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Disaster Mitigation
in Asia

31 Jan 2010
Issue No. 76

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).

The PROMISE of safe water in South Potenga, Chittagong

South Potenga is situated near the sea, and its available groundwater has a high salt content.  There is no other source of safe drinking water for household consumption, and families from the poor households would walk down 5 km. a day to get safe drinking water.  The community used a rain-fed pond for bathing and washing, but it was heavily polluted because the water was stagnant and people dumped waste in it.  It is not surprising that skin diseases, diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases were common in this community.  In 2007, the PROMISE project in Chittagong had enabled the community who drew water from the pond to recognize this as one of their vulnerabilities, and had included the rehabilitation of this water source in their action plan.  As a result, the pond was drained and cleaned, and a simple sand filter was installed by March 2008 to generate safe drinking water.  The project’s sustainability was to rely on the community masons who were trained on the filter’s design and construction technique, and a nominal fee of BDT 10 per household annually for maintenance.  Mr. Shrestha and Mr. Bapon from the UNDP Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction (UPPR) project visited the ward on January 20 with ADPC staff; they saw that the pond filter was still serving 2000 households, and that it is potentially a very cost-effective project in face of the safe water crisis that is looming over Chittagong.  Read more about this and other efforts of PROMISE Chittagong at: RESOURCES/Safer Cities/Downloads/SaferCities21.pdf 

PROGRAM ACTIVITIES for January to February 2010:

  • BANGLADESH – PROMISE BD conducted several meetings from January 17 and 18.  PROMISE BD gave orientation meetings for the wards selected for PROMISE BD in Jamalpur.  Each meeting was for the purpose of orienting the community about the PROMISE project in Jamalpur, and for each community to draw a location map of their ward that includes all the Mohallas or clusters within the ward, to be used later when conducting a transect walk.  ADPC staff made a general baseline and livelihood assessment by having focus group discussion separately with representatives of the women, youth and other members of each community.  The objective of the assessment was to capture the existing livelihood activities and threats due to hydro-meteorological hazards, as well as to explore the community perspectives on the livelihood opportunities.  PROMISE BD had a meeting with Jamalpur’s Technical Working Group (TWG) for PROMISE, both to get their agreement on the roles and responsibilities of TWG and to have a workshop on an early warning system for hydro meteorological Hazards in Jamalpur. The TWG had 11 members present including representatives from WDB, LGED, UGIP-II and commissioners.  Abu Sayed, Jamalpur Town Planner, accompanied the PROMISE BD team to all meetings.  PROMISE BD also hosted a visit by UNDP staff under the UPPR project to Chittagong, to see the former PROMISE BD project sites, and take lessons on DRR that can be incorporated into their poverty reduction projects.

  • PHILIPPINES PROMISE RP conducted the remaining CBDRM orientation meetings for the barangay officials of the project sites during the first half of January.  In addition, the project partner, the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP), conducted a DRR orientation for the Adventist Community Service in Pasig City on January 24, one of the civil society organizations that helped Pasig City Government during the disaster response to Typhoon Ketsana in September 2009.  There were 17 participants in the orientation that featured basic DRR concepts, and an orientation on Pasig City’s hazards and emergency response handbook.  The orientation ended with the organizing of a committee to focus on DRR.  CDP and Pasig City Government contributed to the preparations for ADPC’s MDRRG-4 regional course held in Pasig City from January 25 to 29.  Four Pasig City officials were sponsored participants of the project for the course: PROMISE focal point Greg Evangelista, head of the Barangay Affairs Office; Alen Alendri, head of Waste Management; Engr. Romila; and Mr. Rommel.  Maribel Eusebio, chairwoman of the Pasig Livelihood Foundation also attended the course as a participant from Pasig.  Pasig City Mayor Bobby Eusebio hosted a dinner for the participants, and organized a study tour of the city’s Emergency Operations HQ and other facilities and a briefing of the city’s response to Typhoon Ketsana.  CDP also assisted ADPC by organizing field visits to Marikina and Makati cities.  Activities next month include the analysis and compilation of the hazard and risk assessments for the development of the community and city hazard maps, and a review of the city’s current disaster management plans.

  • SRI LANKA PROMISE SL organized the two remaining community workshops to develop ward based hazard maps and action plans on January 16 to 17.  Groups of 30 representatives from citizen committees, ward officers and other representatives from the respective wards attended the workshops.  PROMISE SL partners, namely The Asia Foundation and the Municipal Council of Matara, held the workshops at Pushparama Temple and at Jayasumanarama Temple in Matara. Resource persons provided technical inputs for all the workshops from National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) and DMC Matara Coordinator, Capt. Saman Balasooriya.  The activity for February will be the analysis and compilation of the hazard and risk assessments by the project consultant, and developing the drafts of the Matara hazard map and City Action Plan.

 A. From the Region

(1) ASEAN disaster management agreement ratified 24 December 2009

(based on reports from Alertnet and PreventionWeb)

The ten ASEAN Member States ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER). AADMER is the region’s response to the need to establish a regional disaster management framework. It contains provisions on disaster risk identification, monitoring and early warning, prevention and mitigation, preparedness and response, rehabilitation, technical cooperation and research, mechanisms for coordination, and simplified customs and immigration procedures.  It also provides for the establishment of an ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) to undertake operational coordination of activities under the Agreement.  Read the text of the agreement, framed in 2005, here:

(2) Earthquake in Tajikistan destroys 98 homes

(based on a report by Alertnet)

An earthquake on January 2 measuring magnitude 5.3 destroyed 98 homes and damaged over 900.  Nearly 600 people in southern Tajikistan are facing freezing winter weather without permanent shelter.  There were no fatalities from the earthquake, but aid groups are worried that freezing conditions could kill survivors without proper shelter and food.

(3) Two strong earthquakes and landslides in the Solomon Islands

(based on a report from Alertnet, USGS and WHO)

Two strong earthquakes damaged villages and triggered landslides in remote parts of the Solomon Islands on January 3, but there were no immediate reports of casualties, police said.  The magnitude 7.2 and 6.5 quakes struck within an hour of each other around 2148 GMT and occurred around 55 miles (88 km) south-southeast of the small South Pacific island of Gizo at depths of between 33 km (20.5 miles) and 36 km, the U.S. Geological Survey and Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.  The earthquakes triggered landslides on Tetepare and nearby Rendova island, in Western Province.  Initial reports show that around 200-500 families were displaced due to the earthquakes.  The population living in affected areas is estimated at 3 679 people but no deaths were reported.

(4) Landslide in northwest kills 20, displaces 1500

(based on a report from IRIN)

At least 20 people were killed and others are missing after a landslide pushed about 40 houses in northwestern Pakistan into a fast-flowing river.  The landslide occurred last January 4 in a small village called Attabad on the banks of the Hunza river in Gilgit-Baltistan.  The hillsides in the area had become unstable after a powerful earthquake there in 2002.  (The Gilgit-Baltistan region is controlled for administrative purposes by Pakistan and has historically formed a part of Kashmir territory.)

(5) Glacier dispute reveals holes in climate change research

(based on a report from

A controversy arose because of a prediction in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 because of climate change.  However, researchers at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) point to the need for studies that cover the entire span of the Himalayan mountain range, and should calculate mass balance of ice, rather than measuring the rising or falling of a glacier’s snout.  Read more about it at:

(6) ADB to Tap $700 Million from Two New Funds to Combat Climate Change

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is planning to channel around $700 million from two new investment funds, the Clean Technology Fund and Strategic Climate Fund, to its developing member countries as part of a broad global initiative to help developing countries meet the cost of actions needed to combat climate change.  The Clean Technology Fund will support the deployment of low carbon energy technologies, such as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal power, as well as energy efficiency measures for industry, commercial buildings and municipalities.  The Strategic Climate Fund will support pilot programs on climate resilience, forest investment and scaling up renewable energy use for low-income countries, with the end goal of demonstrating effective climate mitigation and adaptation interventions that can be expanded and replicated elsewhere.  Read more about it at:

B. Calls for Submission

(7) Call for papers: Fourth Central Asia GIS Conference

The conference committee is inviting all those interested to submit scientific papers on the stated conference themes with a focus on the Central Asian Region by 1 March 2010. UNOOSA supported the previous GIS Conference in 2009 and will again provide support in 2010 recognizing this event as the major Geospatial Conference in Central Asia. It will be an opportunity to meet with experts interested in working together in Central Asia. For more information, go to: 

(8) Call for nominations: NUWA 2010

The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India (GoI) invites nominations for the National Urban Water Awards 2010. The awards are open to 1) Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), 2) Water Boards/ Utilities, and 3) Private Sector, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), Bilateral and Multilateral Agencies, in collaboration with ULBs/Water Boards Utilities. Nominations are invited under six categories, i.e. (i) Technical Innovation (ii) Financial Reform (iii) Services to the Poor (iv) Citizen Services and Governance (v) Public-Private Partnerships and (vi) Urban Sanitation. All the eligible organizations can submit multiple entries in different categories.  The deadline for nominations is April 30.  For inquiries, contact Prof. V. Srinivas Chary,  Get more information here:  

(9) Call for entries: The World Bank Essay Competition 2010

The World Bank Essay Competition 2010 invites youths to share ideas on: How can you tackle youth unemployment through youth-led solutions? Contestants must answer both questions:  1. How does youth unemployment affect you, your country, town or local community?  2. What can you do, working together with your peers, to find a sustainable solution for job seekers through youth entrepreneurship?  The International Essay Competition is open to all young people, students and non-students alike, at least 18 and not older than 25 on May 15, 2010, from all countries of the world.  For more information, go to:

C. Conferences and Courses

(10) Open Forum on Psychosocial Response to Disasters with Focus on Children in Asia

The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the "Open Forum on Psychosocial Response to Disasters with Focus on Children in Asia" in Bangkok on January 26.  Experts and practitioners working with disaster-affected children gave keynote speeches, and Le Ly Hayslip; globally-renowned writer, humanitarian and activist from Vietnam, led the afternoon discussion session and press conference.  Her autobiography 'When Heaven and Earth Changed Places' became Oliver Stone's film 'Heaven and Earth'. Le Ly Hayslip is a child survivor herself and founded the Global Village Foundation which is supporting children in the aftermath of disasters in Vietnam.  Guests included: H.E. Merete Fjeld Brattested, Ambassador of Norway; experts from Ministries of Health, non-governmental organizations, national Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies, UN agencies, and academic institutions; and key media representatives.  Countries represented among the guests included Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. It was a significant opportunity to hear the issues faced by the children of this disaster-prone region, and understand ways to support them.  The Open Forum was the opening event to a three-day cross-sector workshop on (new) psychosocial techniques.  ADPC, with funding support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is undertaking a wider project on Psychosocial Response to Disasters, which will strengthen national capacity throughout Asia to cope with the psychosocial and mental health effects of disasters and emergencies.

(11) 5th Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands – Paris, France: 3-7 May 2010

Organizer: United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  This conference addresses the ability of coastal and island communities to respond to climate change through the use of adaptation, mitigation, financing, and technology. Innovative private-sector solutions and improving governance will be discussed at the conference.  This conference is open for all sectors of the global oceans community – governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, industry, and scientific groups – to address the major policy issues affecting the oceans at global, regional, and national levels and to make progress in advancing the global oceans agenda.  For more information, go to:

(12) 9th Regional Training Course on Earthquake Vulnerability Reduction for Cities – Bangkok, Thailand: 10–21 May 2010

Organizer: Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC).  The course is designed to impart greater understanding of the causes and effects of earthquake and collateral hazards, primarily focusing on mitigating such impacts in order to reduce damage and loss of lives with sustained development.  The designed course is a blend of principles, concepts, case studies, and hands-on experience of seismic risk reduction strategies.  Please contact: Mr. Amit Kumar,  The brochure is available at the following link:

D. Useful Resources

(13) New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks: UN Foundation and Vodafone,

This report looks at innovation in the use of technology along the timeline of crisis response, from emergency preparedness and alerts to recovery and rebuilding.  It profiles organizations whose work is advancing the frontlines of innovation, offers an overview of international efforts to increase sophistication in the use of IT and social networks during emergencies, and provides recommendations for how governments, aid groups, and international organizations can leverage this innovation to improve community resilience.  Download the entire report: Tech_EmergencyTechReport_full.pdf.

(14) Report: SAARC workshop on earthquake risk management in South Asia, SDMC 2009

This document reports on a workshop which purpose was to assess the strength and weakness of current initiatives for earthquake risk assessment, mitigation, response and recovery in the South Asian region.  Read the full report at:

(15) Images: Aftermath: How Cities Heal after Disasters, Newsweek, 2010

This photo essay shows images of 11 urban disasters, from the Great Fire of London in 1666 to the earthquake’s impact on Port-au-Prince in January.  View it at:

(16) Article: After, and Before, the Flood, Newsweek, 2010

Newsweek covered the centennial of the Great Flood of Paris in January 1910, when water infiltrated the 1 200 km underground network (sewers, drinking water supplies, telephone, underground under construction) and then surfaced. The Seine River reached its maximum height on 28 January 1910 at 8.62 meters.  The article raises questions as to whether Paris is ready for the return of the flood.  Read the article at: and see photos here: or here:

(17) Next two decades crucial for adaptation, says new model

Researchers (Pratt et al.) published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (January 2010 issue) on a statistical model of human losses to climate-related extreme events, as an indicator of vulnerability and the need for adaptation assistance. The approach takes into account both potential changes in countries’ exposure to climatic extreme events, and socio-economic development trends that influence countries’ own adaptive capacities. Part of their results suggests that the effects of socio-economic development trends may begin to offset rising climate exposure.  Read the full paper at:

(18) This month in Asia’s disaster history

Near-record rains produced the 1974 Brisbane floods, rains that were part of a pattern of unusually heavy rainfall over much of Australia during the summer of 1974, brought on by a combination of a prevailing La Nina phenomenon and the settling of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) over Australia.  On January 25, Cyclone Wanda moved over Queensland and New South Wales and dumped more than 12 inches of rain in 24 hours over a very wide area.  The predominantly desert-like environment lacked the soil and vegetation that could absorb part of the rainfall, and contributed to the flooding

By late January, almost every river in Queensland province (location of Brisbane) was flooded, and was the worst flooding Australia experienced up to that time.  Damage was estimated at AUD 980 million and resulted in 16 deaths and 9000 people rendered homeless.  The Brisbane Valley Flood Forecasting and Warning System had been in operation for many years by that time, and the system was able to accurately predict the peak height of the flood:

For the most part the warning system worked very well during the floods of January 1974 and the peak river height at the Brisbane Port Office was accurately forecast 21 hours in advance. Nevertheless, problems of dissemination and interpretation of the warnings, coupled with some reluctance by the community to accept the gravity of the situation, meant that the full value of the flood warning system was not achieved.  (excerpt from the Foreward, “Brisbane Floods January 1974,” Report by Director of Meteorology).

Brisbane had already been hit by bad floods in 1893, and so very strict regulations were established for building at low-lying areas at high risk to floods, restrictions that apparently were not followed over time.  Brisbane City Council has since made flood maps available for download by the general public, so that property owners would be aware of their flood risks and take the appropriate insurance and other necessary measures.  Read more about it at:


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