News

Originally published by Jessica Sieff on phys.org

 

The latest data released by the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) shows governance is a major factor for countries improving preparedness for climate change. The annual ND-GAIN Country Index ranks 181 countries on vulnerability to extreme climate events such as droughts, superstorms and other natural disasters as well as readiness to successfully implement adaptation solutions.

The top five countries showing the biggest amount of improvement in preparedness over the last year were Ghana, Solomon Islands, Cape Verde, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Countries showing the least amount of improvement included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Macedonia, Burundi and Brazil – host to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

ND-GAIN researchers measure common factors of successful adaptability to climate change, such as improved economies, access to resources including reliable drinking water, agricultural capacity and political stability.

"Political changes bring opportunities for countries to improve on the overall stability of the country with regard to climate issues," said Patrick Regan, associate director of Environmental Change Initiative for ND-GAIN and professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame. "At a time when adaptation to climate change is critical, this data shows that policy makers are a key component to ensuring countries large and small are prepared to face potentially devastating ."

The findings will be shared at the United Nations World Data Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, Jan. 15-18.

More About ND-GAIN's Biggest Movers:

  • Myanmar tops the list of those countries making improvements. The country saw sweeping political changes following decades of military rule and experienced constitutional reforms, elections and elimination of economic sanctions, and it expanded its information and communication technology infrastructure.
  • In Sri Lanka, progress has been steadily improving since violent conflict ended in 2009. Recent elections ended political corruption and, subsequently, reforms have helped improve the country's readiness score substantially.
  • Burundi saw the least amount of progress – making it the biggest degrader in 2015. The country has suffered civil unrest and a coup was announced in May 2015, making Burundi one of the most politically unstable countries in that year.

The index also measures those countries improving or degrading over a five-year period. Countries making significant improvements over a five-year period include Russia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Rwanda. Those countries whose score slipped during the same period include Syria, Cuba, Spain and Argentina.

 

ND-GAIN's full country ranking as well as country profiles and visualization tools are available at index.gain.org. A webinar that discusses ND-GAIN's new data is also available here.

The ND-GAIN Country Index aims to unlock global adaptation solutions that save lives and improve livelihoods while strengthening market positions in the private sector and policy decisions in the public sector. Measuring not only vulnerability but also the readiness to take on investment, it informs strategic, operational and reputational decisions regarding supply chains, capital projects and community engagements. The index includes 21 years of data across 45 indicators for 181 . ND-GAIN is housed in the Environmental Change Initiative of the University of Notre Dame.

 

 

 

Originaly published by Doyin Adeoye on the Nigerian Tribune

To mark the World Water Day held on March 22, WaterAid Nigeria has called for urgent action from the international community and the government to reach the 41 million rural people in Nigeria without access to clean water.

WaterAid’s annual analysis of global water access, entitled ‘Wild Water: The State of the World’s Water,’ released ahead of World Water Day on 22 March, examined the vulnerability of rural communities around the world to extreme weather events resulting from climate change, including cyclones, ruinous flooding and prolonged drought.

The report warned that changes in weather patterns could make it even harder for the world’s poorest people to access clean water.

According to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, Nigeria ranks in the top 31 per cent of nations worldwide most vulnerable to climate change and in the top eight per cent least ready to adapt to it.

Today, 663 million people are without clean water globally, and the vast majority of them, that is 522 million, live in rural areas. These communities face particular challenges in gaining access to clean water, due to their often isolated location, inadequate infrastructure and a continued lack of funding.

WaterAid UK Chief Executive, Barbara Frost, said “This World Water Day is a timely opportunity to reflect on how extreme weather events make the daily struggle to access clean water even more difficult for the world’s poorest people. Many of the countries featured in the report are already regularly hit by severe cyclones, floods and drought. Rural communities, which are marginalised by their remote location and a continued lack of funding for basic services, often bear the greatest burden of these events.

“Clean water is not a privilege; it is a basic human right. Yet over half a billion rural people are still living without access to clean drinking water. It is staggering to think that if all of these people stood in a queue, it would wrap around the Earth’s circumference six and a half times.

“Assisting communities to develop climate-resilient facilities is critical to the realisation of Goal 6 and to poverty eradication,” she said.

In the same vein, WaterAid Nigeria Country Director, Dr Michael Ojo, said: 41 million rural people in Nigeria are still living without access to clean water. On World Water Day, we call upon our government and others around the world to keep their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, and ensure everyone is able to realise their right to clean water by 2030.

“Our leaders need to deliver on their promises to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 6 to ensure access to safe water and sanitation for all, because everyone – no matter where they live – deserves affordable access to these life essentials. The Federal Government recently launched the Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH), a national multi-sectoral collaboration for the improvement of rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene. This is a great start tackling lack of access in rural areas but there is a need to quickly focus on measures, with government leadership, to address this scourge in our towns and cities too,” he said.

To this end, the organisation has therefore called on governments to prioritise and fund water, sanitation and hygiene, fulfilling these fundamental human rights and building communities’ resilience to extreme weather events and climate change.

It also urged government leaders to increase efforts to meet their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals, including achieving targets to reach everyone everywhere with safe, clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.

Originally published by Maninder Dabas on www.indiatimes.com

Nearly 63 million Indians living in rural areas are without the access to clean water, says  Wild Water, a report on the state of the world’s water, released by WaterAid.  According to the report, lack of planning, competing demands, rising population and water draining agricultural practices are putting excessive strain on water resources.

And such a  huge population without the access to clean water, the diseases like cholera, malaria, dengue and diarrhoea are quite common in the rural landscape. 

waterrr

REUTERS

The report also forewarned that rural communities dependent on farming to make a living will struggle to grow food and livestock amid soaring temperatures and women who draw water in most of the rural households may have to walk even greater distance during prolonged dry seasons. 

Though the report also described India as one of the fastest growing economies but also said the ensuring water security for its growing population would be one of the key challenges for the country.

According to India's official Ground Water Resources Assessment, more than one-sixth of the country's groundwater supply is currently overused. "Droughts have become almost a way of life in the Bundelkhand region of North-Central India. Here, three consecutive droughts have pushed millions of people into a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty," it said.

India ranks in the top 38 percent of countries worldwide most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index. "With 67 percent of the country's population living in rural areas and 7 percent of the rural population even now living without access to clean water, India's rural poor are highly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events and climate change," it said.

water

REUTERS

The report said today, 663 million people globally are without clean water and the vast majority of them - 522 million - live in rural areas.  According to WaterAid India's Chief Executive VK Madhavan, with 27 out of the 35 states and union territories in India disaster prone, poorest and the most marginalised across the country will bear the brunt of extreme weather events and climate change and will find it the hardest to adapt.

"This World Water Day, WaterAid is calling on the government to deliver its promise to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring access to safe water as part of Goal 6 to everyone, everywhere. "Along with access to safe water, it is critical that communities have the necessary tools, infrastructure and preparedness to deal with the effects of extreme weather events and climate change", he said in a statement.
"These communities face particular challenges in gaining access to water due to isolated locations, inadequate infrastructure and a continued lack of funding," he said.

Originally published on www.moneycontrol.com

Lack of government planning, competing demands, rising population and water-draining agricultural practices are all placing increasing strain on water, said the WaterAid's report.

World Water Day 2017: 63 million in India do not have access to clean water

India has the maximum number of people - 63 million - living in rural areas without access to clean water, according to a new global report released to mark World Water Day tomorrow.

This is almost the population of the United Kingdom, said "Wild Water", a report on the state of the world's water.

Lack of government planning, competing demands, rising population and water-draining agricultural practices are all placing increasing strain on water, said the WaterAid's report.

Without access to clean water, 63 million people are living in rural areas in India. Diseases such as cholera, blinding trachoma, malaria and dengue are expected to become more common and malnutrition more prevalent, it said.

Rural communities dependent on farming to make a living will struggle to grow food and feed livestock amid soaring temperatures, and women - typically responsible for collecting water - may have to walk even greater distances during prolonged dry seasons, the report forewarned.

Describing India as one of the world's fastest growing economies, it said ensuring water security for the growing population is one of the main challenges facing the country.

According to India's official Ground Water Resources Assessment, more than one-sixth of the country's groundwater supply is currently overused.

"Droughts have become almost a way of life in the Bundelkhand region of North-Central India. Here, three consecutive droughts have pushed millions of people into a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty," it said.

The report warns about the implications of extreme weather events and climate change for the world's poorest.

India ranks in the top 38 per cent of countries worldwide most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index.

"With 67 per cent of the country's population living in rural areas and 7 per cent of the rural population even now living without access to clean water, India's rural poor are highly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events and climate change," it said.

The report said today, 663 million people globally are without clean water and the vast majority of them - 522 million - live in rural areas.

According to WaterAid India's Chief Executive VK Madhavan, with 27 out of the 35 states and union territories in India disaster prone, poorest and the most marginalized across the country will bear the brunt of extreme weather events and climate change and will find it the hardest to adapt.

"This World Water Day, WaterAid is calling on the government to deliver its promise to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring access to safe water as part of Goal 6 to everyone, everywhere.

"Along with access to safe water, it is critical that communities have the necessary tools, infrastructure and preparedness to deal with the effects of extreme weather events and climate change", he said in a statement.

"These communities face particular challenges in gaining access to water due to isolated locations, inadequate infrastructure and a continued lack of funding," he said.

 

India is home to 63.4 million rural people without access to clean water, the highest in the world. Rural populations in poor and geographically isolated areas face particular challenges in terms of accessing clean water. And extreme weather events and climate change make such challenges more acute. Despite being one of the world’s fastest growing economies, ensuring water security for its growing population is one of the main challenges facing the country. In this photo story, we look at the struggle of vulnerable rural communities to access clean water in Bundelkhand and explore how improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene services can change their life.

75.8 million Indians lack access to safe water. Majority of these people come from impoverished communities and are forced to collect dirty water from open ponds and rivers or spend most of what they earn buying water from tankers. India loses 2-4% of its gross domestic product each year because of unclean water.

Woman and girls are at a higher risk for infections due to their frequent contact with unsanitary water. With 167 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births and 28 newborn deaths per 1,000 live births, India has one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. 1 out of 5 newborn deaths could be prevented by ensuring access to clean water.

Sheela, 35, lives with her five children in the village of Kubri, Bundelkhand region, Uttar Pradesh, India. Here, three consecutive droughts have pushed millions of people into a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty. “I spend half of my day in fetching water as a minimum of 12-13 rounds are required for this big a family. Each round takes around 20 minutes. My body aches because of carrying this heavy weight every single day. Even after all this my kids keep on falling sick as I can’t clean them for days due to water shortage,” says Sheela.

Women are typically saddled with the burden of being water providers for their families. In rural India, women travel a few kilometres daily carrying up to fifteen litres of water in each trip. The pressure creates back, feet, and posture problems and robs them of the much needed time to earn an income or take care of their children.

Sheela, 35, carries water from a village hand pump in Kubri Village, Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh. Here, three consecutive droughts have pushed millions of people into vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.

Chhoti, 50, lives with her children in the village of Kubri, Uttar Pradesh, India. Here, three consecutive droughts have pushed millions of people into vicious cycle of hunger and poverty. “In this far off village, there is no source of livelihood except farming. Due to scanty rainfall in the last few years, we are almost dying of hunger. Whatever little we were able to sow, we are consuming it cautiously as we can never be sure of rainfall in the next season,” explains Chhoti. In India, 63.4 million people in rural areas live without access to clean water while it ranks in the top 38% of countries most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt to climate change, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index.

Adolescent girls often miss out on school or college to fetch water for their families in rural India. Lack of access to drinking water in school affects the learning environment for both students and teachers.

“My daughter Munni (15) is not of marriageable age but I am getting her married as there is nothing to eat in the house because of scanty rainfall in last few years. Had the rains been normal, I would have waited for her to attain legal marriageable age,” says Rani. Rani, 45, lives with her three kids in Bhikhampur village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. Here, three consecutive droughts have pushed millions of people into vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.

Chunkawan, 60, is a farmer in Gidurah, a small village located in the Bundelhkand region of Uttar Pradesh. “Last year, there was no rainfall and my land dried up. Though the land here is very fertile, yet no one could sow anything because there was no water for irrigation. There is only one well in this village. Whatever little water we got, we had to consume it for cooking, drinking and feeding our cattle,” Chunkawan explains.

Though the primary collectors of water are women, decision-making power lies with men. Women’s involvement in decision-making about water resources is critical, as programmes that include women at all stages of planning, implementing and monitoring are more efficient, effective and sustainable.

Usha, 35, lives with her three kids in Bhikhampur village in Uttar Pradesh. In 2015, a mini piped water supply system was implemented in the village with support from WaterAid India and each household was provided with a tap connection. “I am really happy because of the tap connection as now we get water within the house. Earlier, I used to spend around 2 hours per day to fetch water,” says Usha.

Vidya, 40, lives with her family in Bhikhampur village in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. In 2015, a mini piped water supply system was implemented in the village with support from WaterAid India and each household was provided with a tap connection. “I feel very relaxed because of the tap connection as I own two buffaloes. Feeding water to animals is a big deal if you have to run to a well every time,” explains Vidya.

Sankhi, 25, lives in Bhikhampur village in Uttar Pradesh. She used to spend 2-4 hours every day to fetch water for the family. In 2015, a mini piped water supply system was implemented in the village with support from WaterAid India and each household was provided with a tap connection. “I hardly had time to study. Water is a necessity. There is no education over water. But I am glad that now because of the water connection within the household, kids don’t have to waste their precious time on fetching water,” says Sankhi.

Originally published on http://ndci.global/global-adaptation-index-nd-gain/

ND-GAIN produces a tool that measures a number of aspects of a country’s vulnerability to climate change effects, and also its readiness to absorb investment that will help combat adverse effects.  The tool has a long time-series, which makes it possible to see how countries have fared over time on both measures, and a wide array of visualisation options to allow data to be presented and analysed. The tool covers 181 countries.

A good starting point for understanding the uses of the ND-GAIN resource is to look at how it helps us see how the world overall has evolved over the past 20 years or so (the time series goes back to 1996).

The matrices below show vulnerability and readiness in a quadrant schema, where countries in the top left quadrant (the “red zone”) are highly vulnerable and have low readiness to absorb investment, while countries in the bottom right quadrant (the “green zone”) are less vulnerable and more ready for investment.

Thus in Figure 1 – and picking out some sample countries for illustrative purposes – in 1996 Haiti, Benin, Kenya, Nicaragua, Egypt and Morocco fell into the red zone; Mexico was in the “amber” zone, with middling vulnerability and readiness; Malaysia was just entering the green zone, while Korea and Singapore were already quite well established there.

Figure 1 – ND-GAIN Matrix 1996


20 years of focus on climate change is paying dividends at a global level

Figure 2, the matrix in 2015, shows how, globally, there has been a noticeable overall progression in a “good” direction, namely downwards and rightwards, towards the less vulnerable/more ready quadrant.

This progression indicates that 20 years of focus on climate change and investment to fight it have paid some dividends. However, the fortunes of countries are very mixed.  Haiti, Benin and Kenya all remain in the red zone; Nicaragua has progressed slightly in terms of readiness, and is now in the amber zone; but Egypt, Morocco and Mexico have all moved now into the green zone.  Malaysia and Korea have also made progress within that zone, but Singapore is now in a world-leading group that includes Denmark, Norway, New Zealand and the UK.

 

Figure 2 – ND-GAIN Matrix 2015

What does ND-GAIN’s Country tool measure?  The methodology is summarised below

The Vulnerability score measures a country’s exposure, sensitivity and capacity to adapt to the negative effects of climate change.  Six life-supporting sectors are assessed: food, water, health, ecosystem service, human habitat, and infrastructure.  The higher the score, the more vulnerable a country is.

The Readiness score measures a country’s ability to attract investments and convert them to adaptation actions. Three components of readiness are assessed: economic, governance and social.  10 economic measures include indicators such as ease of starting a business or enforcing contracts. 4 governance measures include assessments of political risk and control of corruption.  4 social indicators include levels of ICT infrastructure and education.

If we want to understand the reasons for, say, Morocco’s progress over the period, we can look at the underlying factors behind its overall score.  From the charts below we can see that there has been a steady reduction in the country’s vulnerability since the turn of the century, while readiness, which was flat for the first decade, has improved dramatically since 2005.

Drilling down further in the data (but not charted here), we can see that while most sub-indicators of Vulnerability (such as food and water security) have improved, Morocco’s ecosystems remain almost as vulnerable as 20 years ago. Similarly, under Readiness, we can see that while economic and social indicators have improved, governance indicators have actually worsened over the period.

ND-GAIN’s tools should help countries and funders understand their priorities for addressing vulnerability – Patrick Regan

“ND-GAIN’s tools should help countries understand their priorities for addressing vulnerability,” says Dr Patrick Regan, Director of the Global Adaptation Initiative at the University of Notre Dame.  “Equally, it could help funders to see that, while A, B or C vulnerability issue identified by the country is indeed a threat, before addressing it the country first needs to build capacity or improve governance. It could then create a programme with the country to work through the various steps needed, which should improve the effectiveness of the support the funder provides.

Right now, a lot of attention is being focussed on needs, but attention also has to be paid to adaptive capacity, which is where the readiness measures come in. Investing in solving for needs when there is insufficient capacity to usefully absorb that investment is not an optimal outcome.”

Dr Regan says that the ND-GAIN platform is used by a range of actors, from companies, governments and consultants to academia and news media. The team is now working on getting to the next level of granularity below countries.  The first manifestation of this is a study of resiliency in 250 cities in the US.  This will be expanded over time to major world cities, while for larger countries like Nigeria, ND-GAIN is working on regional-level data.

NDCi.global Comment

Like the Climate Funds Update, we believe that ND-GAIN has a lot to offer in terms of peer comparison. Any country would do well to understand what Singapore has been doing right for more than 20 years to get it into a top-5 spot, but at any level of performance countries can see in this very rich data set what has and hasn’t been working for their neighbours or countries elsewhere in the world that face the same issues.

The good news, as the global matrix shows in its direction of travel over the years, is that investing in effective change does produce results.  There is clearly, however, a long way to go in terms of generalising best practice.

Originally published by Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Kong Meta on www.phnompenhpost.com

Flooded forests burning last year at the Prek Toal bird sanctuary in Battambang Province.
Flooded forests burning last year at the Prek Toal bird sanctuary in Battambang Province. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

The new normal: facing climate change

Last year’s drought caused a nationwide crisis, with harvests ruined, forest fires raging and many rural families struggling to feed themselves. As experts take stock of the impact, news of another potential El Niño raises a question: Is Cambodia prepared for the next drought?

For Cambodia, the El Niño that began in 2015 hit hard, causing a two-year drought that jeopardised the health, food security and finances of millions of people.

According to the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), some 2.5 million people across 18 provinces were severely impacted by May of last year, and the province among the hardest hit was Banteay Meanchey, in the northwest of the country.

But while a wet rainy season that arrived in June alleviated the situation nationally, conditions in parts of the province suggest that this year’s rainy season may not have been enough to get them through the year. Already, in O’Chhrou district’s O’Beichoan commune, six villages have experienced water shortages, beginning last week.

“There are about 2,000 families now buying water, and the water prices are starting to increase,” said O’Beichoan commune chief Soung Meurng.

“Currently they have no water to use for cooking, washing clothes, or bathing,” he said, adding that farmers in the commune will forgo planting crops for the third year straight. “We don’t care about the crops yet. We think only to support the people and the livestock.”

Meurng says provincial authorities have promised his commune a 5,000-liter truck to deliver water, but so far he hasn’t “seen it yet”. “Our commune is the worst hit one among the district,” he said.

What Meurng is grappling with at the moment could be a sign of what’s to come for much of the country. Although spurred by El Niño, last year’s drought may have been a sign of dry conditions to come – possibly sooner than expected.

 

A view of the flooded forests near Kampong Phluk in Siem Reap province
A view of the flooded forests near Kampong Phluk in Siem Reap province. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

 

Last week, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the ongoing La Niña over and predicted a 50 percent chance of another El Niño developing by the end of 2017.

Caused by warming waters in the Pacific, the event causes periodic changes to the world climate, including – typically – drought in Southeast Asia. In 2015 and 2016, one of the strongest such events recorded precipitated the worst drought in Cambodia since 1979.

El Niño usually occurs at two to seven-year intervals and is usually followed by a La Niña, a reciprocal change brought on by a cooling of the waters in the Pacific. This year’s was remarkably short, although it did bring added rainfall to the region.

For the United Nations World Food Program, which was a chief coordinator of the humanitarian response to the drought, the medium to long-term effects of last year’s El Niño are still being assessed, but the first of a three-part national survey of 2,400 households published late last year gives a sense of the scope of the disaster.

 

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Residents collect water at a dwindling watering hole in O’Beichoan commmune in Banteay Meanchey province in April 2016. Hong Menea

 

For Jonathan Rivers, a mapping and vulnerability officer at the WFP, another El Niño coming so soon “would be potentially quite problematic.”

Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology spokesman Chan Yutha, meanwhile, dismissed the possibility of such an event, predicting that the rainy season would actually start in the first week of May this year.

“In short, we will not be affected by El Niño,” he said.

Facing change
Back in Banteay Meanchey, tangible steps are being taken to prepare. Deputy provincial governor Oum Reatrey says that the authorities expect to see drought-like conditions in certain communes, including O’Chhrou, and are responding.

“Now we are working with the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology; we are damming the Serey Sophorn River to create a reservoir, and we are also dredging canals for the people to use and educating people to use the water in a careful manner,” he said. Reatrey says that they will be ready for the next El Niño.

“We are not very worried at the moment, because we already took some action,” he said.

But that may be a rose-tinted view of the future. For Nop Polin, a program officer for humanitarian NGO Dan Church Aid Cambodia who represented Cambodian civil society at the UN Climate Summit in Paris (COP21), the extreme drought events brought by the last El Niño, followed by flooding brought on by La Niña, may be a preview of what lies ahead as climate change progresses.

“This is the new normal, because this is something that is not irregular anymore,” he said. For him, institutional reform should be a top priority. “The preparation is on an ad-hoc basis. It is not systematic,” he said, noting that while “some provinces have emergency preparedness and response plans, it’s very hard to say if it’s well prepared [nationally].”

Polin said that national coordination has improved but that capacity and preparation remain lacking. For Polin, work is needed to better forecast climatic events, both for disaster preparation and for farmers to better plan their harvest.

 

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

 

NCDM spokesman Keo Vy assured Post Weekend that the next emergency response would be smoother and more comprehensive both in terms of maintaining water resources and planning.

“Now we know what and where our sources of water for intervention and conservation are,” he said.

Last year, the NCDM, alongside civil society groups, the UN and the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), conducted a month-long national water delivery emergency operation that started in mid-April. It saw the delivery of five million litres of water per day to the most affected communities.

The NCDM committed $125,000 to the operation.The CRC managed to raise $13 million in one day for drought relief and Prime Minister Hun Sen mobilized the private sector to donate.

But for Polin, this mobilization of resources “from tycoons and parliamentarians” is not enough, adding that the NCDM budget ought to be increased. According to Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, the NCDM must request funding directly from the prime minister and the council in case of disaster.

Napoleon Navarro, a senior policy adviser for the UNDP, noted by email that the El Niño revealed the need for an improvement to the Kingdom’s early warning systems and response capacity.

“It is not sufficient to know that an El Niño event is coming – it is also important to translate information into short-term public actions … or more long-term ones,” Navarro wrote. For the short term, he mentioned pre-positioning water trucks and ensuring that water ponds are full as examples, while “eco-restoration” of watersheds could be a long-term measure.

“Part of the problem is that institutionally, disaster response (which is more visible) normally takes precedence over disaster preparedness and risk reduction (which is less visible),” he wrote. Nonetheless, Navarro notes that the government has made positive progress by pushing for preparation to take place at a local level.

“One thing that the government is doing right is encouraging communities to undertake vulnerability risk assessments and to utilise the annual commune and sangkat funds to prepare for the consequences of climate change,” he said.

 

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A boy sits on a water delivery vehicle in Banteay Meanchey province. Hong Menea

 

According to the water resource ministry’s Yutha, the government is “encouraging [communities] to build more reservoirs, canals and ponds, such that [in events] when farming cannot be sustained, there is water for daily use.” He said that the ministry has helped to build or is in the process of building nine reservoirs to prevent water from flowing directly into the lake during the rainy season.

Lor Reaksmey, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, echoed Yutha’s statements, noting that his ministry had issued directives to reduce rice paddy cultivation. “We are very ready for 2017,” he said, though he conceded that areas like Banteay Meanchey may face difficulties.

The recent El Niño also brought about a new threat to the environment: the last fire season set a record. Alarmingly, the heat, dry conditions and low water levels allowed for an estimated one-third of the seasonally flooded forests around the Tonle Sap lake to burn. These forests are breeding grounds for fish, and the impact of the fires on the fisheries has yet to be assessed.

Simon Mahood, a senior technical adviser for the Wildlife Conservation Society – which works with the Ministry of Environment in training rangers – says that investment is needed to prevent a repeat of such a disaster.

“We’re in the process of doing some satellite analysis to understand the extent of the destruction, and the patterns of the spread of the fires, so that we can be better prepared next time, because it is clear that there will be a next time,” he said.

“Ideally, you would have a well-trained ranger force with pumps and hoses, coupled with a system of fire lookout posts so that fires could be identified, reported and extinguished quickly,” he said.

 

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A boy in O’beichoan commune carries water. Hong Menea

 

Hitting home
The impacts of the drought extended beyond water, agriculture and the environment to the household level, where livelihoods were hit hard.

“Nationally, 13 percent of households reported taking on additional loans as a result of El Niño,” with loans averaging $1,282 per household, according to the WFP survey.

For the UNDP’s Navarro, this is another concern should 2017 see another El Niño. “In a country where a significant percentage of the population have incomes just about [at] the poverty line, another event so soon could see an increase in rural poverty levels,” he said. 

Dr. Mey Kalyan, a senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council who has appeared on Cambodian television to raise awareness about climate change, said that ultimately, Cambodia’s combined vulnerability to climate change and limited response capacity means that a degree of impact is unavoidable.

“Impact will be a big, big negative on the economy and on society as well – on the poor farmers,” he said.

 

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The parched riverbed of the Serey Sophorn last April. Hong Menea

 

According to Kalyan, the threat requires the government to take a more pro-active approach to preparing for the future, even if it doesn’t yet know the full degree of climate change’s impact.

“We have to assume, differently from the government of Donald Trump, that climate change is coming,” he said. “Up until now it’s been half-hearted ... We’ve not been serious about this.” Part of the problem, he said, is that solutions are coming from the donors and not from the government.

But the UNDP’s Navarro noted progress over the past decade, noting that 14 ministries have climate change action plans and that preparedness, as measured by the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, shows an improvement from being the 163rd most prepared country in 1995 to being the 130th in 2015.

For Kalyan, the limitations on what can be done compared with the pressures climate change will bring are daunting. “I am sure the situation will get worse and worse, not better.”

 

 

As climate changes in the decades ahead, nations all over the world will invest billions to make themselves more resilient to rising sea levels, hurricanes, droughts, floods and heat waves.  

A new study led by researchers from the University of Notre Dame, University of Minnesota, McGill University and Australian National University reports that spending money on new infrastructure projects isn’t enough.  A country’s “readiness” – to include factors such as political stability, education levels, and even the ease of doing business -- can all influence whether climate adaptation efforts will succeed.   

The findings were published in the December issue of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. The paper’s authors were the first to analyze the patterns of adaptation investments made by the multilateral and bilateral adaptation funds.

“Our research found that countries with high vulnerability to climate change receive more adaptation funding from international sources,” said Chen Chen, research scientist for the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN). “Yet, those countries most vulnerable to climate change are often the least ready to use adaptation investments effectively. For instance, without social safeguards such as gender equity or environmental protection, countries will be less able to make best use of new public infrastructure.”

For analysis, the researchers used data collected by the ND-GAIN Country Index. The annual Index tracks a country’s performance against 45 indicators, which include data from six sectors that affect lives and livelihood: food, water, health, ecosystem services, human habitat and infrastructure. ND-GAIN researchers use 20 years of data to score the vulnerability and readiness of 180 countries around the world.

However, as the study’s authors point out, even when countries are equally vulnerable to climate change hazards, they may be unequal in their ability to adapt effectively. Factors such as institutional stability and the amount of political corruption effect how much adaptation financing can achieve.

According to the study, readiness is especially crucial in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which have the world’s greatest concentration of least developed countries. These countries are also most likely to endure significant human suffering because of climate change, unless they receive funding to adapt.

“It’s important to consider that because of low readiness, the investments made in developing countries may not be highly efficient,” Chen said. “Our findings explicitly support global efforts to improve the investability of the most vulnerable country groups by investing first to enhance their readiness.

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) works to provide knowledge and human resources that help governments, businesses and communities – especially the most vulnerable – adapt to the world’s changing climate. ND-GAIN is part of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative.

The University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment is leading the way toward a future in which people and the environment prosper together.

Originally published by Kavya Balaraman on www.eenews.net

A wastewater unit in Jacksonville, Fla., experienced a brief electrical fault as Hurricane Matthew barreled through Florida last week, causing a pump to trip and release around 5 million gallons of sewage into the Ortega River.

Officials immediately warned residents to avoid swimming and fishing in the river, a step that might have saved lives.

People on the battered island of Haiti weren't as lucky. It's 980 miles from Jacksonville, but the damage wrought by the storm was a world away.

Days before the pump failed, the delicate drainage system of southwest Haiti was choked with the hurricane's heavy rain. Sewage bubbled up into the floodwaters. The untreated waste, officials say, was likely behind the area's outburst of cholera, which has already killed 13 people.

The marked difference between the consequences of Hurricane Matthew in Jacksonville and in Haiti isn't restricted to the issue of sewage overflows. The hurricane had very different levels of impact in both regions.

In Haiti, the death toll has already climbed to about 1,000 people. According to the United Nations, around 1.4 million people need assistance, entire towns and villages have been "wiped off the map," and flood survivors are going hungry because the storm destroyed food stocks. Local authorities are struggling to contain the cholera outbreak, but that's a challenge because of the combination of intense flooding, stagnant water and floating corpses.

Matthew's devastation of Haiti is an example of what climate experts see as the disproportionate burden that global warming can have on poor, unprepared communities. Phenomena like extreme weather events, sea-level rise, coastal erosion and salinity intrusion tend to effect marginalized people more, they say.

According to the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change include Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan — none of which has the infrastructure and financial resources to adequately combat the issue. Haiti is the 23rd most vulnerable country on the list.

"If you look at the disasters in the '80s and '90s, there are several factors that predict a larger impact in developing countries — larger death tolls, larger infrastructure damage and longer recovery rates," said Beth Caniglia, director of the Sustainable Economic and Enterprise Development Center at Regis University's College of Business and Economics.

'Massive challenges'

A variety of factors are in play: Many developing countries don't have climate-resilient infrastructure or the funds to build it. This is despite the fact that many are also tropical countries, whose populations stand to lose a lot because of sea-level rise and stronger storms.

In Haiti, mean temperatures have risen by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit in three decades. The nation is located in a storm-prone area and has a big problem with flooding. Local drainage systems are rudimentary and generally consist of open channels dug alongside roads.

"The country doesn't have a lot of sewer systems," said Peter Wampler, an associate professor with Grand Valley State University's geology department. "In 2012, only 55 percent of people in urban areas had access to what's called 'improved sanitation' — usually a latrine. In rural areas, that number is only 20 percent. Unfortunately, the geology and hydrology of Haiti have caused cholera to become resident, and so when it rains, it flushes the disease out."

Poor infrastructure also means that it's more difficult for people to cope with disasters like Hurricane Matthew on a basic level. Homes are generally made of wood or cinder block and aren't stormproof. According to Caniglia, the storm destroyed around 66,000 homes in Haiti.

"You wouldn't experience that level of destruction in an industrialized nation," Caniglia said. "Moreover, people in the U.S. can prepare for large-scale evacuations, but in Haiti there aren't a lot of cars or highways to be able to drive quickly out of the area."

The lack of preparedness extends to the government. According to a 2014 report by Oxfam International, disaster management plans in Haiti aren't comprehensive enough to address weather events like Hurricane Matthew. In the Sud and Sud-Est regions — which are close to the coastline, low-lying and prone to storms — officials don't have enough data to put together effective risk management plans.

"There are many things you can do to make a country like this more climate resilient," said Andrew Curtis, co-director of the GIS, Health and Hazards Lab with Kent State University's geography department. "For example, improve flooding mechanisms — one of the reasons behind the floods was that the drainage channels ruptured and over-spilled — or raise structures that are near the coast to protect them from storm washes and hurricanes. But for countries like Haiti, which are struggling with a variety of massive challenges, there's not a lot in place to protect coastal towns from something like a major hurricane."

Funding and the media

In the United States, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said yesterday that $5 million in emergency funds had been sent to North Carolina to rebuild damaged roads. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and other regions affected by the hurricane had not yet requested emergency funds, but Foxx said the federal government was ready to help.

"You have entire roads that have been washed out, some of them are local roads, some state roads, some impact the interstate road system, so we have to work with states to get things in place," he said.

That doesn't happen in Haiti. It doesn't have the ability to rebuild with its own resources. It's because of this vulnerability that many of the least-developed countries are clamoring for international funding to combat the consequences of climate change.

But funding is in short supply, and it comes with its own complications. In Haiti, over half the government budget is supported by aid from the international community. And it isn't always provided on schedule. Moreover, the Haitian government has little control over how the money is spent.

"There are a lot of emergencies going on in the world — a huge drought in southern Africa, crises in Iraq and Yemen, and the El Niño affecting many parts of the world this year," said Nahuel Arenas, director of humanitarian programs and policy with Oxfam America. "Monetary assistance is stretched, and there's a certain level of donor fatigue."

Arenas also perceives this as a media problem, because most coverage is focused on the effects of the hurricane in areas like Florida and South Carolina.

"The media is also very absorbed with the American elections, so it's difficult to bring this up," he added dryly.

Another factor that contributed to the high death toll in Haiti is the lack of an adequate warning and information system. In Florida, residents were promptly informed of the dangers of untreated sewage in the Ortega River and measures they could take to protect themselves. Such systems in Haiti remain fragmented and, sometimes, inaccurate.

National-level early warning systems do exist — like the Programme Nationale d'Alerte Précoce, which is fed information from a system of local warning stations. However, these warnings are based on information collected from the public that isn't always accurate. Moreover, it follows a manual that Oxfam's report describes as being "not of the highest quality."

Inefficient communication systems can also mean that populations in disaster zones don't always know the right steps to take.

"In many cases, especially in parts of the developing world, we know that people aren't aware of the resources they can avail themselves to," said Caniglia. "There aren't early warning systems, or folks on TV telling them what to do. Radios are out of service, and they may not always get evacuation notices."

 

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