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Dr Fouad Bendimerad. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Better to be safe than sorry in preparing for natural disasters

The old adage, ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’, rings true for a country when it comes to disaster management and risk reduction. While Cambodia is not especially disposed to major natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, risk management consultant Dr Fouad Bendimerad sheds some light to Post Property on how a country can best prepare for the worst.

What are some effective natural disaster preparations that a country like Cambodia should have in place?
Disaster preparedness starts with a good understanding of the vulnerabilities and risks associated with various hazards. The understanding of risks provides the foundations for rational and cost-effective policy and actions, and defines the priorities of the government for investments in disaster risk reduction. A consultation process with communities and other stakeholders (i.e., private sector, civil society, media, academia, and others) should provide the parameters for a national strategy for disaster risk management.

In monetary/financial terms, how significant can a natural disaster be to an economy?
A recent report by the World Bank demonstrates that disasters can have much greater economic and financial impacts in developing countries. Government takes on significant contingent liability which is not funded. Thus, funds for response, recovery and reconstruction must come from development funds and from budget allocated to social services. This process further delays development goals of the country.

While Cambodia isn’t specifically prone to earthquakes, is it still important to have contingency plans in place for the possibility of such a natural disaster?
Risk assessment will provide an understanding of the threat from earthquakes compared to other hazards. Contingency planning and emergency preparedness will improve the level of readiness of government agencies and communities to respond and recover from all types of shocks. This is the process of building resilience and reducing socio-economic vulnerability.

In what ways can fast-developing and growing urban cities like Phnom Penh prepare for the possibility of a major natural disaster?
Cities can develop Local Urban Resilience Plans that provide the strategies and actions for reducing risks along core sectors such as transport, water, sanitation, housing, land use, etc. Cities should also adopt the concept of mainstreaming risk reduction into their development plans.

Many parts of Phnom Penh are prone to extreme flooding in the wet season, while in the dry season droughts are rife. How can this situation be improved or better mitigated?
Comprehensive flood risk management and water resource management plans and strategies can improve the situation and reduce impact. These should be based on scientific studies that provide the parameters for establishing these plans. ​

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