Natural Hazard Risk
Armenia faces major natural hazard risk from earthquakes, floods, and landslides, with additional risk from hail and drought. More than 80 percent of Armenians are at risk of exposure to catastrophic events. Located in the high activity Alps-Himalaya seismic zone, the country has historically been prone to earthquakes, including the devastating 1988 Spitak earthquake which killed over 25,000 people. These events have the potential to cause significant damage. An earthquake which occurs once every 250 years could affect 73 percent of the country's GDP.
Flooding also poses serious dangers, threatening half of the country’s territory in medium-altitude mountainous areas. Flooding in 2010 caused an estimated $10 million in damage, and a once every quarter century event could affect six percent or more of the country's GDP.
The Government of Armenia increasingly recognizes disaster risk management (DRM) as an important tool for the country’s development. In the two decades since the Spitak earthquake, the government has passed significant legislation to improve risk reduction and emergency management systems, such as the 2008 Law on Prevention of Emergency Situations. In 2010, the government established a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which aims to coordinate and consolidate DRM efforts. In 2012, it developed a National Strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction, along with an action plan.
To advance its DRM agenda, government priorities include:
- Developing a comprehensive approach to DRM;
- Strengthening the seismic resilience of school buildings; and,
- Implementing risk financing mechanisms.
Since 2008, GFDRR-supported capacity building, knowledge sharing, and technical assistance has helped the Government of Armenia make strides in DRM. Early activities helped the Government of Armenia analyze natural hazard risk; assess the appropriateness of existing systems, mechanisms, and institutional capacities; and make recommendations for developing a comprehensive national disaster reduction and preparedness agenda. GFDRR-supported activities resulted in a comprehensive report on disaster risk reduction and emergency management in Armenia, among other outputs. These activities helped inform World Bank projects in Armenia, including the rehabilitation of roads in central areas.
An ongoing technical assessment of school safety has informed $110 million in investments from the national government, $88.5 million from the Asian Development Bank, and a potential $88.5 million from the European Investment Bank. Related activities are helping to enhance disaster risk reduction through retrofitted critical infrastructure and a safe schools program.
Additional ongoing efforts are helping the Government of Armenia further advance disaster resilience. These include:
- Improving disaster risk information through updated probabilistic seismic hazard maps;
- Strengthening disaster preparedness, particularly at the local level; and,
- Improving the understanding of fiscal disaster risks and risk financing options.
Many activities are in the early stages, and GFDRR anticipates continued demand for support from the Government of Armenia.