Geneva: The UN disaster prevention agency
said on Friday that communities should have been kept away from
flood-exposed river banks in Pakistan, as it underlined the
human hand in a string of catastrophes.
"If people had not settled on the river banks, definitely
the disaster would have been less, because that is the main
cause of the disaster," said Salvano Briceno, director of the
UN`s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
The ISDR also pointed to landslides in China, wildfires
in Russia and drought in Niger as examples of how communities
and towns were increasingly placed or left in harm`s way.
"The vulnerability of human settlements is on the rise
and is not yet being addressed by governments or communities,"
Briceno argued that while extreme weather or climate
change and poverty added to the challenges, the biggest source
of harm was people living in hazard-prone areas while too
little was done to reduce the risks they face.
"It is clearly human responsibility in the making of the
disaster, disasters are not natural," he added, urging local
authorities, donors and aid agencies to bolster long-term
steps to cut those risks with the recovery.
Briceno acknowledged that all four countries were doing
something but the pace of change was too slow and scattered
It was also hampered by poverty, war and displacement,
notably in Pakistan, and a focus on the response to disasters
rather than preventing their impact.
The UN official noted that the South Asian country
confronted annual monsoons rains, faced added melting from
Himalayan glaciers with global warming and disruptive shifts
in weather patterns.
"There are clearly, from nature`s perspective, some
aggravating factors. But the reality is that those river banks
should never have been (open) for people to settle on,"
Briceno said, calling it a known risk.
He nonetheless praised Pakistan`s flood alert system and
the response by the disaster management authority.
"What is worrying is the long term effect, the
displacement. By moving they might go to other risk areas,"
such as fragile slopes or quake zones, Briceno said.