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Burma one of countries most affected by climate change

Cyclone Nargis makes landfall, 3 May 2008 (PHOTO: Mohd Nor Azmil Abdul Rahman/wikicommons)

Burma has been ranked by a German think tank as the second worst country with regards to the effects of climate change between 1994 and 2013.

The Global Climate Risk Index 2015, published by Germanwatch, listed Honduras as the country suffering most from the effects of extreme weather events in the 20-year period. Burma’s neighbours Bangladesh, Vietnam and Thailand were ranked as fourth, sixth and ninth worst affected, respectively.

Burmese weather expert Tun Lwin said, “The index is based on not only the cost of life and property loss in natural disasters, but also on the [country’s] level of risk of natural disasters [occurring] as result of climate change and how well prepared this country is to deal with the disaster.”

As the index data is based on the average values over 20 years, Burma’s near-top ranking can be largely attributed to the widespread devastation of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, an “exceptional catastrophe” which caused more than 95 percent of damages that year and resulted in over 140,000 deaths.

However, the report emphasises that extreme weather events are likely to increase in both frequency and intensity with climate change, stating, “Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems.”

Recent decades have seen Burma experience annual droughts, flooding and storms which environmentalists have attributed to rampant deforestation and depletion of natural resources. In the last five years, Burma has also suffered powerful earthquakes, such as the 6.8 magnitude Mandalay quake in 2012 and the 2011 disaster in Shan State which left over 100 people dead.

The unflattering assessment of Burma’s environmental prospects may fuel environmental NGOs, who have previously expressed concerns on likely negative impacts of coal-fired power plants, such as those the government are planning for construction in various regions of the country.