An unmitigated disaster
As the earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam graphically showed late last year, natural disasters wreak havoc on the people and places they strike. And they require a world effort not just to clean up the mess, but also to study ways of mitigating the damage they cause.
While a great deal of effort and money goes into the after-effects of natural disasters, there is clearly room for more to be done to help understand their causes and to find better ways of tackling them. Research programmes backed by the European Union, which are dedicated to assessing, managing, mitigating and even preventing these disasters, are a step in the right direction.
As, too, is the initiative of the Indian Institute of Engineers in organising next month's World Congress on Natural Disasters in the Indian capital, New Delhi. The aim of the congress is to promote wide-ranging debate in this area, allowing engineers, architects, policy-makers, scientists, and government and non-government agencies to share their experiences and ‘best practices' in mitigating the effects of natural disasters.
Organisers of the event expect to develop an action plan for natural disaster mitigation and management, which would also identify the roles of governments, international agencies and civil society.
Disaster networks work
One aspect of the research is to investigate – either separately or via a ‘multi-risk' approach – the possible causes of these acts of nature. Where relevant, researchers are also being encouraged by the European Commission to look into the possible links between disasters and climate change. A special Global Change Unit has been created within the Directorate-General for Research to oversee this research.
Another important aspect in disaster mitigation is effective communication between the key stakeholders at European and world levels. The EU has supported the setting up of EU-MEDIN (Euro-Mediterranean Disaster Information Network) whose job, according to a recent publication by the Commission entitled ‘Research on Natural Disasters', is to “promote the sharing of disaster-related information and data, research results, knowledge and expertise”.EU sources, news reports
ESA’s Earth Observation (BAM news)
World Congress on Natural Disaster Mitigation (19-21 February 2004)
Global Change and Ecosystems (on CORDIS)
Environment DG (climate change)