Learning From the Superstorm
By JUDITH RODIN. Nov 2, 2012
As my home city of New York recovers from Superstorm Sandy, city leaders across the world are asking how their city would respond to a similar event and examining their resilience to extreme weather patterns.
While many lack the resources of New York City and the United States, the good news is that a number of low-cost solutions are available, but governments and the private sector need to start taking action now.
Asia in particular will see events like Sandy grow more frequent — and with even greater extremes and losses — as the confluence of climate change and rapid urbanization generate heightened vulnerabilities, especially for the hundreds of millions of urban poor residents.
In coming years, 60 percent of the world’s population increase will be in Asian cities. Of the cities that contain the largest numbers of people exposed to the risks of flooding caused by climate change, 5 of the top 10 are Asian. By 2070, it will be 9 of the top 10 [pdf].
Asian cities — particularly smaller but rapidly growing ones — have significantly fewer resources available to them than those in North America and Europe to prepare for and manage the challenge of major storms. If transplanted to a typical low- or middle-income Asian city, Sandy would almost certainly have resulted in far greater damage to property, loss of lives and overall disruption of basic infrastructure and services.
Encouragingly, however, what stands out from New York City’s preparedness are not the expensive investments in hard infrastructure like sea walls, but rather a collection of softer measures focused on effective institutional coordination, rapid and accurate information sharing and timely decision making.”
Photo: Storm clouds over Bangkok, Thailand, in Oct. 2008./ Rungroj Yongrit/European Pressphoto Agency