Thursday, August 19, 2010

Damaged ecosystems magnify Asia’s killer floods

Dawn (Pakistan): Climate change may be playing a part in record rains ravaging Asia but environment experts say the destruction of ecosystems is more directly to blame for the severity of killer floods. Widespread deforestation, the conversion of wetlands to farms or urban sprawl and the clogging up of natural drainage systems with garbage are just some of the factors exacerbating the impacts of the floods, they say.

“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. Pangare said better management of flood plains would limit the human and economic costs of natural disasters, such as the recent record rains in Pakistan that killed an estimated 1,400 people.

“You have to ensure that natural infrastructure is protected. Otherwise development in Asia is not sustainable,” he said.

Red Constantino, the Manila-based head of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said climate change was becoming a convenient way for Asian leaders to excuse themselves when natural disasters struck. “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.”…

A 1936 flood in South Korea

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