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How can we help the millions displaced each year by disasters?

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Disasters leave millions of families in Asia homeless and displaced from their communities. Photo: ADB

 

By Steven Goldfinch, Rebekah Beatrice Ramsay, Asian Development Blog

Governments in the region need to invest more in prevention and response to the long-term impacts of disaster displacement.

Almost 75% of the world’s disaster displacement in 2018 – that’s over 12.6 million people forced to relocate from their homes – occurred in Asia and the Pacific. According to recent modeling by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an average 240 out of every 100,000 people across the region are likely to be displaced during any given year in the future. Floods alone are expected to cause, on average, 11.5 million new displacements each year, 87% of which will be in urban areas.

Displacement is corrosive to development. At best, it causes temporary interruption to lives and livelihoods. At worst, it separates families, dislocates communities, destroys human and social capital, reverses poverty reduction gains, and increases fragility. It can exacerbate preexisting vulnerabilities and create new risks. Certain groups—such as women, children, older people, people with disabilities, and indigenous communities—often face further marginalization as a result of being displaced.

Governments across Asia and the Pacific have dramatically improved early warning and emergency relief in response to the disruptive impact of disaster displacement. In November 2019 the Government of Bangladesh preemptively evacuated over 1.8 million people ahead of Cyclone Bulbul. While 12 people tragically died, this figure is a stark contrast to the impact of the 1970 Bhola cyclone that killed an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people. The 2015 Nepal earthquake affected around 8 million people or one-third of the population. The international community responded with search and rescue teams and immediate aid deliveries. While the importance of early warning and emergency relief is well understood, the longer-term impact of disaster displacement is rarely publicized or resourced.

In some instances, families in the region have had to wait for years after a disaster before they could return home. In other cases, even those holding title to their land have been effectively rendered landless and have had to resort to surviving as informal settlers on government or private lands. The cost of protracted displacement, from both a social and economic perspective remains largely unquantified.

Investments in the prevention and response to the long-term impacts of disaster displacement is typically under resourced for two key reasons – a lack of data and an underestimation of the full costs of displacement.

  Almost 75% of the people displaced by disasters worldwide in 2018 were in Asia.

In many countries, policymakers have not quantified the multidimensional impacts of displacement, particularly the gender, socioeconomic, and temporal (temporary, including seasonal, or longer term) dimensions, the current and expected long-term trends of displacement risk, or exacerbating factors including climate change and unplanned development. Given that many countries face multiple displacement triggers, there is a need to establish a knowledge base that accounts for the full costs of disaster displacement.

To address this, preparedness and development planning needs to account for both disaster and displacement risks, particularly in light of the projected urban growth and the likelihood that much of this growth will take place in informal settlements where disaster and displacement risks are concentrated.

Closing the knowledge gap on disaster displacement, including quantifying the risk, is challenging. The limitations and, in some areas, absence of data along with the reliance on imperfect proxies must be addressed. While significant advances have been made toward data collection through the use of innovative technologies such as anonymous mobile phone data and the use of aerial and satellite imagery analysis, the capacity of governments to record and analysis data needs to improve. Common standards and enhanced cooperation can contribute, as can a greater awareness of the risk levels.

ADB is supporting efforts to downscale research and develop new models on disaster displacement in Asia and the Pacific to help answer some key questions, including what are the trends and projections for disaster displacement in the region, what is the temporal (temporary, including seasonal, or longer term) nature of displacement, and what are the expected costs of displacement risk in the context of natural hazards. It aims to provide policymakers with potential measures and best practice to support preparedness and management of immediate and long-term displacement.

Quantifying displacement and unpacking the long-term implications can help governments across the region make evidence-based and responsive policies and investment decisions. With improved knowledge, Asia and the Pacific can do better to reduce and manage disaster displacement.

 

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Energy and Transportation

A Controversial Nuclear Waste Cleanup Could Put a critical Legal Question Before the U.S. Supreme Court

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A California public advocacy group is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to answer a specific question — Can private parties impacted by a private company with a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sue those licensees in federal court? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that such claims could only be brought before the NRC itself even though the agency is not equipped to handle those kinds of claims. The attorney for Public Watchdogs, Chuck La Bella, says, “The Ninth Circuit’s reasoning in effect slams the courthouse door on private parties’ claims in court against NRC license holders, no matter how egregious their conduct may be.”

If that decision is upheld, advocates say potentially life-threatening and environmentally damaging practices could go unchecked. La Bella believes the court made a misstep that could have sweeping implications for future cases. “If used as a precedent, the circuit court decision effectively strips federal district courts of all jurisdiction over private litigation against any company covered by a NRC license.”

The issue evolved as Public Watchdogs pushed for the safe storage of spent nuclear waste during the decommissioning process at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in California. The group petitioned the NRC to stop the work of a private company, Holtec International, at SONGS but the agency denied the request.

Separately, the group also filed suit against Holtec and the operators of SONGS.

The nonprofit called into question Holtec’s disposal practices and the operators’ oversight of Holtec during the plant’s decommissioning. The group asked for a work stoppage, based on concerns about the methods used to move and bury millions of pounds of deadly radioactive waste and the integrity of the “thin-walled” canisters the company used to store it. However, the district court said it could not hear their claims. The Ninth Circuit agreed, shutting down the challenge without even looking at the merit of the argument. It ruled that federal courts didn’t have jurisdiction over the case.

Citing the Hobbs Act, the circuit court said that the only way the group could challenge the actions of any company that holds a NRC license is before the NRC itself. Attorneys for Public Watchdogs claim the district court and the Ninth Circuit misinterpreted the purpose of the Hobbs Act and ignored the precedents of multiple circuit court decisions, as well as those of the Supreme Court, that have allowed for review in federal court. “If the Hobbs Act is allowed to swallow up all viable claims against companies that fall under the umbrella of a NRC license, then effectively those companies charged with our nation’s health and safety are accountable to no one,” says attorney Chuck La Bella.

This legal question could have important environmental, public health and safety implications for affected citizens as well as the states that house 70 nuclear power plants around the country. The states have mounting caches of spent nuclear fuel stockpiled on their land and no long-term plan for removing or storing the waste. The Attorney Generals in more than a dozen states have called into question the experience, transparency and resources of the same private company tapped to perform the decommissioning process in California. Attorneys General from states such as New York and Washington have voiced their concerns directly to the NRC about its approval of various licenses granted to Holtec. When the NRC failed to act, many states followed with lawsuits.

At least one group of environmental advocates is writing an amicus brief in support of having the Supreme Court hear this pressing legal question that has critical public health and safety implications nationwide. Other entities and states may follow. La Bella says, “If the Hobbs Act precludes district courts from hearing private party litigation, then a host of suits aimed at protecting the public’s health and safety may be barred wholesale. We hope the highest court in the land will send the issue back to the ninth circuit for another look.”

Get the Petition at https://bit.ly/3xlXWXf
Source: Public Watchdogs

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Business

Free to Download Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs

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Fight the Fire

Fight The Fire Book Cover

OUT NOW!

“The most compelling and concise guide to averting climate breakdown.” – Brendan Montague, editor, The Ecologist.

Download Jonathan Neale’s Fight the Fire from The Ecologist for free now.

The Ecologist has published Fight the Fire for free so that it is accessible to all.

We would like to thank our readers for donating £1,000 to cover some of the costs of publishing and promoting this book.

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Agriculture

How can a change in water useage impact a paradigm change?

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We drink it, we bathe in it, we cook and clean with it, water our plants and have fun with it. But do we use too much?

Cambridge water comes from an aquifer that also feeds streams and rivers including the River Cam. These videos and activities from Transition Cambridge will show you the effects of our consumption on the environment and what we can do about it. You will hear from Cllr Katie Thornburrow, from Cambridge City Council, and Ruth Hawkesley from the Wildlife Trust as well as members of Transition Cambridge. You can also experiment with an animated aquifer and use our water calculator to see where the water goes in your home).

What is the chalk aquifer and why is it important?

In summer 2019 the chalk aquifer that we use for our water supply reached a record low level and the effects on the streams that it normally supplies were devastating. Nicola asked Ruth Hawksley from the Wildlife Trusts why these streams are so important and how this situation came about. There are a number of factors including population growth and climate change. Ruth also explains what Cambridge Water is doing to help, and why this is not an entirely effective solution.

How does our water use affect streams and vegetation?

Here is an animated simulation of how our water use affects streams and vegetation. It shows how water taken from the aquifer lowers the water table, so that streams dry up and trees do not get enough water. When it rains again, the aquifer is replenished. You can also see what happens when Cambridge Water pumps directly into some of the streams to maintain the flow. After watching the video you might like to try driving the simulation yourself.

What Cambridge City Council are doing

Katie Thornburrow from Cambridge City Council talks about how the council views the problem and what can be done. She describes the crisis forum she initiated and some of the outcomes. The council commissioned an integrated management study which looked at options including bringing in water from other areas, and encouraging farmers to give up their abstraction licenses. Water efficiency in new homes is also very important and the development of Eddington, in North East Cambridge, demonstrates what can be done – but the council does not have the powers they need to enforce appropriate standards.

Where could you save water?

Explore your water use at home and how much you could save with this water use calculator. The calculator includes taps and toilets, showers and baths, washing machine, dishwasher, watering the garden and car washing. It shows you how much you use (per person per day) for the different activities. And you can see what difference you can make by installing simple measures or adjusting your habits.

More things you can do:

More information:

Transition Cambridge

Transition Cambridge aims to help Cambridge make the transition to ways of life that are more resilient in the face of rising energy prices and a changing climate. Our activities relate to food, recycling, nature, energy and water.

Source: Earth Optimism Cambridge

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