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Natural disasters costing Burma 3% of GDP

Cyclone Nargis makes landfall on 3 May 2008. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Burma is losing an average of three percent of its GDP due to natural disasters, according to Vice-President Henry Van Thio, who is also the chair of the country’s National Disaster Management Committee.

Speaking at the launch of the Myanmar Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction  (MAPDRR-2017) event in Naypyidaw yesterday, the vice-president said, “Myanmar experiences an average annual loss of 3 percent of national GDP due to natural disasters, while globally direct economic losses attributed to disasters are rising dramatically and reached about US$ 1.4 trillion over the last decade.”

According to a front-page report in today’s state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, over the past three years “small- and medium-scale disasters and climate-induced disasters such as floods and cyclones are on [the] rise.”

Henry Van Thio also pointed to changes in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and increased temperatures for exacerbating the problem in Burma.

He told the audience, which included government ministers, representatives of UN agencies and other diplomats, that low-income countries such as Burma suffered higher fatalities during a natural disaster than developed nations.

“Low-income countries have to pay a high price in terms of fatalities from disasters; on average, 327 people died per disaster event in low-income countries over the past two decades. The figure in fact is almost five times higher than the average death toll in high-income countries,” he said, according to the state-run press report.

The Global New Light of Myanmar continued: “The MAPDRR-2017 is designed to address the emerging risk of small and recurrent disasters such as river bank erosions, strong wind, lightning strikes and localised flooding.”

Several parts of Burma are prone to earthquakes, while other regions suffer floods every year during the monsoon season. Undoubtedly the most tragic event in the country’s history was the 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster, when up to 140,000 people were killed and some two million left homeless in the Irrawaddy Delta.