Tag Archives: Disaster Risk Management

Global Threats of Climate Change: Nepalese Context

climate change(Photo Source: Google)

Verisk Maplecroft, a global risks analytics and research organization, published a Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) in 2010, ranking Nepal as the fourth most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change. Recent estimates show that Nepal, in the past few years, has already been facing an annual economic loss of 1.5 to 2% of GDP due to climate change events. One may argue climate change to be a natural phenomenon but environmental and climate researchers think otherwise.

Air, water and soil are being polluted left and right. Many developed and industrialized nations are heavily emitting greenhouse gases day and night. Businesses are not performing enough for environmental good and rather seem busy lobbying against it. Very little is being done to manage ever growing garbage, pollution and toxic wastes. This in turn is causing environmental degradation, global warming, climate change and chronic health hazards around the world.         

 Environmental degradation along with increased rate of global warming gave rise to climate change, an accumulated result of human activities in just over the last few centuries. Although it may not be local, direct or prompt but the climate change effects are showing up in global scale, as weather patterns are changing all over the planet, several species are going extinct, ozone layer is depleting, earth’s temperature is rising, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting rapidly and sea level is rising faster than ever before. 

According to a report, submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the mean annual temperature projections for Nepal are 1.3-3.8 degree Celsius by the 2060s and 1.8-5.8 degree Celsius by the 2090s. Meanwhile, the World Bank report indicates that the mean annual temperature of the entire globe is projected to increase by 1 to 5 degree Celsius by the end of this century, placing us towards the higher end of the projected spectrum globally.

Nepal’s topography and socio-economic conditions make it even more vulnerable to climate change induced disasters. The negative impacts of climate change in Nepal have been rapidly translating into reduced annual precipitation, decrease in Himalayan ice reserve, receding glaciers, drying up of water sources, rapid formation of glacial lakes, erratic rainfall pattern, increased threats to run-of-river hydroelectricity projects, etc. As a result, increased risk of disasters, in the form of more frequent avalanches, floods, landslides, droughts, forest fires, epidemics, etc., cannot be ignored anymore.

If we fail to handle them tactfully and in a timely manner, climate change driven disasters and its widespread economic impacts certainly paint a rather bleak future for Nepal, as agriculture, hydroelectricity and water-induced disasters are going to be of greatest concern for us in coming days.    

Although major proclamations such as, “Climate change is for real” and “Urgent risk mitigation actions are indispensable” are quite consistent globally, compelling concrete actions are largely missing or are unable to produce definitive results.

Due to the global nature of the crisis, it is impossible to alleviate the problem by any one nation, organization or a certain group. Climate change threat demands coordinated participation and genuine collaborative efforts of every possible stakeholder to rescue the planet, we call home.

Also Read:

(Part II) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part II) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part I) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

(Part I) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

Fire Prevention and Fire Protection – Air Pollution in Kathmandu – Construction PPE – Carbon Monoxide poisoning – Electrical Safety – Fall Protection in General Industry– Fearsome 4 of Construction Safety – Fall Restrain System Vs. Fall Arrest System – Respiratory Protection – Portable Ladder Safety – Confined Space Entry – Initiating First Aid/CPR – Are you too busy… – If you have $86,400 in your account… – Safety professionals have job prospects as Insurance Risk Surveyor or Loss Assessor

 * * * *

Risk Analysis: Various attributes

Risk Analysis(Photo Source: Google)

Let’s start with a simple example of a gallon of kerosene which probably is only a hazard until we light a match nearby, when we actually make the situation risky for the people and property around. Unsafe working conditions are workplace hazards which, when combined with existing vulnerabilities, may translate into risk for employees as well as businesses. Similarly, suppose an earthquake occurred in a faraway barren land. It basically remains a natural hazard, not taking environment into account for a while, until the shaking extends to a densely populated area making the situation very risky all of sudden.

In the risk examples above, there are both hazard and vulnerability involved. During risk analysis, one works on studying, identifying and predicting various ways in which a hazard, in combination with possible vulnerabilities or exposures, may pose risk to people, planet and businesses. Simply put, a hazard, under certain vulnerable circumstances, may give rise to risky situations. A comprehensive risk assessment approach would provide us insight into the likelihood of hazard occurrence as well as its extent of impact due to various types of vulnerabilities and exposures involved.

In simple terms, risk assessment can be understood as a methodology that makes it easier for us to understand the nature and the extent of a risk. If we could express a risk in quantitative term, it would simply be the product of probability (likelihood of occurrence) and severity (extent of impact) of an identified hazard; natural, technological or man-made.

Assessing the multifaceted nature of risk both hazard and vulnerability should be taken into account. In this regard, hazard assessment and vulnerability assessment would provide a good picture of probability and severity respectively. Further the risk assessment would provide us insight into the nature of hazard, its potential impact and ways to mitigate the risks. In disaster management context, risk assessment is taken as an integrated approach, including hazard and vulnerability assessment, towards disaster risk mitigation and vulnerability reduction.

Hazard assessment estimates the potential impact of a hazard and probability of its occurrence. The assessment process involves past disaster events, historical data, satellite images, geological information, and land use maps, etc. While analyzing the disaster risks, it is also imperative to analyze vulnerability factors which could make the region vulnerable. Vulnerability assessment basically helps to extend the findings from hazard assessment and is an important component of the comprehensive risk assessment process. It involves the study of hazard proneness, socio-economic factors as well as lack of resources.

In the field of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS), often the probability of a hazard is specifically interpreted in terms of its frequency and the severity of hazard is interpreted in terms of fatality, damage and economic losses, the event may cause. After identifying a hazard, it is then compared and analyzed against those interpreted data to predict the likelihood of accident/disaster occurrence and the extent of its potential impact. The idea is to categorize the types of risk involved and prioritize the mitigation measures. Disaster management institutions around the world continue to improvise and use this risk assessment technique in various Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) applications.

Quantitative risk assessment technique often involves plain arithmetic. For example, suppose the population of the Kathmandu valley is 2 million and an average 200 people are killed in road accidents annually, hence the annual risk of being killed in a road accident is one in 10,000 (2,000,000/200). However, this method provides crude data and does not include variables such as the effect of traffic, population, road conditions, etc.

Using statistical analysis, risk posed by a hazard can also be related to other parameters such as, proximity, demography or socio-economic factors, while conducting a disaster risk assessment. For example, the rate of urban growth (Socio-economic factor) can be one of the determining factors of the number of road accidents. Similarly, people living around a chemical plant are vulnerable to chemical disasters but, unlike straight-forward quantitative risk assessment, the statistical analysis can also provide us with varying level of risks to the nearby population, depending on their location or proximity to the chemical plant.

Also Read:

(Part II) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part II) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part I) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

(Part I) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

Fire Prevention and Fire Protection – Air Pollution in Kathmandu – Construction PPE – Carbon Monoxide poisoning – Electrical Safety – Fall Protection in General Industry– Fearsome 4 of Construction Safety – Fall Restrain System Vs. Fall Arrest System – Respiratory Protection – Portable Ladder Safety – Confined Space Entry – Initiating First Aid/CPR – Are you too busy… – If you have $86,400 in your account… – Safety professionals have job prospects as Insurance Risk Surveyor or Loss Assessor

* * * *

Risk: Concept & Components

risk-spelled(Photo Source: Google)

Whenever there is a likelihood scenario of losing someone or something of value, there is risk associated. In a broader perspective, risk can also be understood as potential for loss. In financial terms, risk is either pure or speculative. If there is no chance of gain, the risk is pure while in the case of speculative risk, there is some chance of winning or gaining as well. Not taking care of your health implies pure risk while buying an insurance plan for the same is speculative risk.     

‘Risk’ can also be categorized as ‘Voluntary’ such as, betting on a cricket match and ‘Involuntary’ such as, an earthquake or any other disaster for that matter. Although widely communicated, the usage and meaning of the term ‘Risk’ differs with different activities or events and their nature or characteristic. Therefore, it is hard to come down to a single definition of the word, suitable for all the possible cases.

In the field of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), the term ‘Risk’ is widely accepted as the product of ‘Probability’ and ‘Severity’ i.e. Risk = Probability x Severity; Where Probability means a loss event in terms of frequency of occurrence and Severity means the impact of the event in terms of fatality and loss. This Risk Matrix is used during risk assessment to designate the level of risk involved with a certain action, event or condition.

The definition, explanation and interpretation of ‘Probability’ and ‘Severity’ depend on the risk tolerance level of the concerned entities, be it an individual, organization, community, businesses or an entire nation. Further, after interpreting the ‘Probability’ in terms of frequency of occurrence and the ‘Severity’ of impact in terms of loss, the ‘Risk Assessment Matrix’ can also be used to calculate the risk quantitatively.

In industrial sector the Matrix is commonly used as risk assessment tool to eliminate the risk associated with hazardous condition or unsafe act. The quantitative analysis and thus obtained numerical representation of potential risk event makes it easier for the concerned supervisors to prioritize mitigation actions based on the level of damage or loss predicted by the matrix.

Sometimes, risk is mistaken for other similar terms such as hazard, threat or vulnerability. Although they all help to explain risk more clearly, essentially they carry different meanings. Hazard is potentially damaging physical event or condition that may cause loss of life, property or environment. A hazard does not take probability of the event occurring into account whilst stating a risk we need to incorporate the probability factor as well.

Threat, on the other hand, is more of an abstract concept where both probability and severity of impact is hard to specify and analyze. For example, terrorism is a threat but very hard to specify its extent of impact and frequency of occurrence. Vulnerability can be simply understood as a fault within the system itself which is often exploited by external threats. For example, not having adequate security measure is a vulnerability which can be exploited by terrorists to create disaster.

In Disaster Risk Management (DRM) context, a disaster risk is a function of hazard, exposure and vulnerability i.e. Disaster Risk = function (Hazard, Exposure and Vulnerability). A hazard can be natural or human-induced and same is true for a potential disaster event. A hazard seems to be the primary component which, in combination with vulnerability and exposure, could give rise to the potential for loss, we call risk. Failure to mitigate such risks and/or their impacts beforehand could eventually cause a disaster.     

We may not be able to control all the hazards or mitigate their impacts so the rationale behind the DRM planning is to reduce the vulnerability and the exposure, instead. For example, to control probable impact of a disaster caused by a natural hazard, such as an earthquake or a landslide, we can minimize our vulnerabilities by building earthquake safe buildings and resilient infrastructures. Similarly, disaster exposure can be contained by relocating populations and property away from hazardous zones such as earthquake fault lines or landslide prone areas.

Also Read:

(Part II) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part II) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part I) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

(Part I) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

Fire Prevention and Fire Protection – Air Pollution in Kathmandu – Construction PPE – Carbon Monoxide poisoning – Electrical Safety – Fall Protection in General Industry– Fearsome 4 of Construction Safety – Fall Restrain System Vs. Fall Arrest System – Respiratory Protection – Portable Ladder Safety – Confined Space Entry – Initiating First Aid/CPR – Are you too busy… – If you have $86,400 in your account… – Safety professionals have job prospects as Insurance Risk Surveyor or Loss Assessor

(* * * *)