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Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar : Risk Reduction in Natural Resource Management

By Leake, John, Espie, Dr.

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Book Id: WPLBN0003468627
Format Type: PDF (eBook)
File Size: 5.38 MB.
Reproduction Date: 12/13/2012

Title: Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar : Risk Reduction in Natural Resource Management  
Author: Leake, John, Espie, Dr.
Language: English
Subject: Non Fiction, Nature, Cyclone
Collections: Science, Socioeconomics, Econometrics, Authors Community, Management, Business Strategy, Environmental Economics, Finance, Economy, Bibliography, Public Aspect of Medicine, Finance Management, Technology, Economics, Commerce, Recreation, Agriculture, Statistics, Biology, Religion, Sociology, Medicine, Political Sociology, Literature, Most Popular Books in China, Government, Law, Language, Social Sciences, Political Science, Education, History
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Publisher: Thaksin University Press


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Espie Leake, D. J. (2012). Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar : Risk Reduction in Natural Resource Management. Retrieved from

What this Book is About There is a commonly held view that the incidence and scale of disasters is increasing in the modern world although some disagreement on whether the incidence of events, such as Tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, floods etc., that can give rise to disasters is increasing. The view is understandable, both population and their built environment are increasing so more is at risk and this trend of increased risk will continue while populations continue to rise. As the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) enumerates this: ‘Natural disasters are becoming more costly: in constant dollars, disaster costs between 1990 and 1999 were more than 15 times higher ($652 billion in material losses) than they were between 1950 and 1959 ($38 billion at 1998 values) The human cost is also high: over the 1984–2003 period, more than 4.1 billion people were affected by natural disasters. The number affected has grown, from 1.6 billion in the first half of that period (1984–93) to almost 2.6 billion in the second half (1994-2003), and has continued to increase. Although disasters caused by natural events occur throughout the world, losses to disaster in developing countries are generally much greater than in developed countries in terms of percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) or government revenues.’ Disasters are commonly considered to be sudden events, as with modern communications it is possible for billions of people to experience almost simultaneous sympathy and desire to help. This suddenness facilitates collective action, at least while the collective emotion persists, but may mask other more important impacts on the lives of all concerned. Many of the most disastrous events in history however have had slow onset periods, for example; • salinised irrigation systems that helped bring down civilisations such as the Sumerian states on the Euphrates river some 4,000 years ago, • deforestation leading to desertification and or massive erosion is a particularly widespread and pernicious example, • human induced climate change may be another that is unfolding before our eyes. These all relate to human interactions with the natural environment, which is most commonly considered under the rubric of natural resource management (NRM). The effect of speed of a disaster is, in public parlance, often illustrated by the metaphor of the ‘boiled frog’ – different human responses arise from whether a disaster is perceived to be of slow or rapid onset. This investigation reflects on the interplay of short and long- term social and biophysical factors on the scale of one particular disaster, Tropical Cyclone (TC) Nargis, which hit the Ayeyarwady Delta area of Myanmar in May 2008, killing perhaps 140,000 people in four hours. This will be achieved through an evaluation of its impact on the people of the area, their built environment and the ecosystem of the delta, and by discussing its conclusions and recommendations in a wider context as a means to reducing the risk from the many disasters that threaten livelihoods as human populations grow. This book discusses work undertaken to determine means of reducing the impact of disasters. It uses the Tropical Cyclone Nargis that ravaged coastal Myanmar in 2008 as a case study. It takes a broad view of the precursors of disasters as well as their effects and the effectiveness of responses by government, aid agencies and others – and especially the affected communities themselves. By examining these factors it arrives at conclusions that can potentially reduce the impact of natural disasters. With the global population and built environment rising rapidly, the risk of an event causing damage is increased. While disasters are commonly considered to be sudden events, which with modern communication can lead to rapid responses, it can be argued that the major impacts of disasters through history have been slow onset events, such as deforestation leading to desertification. Such human imposts on the environment are now more widely appreciated and often make communities more vulnerable to periodic weather or other events. When Tropical Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyarwady Delta area, it also destroyed livelihoods, impacted on health and led to a confusion of aid services. Nevertheless, the government response was fast, efficient and useful within its limited resources. However, what all agencies involved failed to appreciate sufficiently was that the area affected by the cyclone had been significantly exposed to increased hazard by a number of factors that could have been prevented or otherwise managed and this impacted on post recovery action. Such actions as mangrove clearing had removed a natural filter of tidal surges, and levee banks built after previous cyclones had not been maintained. In this work, some key concepts of Disaster Risk Reduction and Natural Resource Management are integrated to consider the outcomes of actions taken in response to the cyclone. The environmental, social and biophysical elements of the setting are examined and the impact of the cyclone on the Delta environment and its communities discussed. The analysis revealed that the background ‘slow acting’ disaster – the destruction of the natural resource base – had increased the risk and vulnerability of the area. In assessing the successes and failures in the response of the government and international agencies, some conclusions are elicited that lead to recommendations for future disaster impact reduction by taking a natural resource focus. The holistic approach described herein may be considered as systems thinking about the interlinking factors involved in reducing vulnerability to risk and building resilience. It is neither practical nor possible to monitor all variables in a system. This is where techniques from natural resource management that identify key systems can reveal the points of vulnerability to catastrophic change and might be gainfully used. Observing warning signals in a risk-based approach might focus on information ranging from pedological to hydro metrological to biological and technological, and lead to wider considerations about markets, governance and even personal and community values. With such warning systems in place, an adaptive management approach to natural resources resilience is achieved on a landscape scale and a shared sense of risk reduction can be developed. Such a broad risk-based approach to Disaster Risk Reduction allows stakeholders to prioritise activities for the more conspicuous fast acting disasters when they occur. The work leads to the recommendation that Myanmar improve decision-making by establishing a regional system to integrate scientific information of the natural systems that underpin livelihoods and social systems. In particular, it recommends monitoring the natural resource base to inform disaster preparedness and guide all development that impacts on that base. The following chapters trace the various impacts of Tropical Cyclone Nargis. Chapter One discusses some key concepts and definitions used in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and in Natural Resource Management (NRM) that will be used in considering outcomes from observations and developing conclusions. It introduces the idea of the importance of reserves, social and biophysical, in the stability of the systems that underpin all human lives. In Chapter Two different systems for classifying the environment, social and biophysical are introduced to facilitate the open flow of information and resources necessary to plan disaster risk reduction strategies for different circumstances. Chapter Three then discusses human impact on their environment to examine whether it is possible for humans to collaboratively manage and enhance their environment on a landscape scale for extended periods, even if such action may be negative in aggregate over time. Chapter Four then changes tack to introduce the country of Myanmar and Cyclone Nargis as a case study, which Chapters Five to Nine use to discuss the impact of Nargis on the Delta environment and its community under different classifications to illustrate different factors that required investment for recovery. They show how a background ‘slow acting’ disaster, the destruction of the natural resource base of the Delta, augmented the scale of the TC Nargis disaster and consequently how continued failure to deal with this background disaster will impact on future large storm events and the livelihoods of people that depend on this natural resource base. Chapter Ten then assesses the different responses to Nargis and how these were monitored and managed, while Chapter Eleven distils some findings that lead to conclusions on what worked, what didn’t and why, in the response post-cyclone. Chapter Twelve then broadens the perspective to other situations in Myanmar and the ‘developing world’. These place particular attention on the importance of the information and resource flows necessary for authorities to safeguard and enhance the capacity of the population to improve their lives and those of their children. The final Chapter Thirteen then discusses the benefits of taking a risk-based approach to all management by reducing risk in both slow and fast acting disasters to the benefit of humans caught up in both. It suggests that this is a timely change in strategy from one suited to a world with lower population densities and response times to today’s more populous world where disasters affect increasingly large numbers of people.

This book uses a review of recovery efforts following the Nargis cyclone in Myanmar in 2008 to build a case for taking a risk-based approach to managing our natural resource base. It is argued that while natural resource disasters like soil loss and climate change are slow onset disasters they are often much more significant than events like Nargis, and are significant risk factors themselves in the scale of sudden onset disasters like Cyclone Nargis. The book concludes that building resilience for slow or rapid onset disasters requires the same 'holistic' approach to involve the concerned community if it is to be successful. It is suggested that an approach to monitoring that looks for the key risk points for these communities, whether they be bio physical, economic or social will be a more useful approach to planning action for them than the systems in common use, based as they are on monitoring for bureaucratic paymasters.

Table of Contents
List of figures, table & Abbreviations ix Acknowledgements x What this Book is About 1 Chapter 1 - Key Concepts 7 Disaster Risk Reduction 7 Risk 10 Fast and Slow Onset Disasters 11 Resilience 12 Systems Thinking 13 Self-organising Systems 18 A System for Disaster Risk Reduction 21 Evaluation of Natural Disasters 22 Chapter 2 –Components of Disasters and NRM 27 Economic Analysis – Five Forms of Capital 27 The Significance of Context 31 Ecosystems Functional Analysis 35 A Note on Statistics 39 Chapter 3 – Humans as a Force of Nature 41 The Anthropocene 41 Landscape-scale Impacts 44 Chapter 4 –Myanmar and Tropical Cyclone Nargis 48 Overview of the Cyclone 50 The Country of Myanmar 53 Economy and Political Developments 55 Chapter 5 - Response to the Cyclone – Setting 58 The Setting of TC Nargis 58 The Environment 59 Administrative Arrangements 65 Access and Communication 67 Population 74 Chapter 6 - Response to the cyclone – Shelter 79 Residential 79 Public Buildings 82 Commercial Structures 85 Chapter 7 - Response to the cyclone – Sustenance 80 Food Security 89 Food Production 90 Other Essential Goods 101 Water Supply and Sewerage 102 Power Supply 106 Chapter 8 - Response to the cyclone – Security 107 Emergency Management 107 Emergency Responders 110 Structural Defences 111 Warning Systems 112 Health Services 113 Public Health Management 114 Chapter 9 - Response to the cyclone – Society 117 Language, Ethnicity and Religion 118 Vulnerable Groups 119 Community Support and Welfare 122 Legal Issues 123 Education 126 Vocational Skills and Resources 127 Religious Institutions 128 NGOs and Self-Help Groups 129 Non-Agricultural Economy 130 Commerce 132 Chapter 10 - National, Local & Intern’l Responses 135 National Response 135 Community Response 138 International Support 139 Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Management 143 Periodic Review Series 145 Social Impact Monitoring Series 146 Sampling Methods 146 Social Impact Monitoring Surveys 148 Data Collection 149 Coordination and Logistics 149 Funding and Disbursements 152 Governance and Accountability 153 Chapter 11 - Achievements of Tripartite Group 158 National Reconstruction Plan 159 Housing Sector 159 Health Sector 159 Education Sector 161 Access to Safe Drinking Water 161 Electricity and Communications Sectors 162 Agricultural Sector 162 The Fishing Sector 163 Salt Industry 163 Trade and Commerce 164 Subsistence Agriculture and Livestock Breeding 164 Preparedness for Future Natural Disasters 165 Rehabilitation of Forests and Forestry Resources 166 Planning and Implementation of the National Plan 167 Internationally Supported Components of PONREP 168 Productive Lives 169 Healthy Lives 178 Protected Lives 182 Vulnerable Groups 183 Disaster Risk Management 186 Environmental Management 187 Chapter 12 – What Worked, What Did Not – Why 189 Physical Capital 190 Financial Capital 190 Natural Capital 191 Human Capital 191 Social Capital 191 Some Lessons 194 Learning from the Lessons 196 Applying the Lessons Nationwide 203 Chapter 13 –A Risk-based Approach to NRM 209 Disasters in Context 209 Slowing the Slow Background Disaster 214 Spotting the Warning Signals 216 Bibliography for General Background Reading 225 Endnotes and References 227


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