India lost $80 billion from natural disasters in 20 years, ranks 4th in the world for economic losses: UN report.

The report titled 'Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2017' was compiled by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.


At a Glance

• A UN report says natural disasters in India have cost the nation $80 billion in losses from 1998 to 2017.

• Globally, disasters have killed 1.3 million people, left 4.4 billion injured and homeless, and caused an estimated $3 trillion in losses in the last two decades.

• The report adds that 91% of all disasters were caused by floods, storms, droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather events.

Climate change is making development highly risky, particularly in lower-middle income countries like India. A study released by the UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) on Wednesday said India suffered economic losses of $80 billion during the 20-year period of 1998 to 2017. India has been ranked among world's top five countries in absolute economic losses.

Globally, disaster losses during this period have been estimated at $3 trillion. These losses have increased by more than 120% in the last 20 years compared to the preceding two decades (1978-1997). And if we just account for climate related disaster losses, they have gone up by more than 151%.

Mami Mizutori, head of UNISDR, said: "The report makes it clear that economic losses from extreme weather events are unsustainable and a major brake on eradicating poverty in hazard exposed parts of the world." She emphasised on the need for countries to capture economic losses which can help in disaster mitigation, saving lives and livelihoods.

"In the period 1998-2017, disaster-hit countries reported direct economic losses of $2,908 billion of which climate-related disasters accounted for $2,245 billion or 77% of the total. This compares with total reported losses for the period 1978-1997 of $1,313 billion of which climate-related disasters accounted for $895 billion or 68%," the UNISDR said.

"It is also clear that the economic losses suffered by low and lower-middle income countries have crippling consequences for their future development and undermine our efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in particular the eradication of poverty," the UNISDR said. The study was jointly conducted by UNIDR and Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and released before October 13, the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

In the last 20 years, climate-related disasters killed 1.3 million people and left 4.4 billion injured and homeless. India is worst sufferer of disaster-related deaths and economic losses. Thousands of human lives are lost and hundreds of crores worth of properties destroyed every year, though not all of them are reported, a fact authenticated by the UN report that said loss data is not available for 87% of disasters in low income countries. "While the majority of fatalities were due to geophysical events, mostly earthquakes and tsunamis, 91% of all disasters were caused by floods, storms, droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather events," the report said.

Storms, floods and earthquakes are not just common to India. In fact, three European countries are in the top 10 nations having suffered maximum economic losses on account of these climate change disasters - France ($48 billion), Germany ($58 billion) and Italy ($57 billion).

On the other hand, high income countries reported USD 1,432 billion in climate-related disaster losses, or 65% of the global total. However, this represents only 0.41% of their GDP.

Low and lower-middle income countries also carried a disproportionate burden in terms of disaster deaths. They experienced 43% of all major recorded disasters in the past 20 years but the greatest proportion (68%) of fatalities.

Historically, the large, populous continent of Asia has borne the brunt of global disasters of all types; this remained true in the past 20 years. For geophysical disasters, Asia accounts for the majority of all recorded impacts. This includes an extraordinary 85% of all affected people, and 78% of reported economic damage, as well as 62% of all occurrences and 69% of deaths

For climate-related disasters, affected populations once again overwhelmingly lived in flood- and storm-prone Asia (86%).

Integrating disaster risk reduction into investment decisions is the most cost-effective way to reduce these risks; investing in disaster risk reduction is therefore a precondition for developing sustainably in a changing climate, the report suggested.

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