Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction: a road towards sustainable urban development and creating safer urban communities

Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction: a road towards sustainable urban development and creating safer urban communities

How can urban development contribute to disaster risk reduction?

This paper examines the risks of natural hazards and disasters that challenge the development efforts of the urban or city development process. It also highlights how local government, as the key partner of the development process, could contribute effectively to reducing disaster risks in their respective operational areas.

In the course of the report, the author explains that rapidly expanding urbanisation is a major contributor to disaster risk in developing countries, especially flooding which is exacerbates through poor drainage systems. Other problems that have arisen due to urbanisation include:

  • improper waste management
  • poor health and sanitation
  • poor land use planning
  • poor shelter and infrastructure development
  • lack of proper road transport and communication
  • poor provision of urban services. 
The report argues that local governments could play a major role in disaster risk reduction (DRR) as they have the necessary mandate for development. To help with this, Urban Local Governments need regular practice in assessing the risk environment at micro-level to understand the factors contributing to high impact hazards, their nature and consequences.

The author concludes that, when measures for reducing risk are integrated into regular development programmes or routine service functions, it will be more cost effective to deliver. At the same time, it will also ensure public safety, reduce the scale of economic impacts, and contribute to sustainability of development gains. The approach will boost the confidence of the private sector, prompting further investment which will essentially contribute to sustainable growth of urban areas, public safety and long term urban and general development of the country.

The report gives the following recommendations to Local Goverments (LGs) and other stakeholders:
  • LGs should establish city/ community-level early warning systems and set up mechanisms for quick dissemination of early warning messages
  • LGs need to involve urban communities and their organisations in designing, planning and implementing, as well as maintenance of efficient and hygienic waste disposal facilities
  • Governments should be more proactive in reducing urban risks due to geo-physical and hydro-meteorological hazards through collaborative efforts and concerted action
  • Governments ought to emphasise the importance of risk reduction and encourage participation of all stakeholders in reducing urban risks
  • Risk reduction plans should include structural interventions, and more emphasis should be placed on non-structural interventions such as public awareness raising, capacity building, early warning, and contingency planning.
  • LGs should aim to develop the capacity of first responders, who are in most cases the general public
  • LGs ought to develop long-term action plans for DRR at city level for identification of areas for reducing risk.
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