments of buildings and structures on hazard intensity and vulnerability; Disaster mitigation in urban areas and settlements; Linking reconstruction to sustainable economic development; and Participatory approaches to reconstruction.  Deadline for e-mailed abstracts is no later than 31December 2009.  For more details, visit the conference website:

(6) Call for Entries: My View: The Asia-Pacific Climate Change Video Contest

Organizer: Asian Development Bank.  The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has announced a new video competition – My View: The Asia-Pacific Climate Change Video Contest – to promote awareness of climate change, stimulate debate, and encourage climate change solutions in the lead-up to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.  There are no age restrictions for the contest. Citizens of any one of ADB's 67 member countries are eligible to participate.  Over $10,000 worth of prizes are being offered in three categories for the best videos about climate change in Asia and the Pacific.  All entries must be submitted by 31 January 2010.  Learn more from  the contest webpage:

C. Conferences and Courses 

(7) GIS for Disaster Risk Management (advanced course) – Bangkok, Thailand: 7 - 18 December 2009

Organizer: Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC).  The course provides an excellent opportunity for professionals and practitioners to obtain essential skills and knowledge in GIS and RS and their current application in disaster risk management. Participants will gain practical and technical knowledge on the uses of GIS and RS in disaster prevention, preparedness and emergency response.  The course is co-organized with the International Institute for Geo-information Science and Earth Observations and the Asian Institute of Technology.  For more information, please go to: 

(8) Regional Consultative Meeting on Development of Pre-Disaster Natural Hazard Loss Estimation Strategy – Bangkok, Thailand: 14 – 15 December 2009

Organizer: Asian Disaster Preparedness Center.  ADPC with the financial assistance from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is implementing a regional program for Pre-disaster Natural Hazard Loss Estimation in Bangladesh, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.  One of the urgent needs of the day is developing a standardized methodology and also to make arrangements for advocacy and sensitizing the policymakers for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in development initiatives.  The aim of this meeting is to organize an interactive discussion forum for identifying the national needs, challenges and expectations, and also to initiate building the ownership on the final product of this project.  Expected participants are disaster management professionals, specialists in national planning departments/ministries, sector based development planning specialists etc., from a few candidate countries which are getting frequently affected from natural disaster events.  Learn more about the project here:

(9) Workshop on University Networks for Education and Research in Disaster Risk Management – Bangkok, Thailand: 18 - 20 December 2009

Organizers: Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), Interntational Institute for Geo-information Science and Earth Observations (ITC), and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).  ADPC, ITC and AIT are organizing a workshop to evaluate the current state of training and research in Disaster Risk Management in South-East Asia, training and research needs and challenges in the region, and the potential for a University network for meeting the needs and challenges. 


(10) Community-Based Disaster Risk Management Training Course – Dhulikhel, Nepal: 2 – 6 January 2010
Organizer: Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief—India
This course describes basic concepts of community-based disaster preparedness, provides insight into disasters and development, covers concepts of risk and vulnerability assessment, and addresses difficulties in identification and analytics. Costs and registration: USD375.  For more details, please go to:


(11) 4th Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in Local Governance – Manila, Philippines: 25 – 29 January 2010

Organizer: Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC).  The overall objective is to develop a cadre of local government professionals sensitive to issues presented by the recurrent hazards.  The course intends to increase their knowledge, as well as of other stakeholders, on urban governance and disaster risk management to be responsive to the needs of vulnerability reduction, and to create opportunities for mainstreaming risk reduction as a component of urban governance.  For inquiries, contact Ms. Padma Karunaratne,


D. Useful Resources


(12) ADPC tweets

Get announcements and updates about ADPC from:


(13) Hazard Profile of Myanmar, July 2009

This report is jointly prepared by ADPC, Union of Myanmar (Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, Forest Department, Relief and Resettlement Department, Irrigation Department, Fire Services Department), Myanmar Engineering Society, Myanmar Geosciences Society, Myanmar Information Management Unit. The project was supported by Department for International Development (DFID), UK.  Download here: 

(14) Remotely sensed data for disaster management

How can satellite remote sensing provide crucial data to prepare for, mitigate, respond to and relieve the impacts of natural disasters?  SciDev.Net explores how developing countries can access and make use of these data, and considers what policymakers must do to prepare.   

(15) Coping with COP15?  Climate change online resources

Here are some online sources related to the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) taking place at Bella Center in Copenhagen from the 7 to 18 December 2009.  COP 15 is anticipated to be the “largest international political conference ever held in Denmark with participants from 192 countries representing governments, the business community, and civil society”, according to the joint welcome statement by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Connie Hedegaard, Minister for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.  Besides commitments to cut emissions, a major aspect of the negotiations is financing of mitigation and adaptation to climate change in developing countries.  Here are some links to related web resources:

 (16) This month in Asia’s disaster history

Tropical cyclone Bhola struck East Pakistan on 12 November 1970.  While other stronger cyclones had been previously recorded for East Pakistan, this tropical storm had peak winds at 185 kph that generated a storm surge 10.6 meters high.  It had occurred during one of the highest high tides of that year.  Casualties were estimated between 300,000 to 500,000 people.  Dissatisfaction over the Pakistan government’s disaster response contributed to existing political tensions, and the natural disaster is said to have contributed to the landslide victory of the opposition party Awami League, and then to the formation of a new country Bangladesh.  Read more about it at:


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