Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Drought a 'hidden risk' due to lack of data

Soumya Karlamangla in AlertNet: Droughts pose one of the most serious threats to human safety, yet get little notice as they ravage food supplies and economies around the world, according to an analysis from the United Nations.

This year’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, which examines ways to minimize the damage from and prevent disasters, focuses on the causes and impacts of droughts and warns that without better data collection, droughts will continue to wreak havoc on developing nations.

“Drought remains a hidden risk,” said Andrew Maskrey, the coordinator of the report, at its United Kingdom launch last week. “Because we don’t really have the figures on the risk, (including) whether it’s going up or down, it’s not really on anyone’s agenda with the sort of profile we think it merits.”

Droughts are responsible for deaths and economic losses every year, but assessing these damages can be complicated. Unlike a hurricane that sweeps through an area and kills people, a drought causes crop shortages that reduce farmers’ profits and make it difficult for them to feed their families - a complicated interplay of social and economic factors that develop over time and that are difficult to blame squarely on drought.

The difficulty in getting exact numbers is one reason reducing risks from drought is so difficult, the report’s authors said. For instance, water shortages, dry soil, and low levels of rainfall all usually fall under the umbrella of drought but are distinctly different....

A bridge crossing the Sioni Reservoir near Tbilisi in Georgia, shot by Vladimer Shioshvili, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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