Natural Hazard Risk
Bolivia is highly vulnerable to a number of natural hazards, including droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and volcanoes. Droughts and floods present particular challenges and are exacerbated by deforestation and land degradation.
As a result of El Niño/La Niña in 2007 and 2008, heavy rains caused floods and landslides that impacted over 258,000 people. The economic impact was estimated at about $443 million, almost 4 percent of 2007 GDP, with losses mainly damaged infrastructure, particularly roads and agricultural production.
Heavy seasonal rains in 2013 and 2014 caused severe flooding and landslides, affecting 44,000 households in 113 municipalities—five times more than the previous rainy season—with total losses of about $450 million.
The intensification of extreme floods, water scarcity, food insecurity, and forest fires, and the increased occurrence of diseases such as malaria, dengue, and cholera are some of the negative effects of climate change in Bolivia. In the country’s Amazonian lowlands, where 32 percent of the population live in poverty, flooding has become more frequent and its effects increasingly widespread: Flooding between 2006 and 2008 affected over 1 million people in the lowlands. Changing temperatures, increasingly irregular seasons, and overall weather unpredictability have significant implications for food production.
The government recognizes its vulnerability to adverse natural events and has taken important steps to manage disaster and climate risks. The disaster risk management (DRM) Law Number 602 of 2014 makes the necessary legal and institutional changes to manage natural disasters and climate risks comprehensively. The law addresses: (i) strengthening the national DRM system (SISRADE), led jointly by the Ministries of Development Planning and of Defense; (ii) establishing roles, competencies, and responsibilities for DRM at the national and subnational levels; (iii) increasing resources for DRM and mandating the integration of DRM in all planning processes; (iv) integrating climate change considerations in DRM; and, (v) establishing a framework for developing financial protection strategies at the national and subnational levels.
To further advance its DRM agenda, Bolivia is prioritizing:
- Establishing a program for emergency and disaster response to improve coordination between different levels of government and to expand the network of emergency operation centers; and,
- Improving institutional frameworks for integrating hazard and risk management into sectorial and territorial planning at the national and subnational levels.
Since 2007, GFDRR has supported activities to advance DRM in Bolivia. Key areas include resilient recovery, reinforcing local risk management capabilities, understanding drought and flood impacts on rural household poverty, and reducing vulnerabilities to climate change impacts.
Between 2007 and 2014, GFDRR supported six ministries to create a multisector national DRM program to help determine effective disaster risk reduction solutions across the agriculture, environment, health, planning, public works, and water sectors. The project developed a geospatial information system, GeoSINAGER, to share natural hazards data. It also developed a municipality risk indicator, a database and visualization tool that allows decision-makers to quickly understand disaster and climate risk levels and to identify infrastructure exposed to specific hazards. Following the project, the government agreed to prioritize more resilient road infrastructure and to improve transport lines, resulting in a government-funded $220 million road infrastructure project.
Following El Niño/La Niña in 2007 and 2008, GFDRR supported an impact assessment while identifying initial recovery and reconstruction needs. The assessment estimated total damage and losses of $511 million, equivalent to 3.4 percent of GDP, and found agriculture was the most affected sector, followed by transport infrastructure.
In 2012, GFDRR supported activities to develop and implement DRM strategies in the Central America and Andean regions, including Bolivia. Regional activities were complimented by country-specific analysis focused on generating information about drought and flood impacts on poor rural households. The aim is to determine the effects of DRM policies and investments and to provide recommendations for decision-makers to better target DRM activities to benefit Bolivia’s most vulnerable.
Following severe flooding in 2013 and 2014, GFDRR supported an impact assessment of the damaged infrastructure and economic losses. The resulting report provided recommendations for the current National Rehabilitation, Recovery, and Reconstruction Plan (Patujú Plan) to recover livelihoods in affected areas and to prioritize actions for disaster prevention ahead of an imminent El Niño phase.
In 2014, GFDRR financed activities that supported the World Bank $200 million Bolivia Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Credit and Loan. The project has helped the government integrate DRM into its comprehensive national development planning system and to institutionalize coordination between national and regional governments for emergency and disaster response.
Ongoing GFDRR projects are supporting activities to develop a municipal socioeconomic resilience indicator. The objective is to assess the relationship between natural disasters and poverty in Bolivia and to better understand the effects of DRM and climate change resilience policies.
Looking ahead, GFDRR anticipates demand from the Government of Bolivia on:
- Enhancing rapid rehabilitation and reconstruction;
- Strengthening the government’s disaster response ability at all levels; and,
- Improving DRM policy design capacity.