Preliminary measures to mitigate risk of natural disasters

  • By Su Thet Hmu
Overturned trees litter a street in Yangon on 4 May, 2008 after tropical cyclone Nargis tore through swathes of the country, battering buildings, sinking boats and causing unknown casualties. Photo: AFP

Every country in the globe is projected to experience the effects of climate change, with some countries expected to be harder hit than others.
Myanmar is one of those countries that may be more adversely affected.
According to meteorologists, Myanmar is the second-most-vulnerable country in the world to the effects of climate change. The first adverse effect is that farmers and other cultivators have experienced altered growing seasons due to climate change. Secondly, Myanmar has experienced a scarcity of drinking water. The third effect is the changes in rainfall patterns and the abundance of this rainfall, which can result in flash flooding during the monsoon season.

In 2018, Myanmar will face flash floods which can cause damage in several parts of the country. People who live in the delta area of the Ayeyawady Region suffer from severe floods every year.
Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar in May 2008, with an estimated death toll of about 138,737, together with Ks10.7 trillion in losses. Nargis was the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Myanmar.
The effects of flooding have continued since Cyclone Nargis.
According to a report released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, some 1,400,000 acres of farmland were destroyed due to flooding in July and August 2015. Out of these, at least 140,000 acres of rice fields, rice being a staple food in Myanmar, were affected by the floods. Out of the 14 states and regions in Myanmar, severe flooding regularly affects 12 of them, often resulting in severe damage. The seasonal floods in July and August last year affected 153,535 people in Magway Region, which is regarded as the worst impacted area in Myanmar. Out of 79 townships, seven people were killed and a total of 318,120 households were transferred to temporary relief camps, according to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. There was a red-alert cyclone which entered Rakhine State on 29 May. Heavy rain and subsequent flooding occurred in the coastland through the town of Ann, in Rakhine State, and throughout upper and lower Myanmar.
Heavy rain poured down in Mon State without interruption from 16 June, causing floodwaters to flow into the wards. The water rose to nearly six feet. As water quickly flowed into the wards, 42 relief camps had to be opened for 8,263 people. Flooding occurred in Rakhine State, southern Shan State, Magway, Sagaing, Bago and Ayeyawady regions, while landslides occurred in Mogok, northern Shan State and Chin State.
At least 10 people were killed on June 22 after monsoon rains caused flooding and landslides in Phakant Township, Kachin State.
According to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, there were about 44,000 people who were affected by flooding, and at least 18 people from across the country died as a result of the flooding.

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Flood-hit country
Myanmar is among the 15 most flood-hit countries in the world due to the effects of climate change.
All the people have to face the menace of flooding, landslides and other disasters. This results in loss of property, health hazards, loss of farmlands and emotional problems.
How can Myanmar mitigate the impact of natural disasters?
“We can tackle these problems by dividing it into two sectors: rural and urban. If we do it in the rural area, it would be easier due to the lack of major infrastructure. It is easy for us to dig ditches in order to increase water flow along the way.
As for urban areas, they need to improve the drainage system, with the cooperation of residents in the area. That can also be called a master plan. Another point is that people themselves have to change their behaviour so that the water can flow freely into the drain. People should have enough knowledge to know how to avoid blocking the water flow in the drainage ditches.
When we construct new satellite towns, it is of great importance to take into consideration urban design in accordance with geographical features and climate conditions,” said meteorologist U Chit Kyaw.

Why does flooding occur?
Regarding the occurrences of flooding, we can see that there are three main causes of flooding: (1) the growth of urban population, (2) careless farming methods, and (3) deforestation. One of the main causes is that soil cannot properly absorb water on the ground. By dint of incorrect cultivation methods, flooding can occur and deforestation can lead to flooding. There is also concern that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters.
For the past six decades, people have had to suffer devastation and casualties caused by deforestation and natural disasters such as cyclones, flooding, landslides, and droughts. It’s time for us to take preliminary measures in order to mitigate the impending natural disasters and climate change, which can happen regardless of place, time and class of people in the world. These natural hazards can pose a threat to our society. The risk from natural disasters, while it cannot be eliminated, can, in some cases, be understood in such a way that we can minimise the hazard to humans, and thus minimise the risks. It is of vital importance to disseminate educative talks on natural disasters, and to carry out the risk mitigation measures among the public so that we can create a society that can respond to natural disasters as quickly as possible.

Translated by
Win Ko Ko Aung

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