This summer, I am working at the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) in Bangkok to examine the relationship between disaster preparedness and climate change, and find ways to increase local capacity for disaster management in face of climate change.
There is a direct link between disaster and climate change; climate change can, if it has not already, increase the frequency, intensity, and variety of natural disasters. Several strategies are initiated at the international, national, sub-national, and community levels to prepare for natural disasters. In Southeast Asia, where natural disasters such as flood, windstorm, and drought are common occurrences and often a significant hindrance to development, increasing the capacity to cope with disasters is a top priority for economic and social wellbeing of the population.
For example, in Thailand, each province, district, and village develops its own disaster management calendar where they indicate when the high flood risk periods are, and when they need to do what in order to prepare for the potential risks of flood. According to this calendar, in Northern Thailand, the flood season used to be from July to October. However, for the past two years, they did not have any flood during these months. Is this due to “climate change”? Maybe it is, or maybe not. Nevertheless, in order to increase the resilience of communities, there is a need to explore ways for disaster management efforts to be more attentive and adaptable to the changing climate.
Through my two months internship at Asia Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), I will visit and interview national government, sub-national governments, and communities (villages) in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. These three countries are located along the Mekong River Basin and a large portion of their population rely on natural resources for their livelihood, and thus are very vulnerable to disaster and the changing climate.
As an outsider to these communities conducting a short-term project, I realize that my ability to make a long-lasting contribution to enhance local capacity for disaster management is very limited. However, through this study, I hope to work with ADPC to understand the link between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and create a foundation for the organization to work with communities over time in enhancing their capacity to prepare for disasters in the face of climate change.
Shoko Takemoto is a Masters in City Planning student at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, focusing on environmental policy and planning. Shoko is working in Bangkok this summer with the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center where she will examine the link between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in communities in the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia. Her main interests include food sustainability, climate change, and community engagement, and she was also a member of the Cartagena Practicum.