Saturday, August 21, 2010

Asian killer floods magnified by damaged ecosystems

Red Orbit: Changes in climate may be a partial cause to the record rainfall that is wreaking havoc in Asia, but environmental experts say the destruction of ecosystems is more directly at fault for the severity of killer floods. The devastating floods are becoming worse because of several factors, including deforestation, conversion of wetlands into farmlands and urban centers and the clogging of natural drainage systems, experts warn.

“You can’t just blame nature... humans have encroached on the natural flood plains,” said Ganesh Pangare, Bangkok-based regional water and wetlands coordinator with the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Better management of flood plains would limit the human and economic costs of natural disasters, such as the record rains in Pakistan recently, said Pangare. The natural infrastructure is important and must be protected, “otherwise development in Asia is not sustainable,” he said.

Red Constantino, head of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities in Manila, said climate change is becoming a convenient way for Asian leaders to place blame elsewhere when natural disasters strike. “When there is any big flooding it's become commonplace for climate change to be blamed when in fact many of the problems are fixable at the local level,” said Constantino. “Whether you are in Jakarta or Bangkok or Manila you have a basic issue with bad waste management, bad land management and urban sprawl,” he added…

Aug. 11, 2010, flood waters have washed away all ground means to reach the people stranded in the northern areas of the Swat valley in Pakistan. US Army photo by Monica K. Smith

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