Disasters are not random and do not occur by accident. They are the convergence of hazards and vulnerable conditions. Disasters not only reveal underlying social, economic, political and environmental problems, but unfortunately contribute to worsening them. Such events pose serious challenges to development, as they erode hard-earned gains in terms of political, social and educational progress, as well as infrastructure and technological development. The Millennium Declaration recognizes the risk to development stemming from disasters and calls on the global community to “intensify our collective efforts to reduce the number and effects of natural hazards and man-made disasters”.
Several studies have recently highlighted the fact that investments in development are in jeopardy unless precautionary action is taken toward reducing disaster risk. Yet few development organizations adopt a precautionary approach in the design and management of projects and fewer still recognize the role of environmental management in reducing disaster risk.
Environmental degradation, settlement patterns, livelihood choices and behaviour can all
contribute to increase disaster risk, which in turn adversely affects human development and contributes to further environmental degradation. The poorest are the most vulnerable to disasters because they are often pushed to settle on the most marginal lands and have least access to prevention, preparedness and early warning. In addition, the poorest are the least resilient in recovering from disasters because they lack support networks, insurance and alternative livelihood options.
A comprehensive approach to disaster risk reduction acknowledges the role of the environment in triggering disasters and protecting communities. At the same time, it recognizes that the environment is itself vulnerable to disasters and post-disaster recovery.
The potential contributions of environmental management (including environmental
science, information, governance and technologies) towards reducing disaster risk. Most
importantly, this approach recognizes the vital role of environmental managers, whether
they live in rural villages or earn their livelihoods in the offices of government buildings.