Natural Hazard Risk
China is exposed to an array of natural hazards, including droughts, earthquakes, floods, heat waves, landslides, severe cold, typhoons, and volcanoes. In recent decades, frequent natural disasters have caused high loss of life and damage to property in the country, endangering the country’s development gains. Between 2000 and 2015, natural disasters affected some 1.6 billion people and caused about $300 billion in damages.
Seismic-prone Sichuan Province has experienced some of China’s largest earthquakes. The magnitude 8.0 Wenchuan Earthquake killed over 69,000 people and caused $128 billion in economic losses in 2008. Nearly five years later, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the province, affecting 2.2 million people.
On the country’s coast, seasonal storms hit regularly and typhoons make landfall at the highest rate in the world. The 2006 Saomai Typhoon, in highly exposed Fujian Province, sunk and damaged nearly 2,000 vessels and caused 241 fatalities. Sichuan and Fujian Provinces, among others, were also impacted by the 2016 June–July floods and storms.
Climate change is expected to increase the risks of hydro-meteorological hazards, especially in rapidly growing urban areas where people and assets are concentrated in hazardous places and unsafe structures. Coastal inhabitants, numbering over 130 million, are exposed to sea level rise, tropical storms, and flooding. Already, the frequency of these severe events is accelerating.
China is shifting toward proactive disaster risk management (DRM) and building an institutional and legislative DRM framework. Under the unified leadership of the State Council, central government agencies coordinate disaster reduction and relief through such institutions as the National Commission for Disaster Reduction, situated within the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Monitoring early warning systems, mitigating emergencies, and managing rescue and relief efforts were central to the 2007 Emergency Response Law. By 2011, a five-year disaster reduction plan was enacted. As well, a national contingency plan was revised to strengthen, among others, early-warning systems, emergency response (including inter-departmental coordination), and drought relief.
The government also is leveraging new technologies, such as drones, to navigate disaster zones and to support relief work; and innovating to strengthen coastal and urban resilience. In 2015, for example, 16 cities piloted ecologically friendly technologies to absorb and reuse rainwater—“sponge” cities.
Building on these advances, the Government of China is prioritizing the following:
- Strengthening DRM capacity at all levels of government through the national commission;
- Incorporating risk information in land use planning;
- Supporting resilient infrastructure development;
- Deploying the use of technology throughout the DRM cycle; and,
- Knowledge sharing on multi-hazard risk reduction and capturing best practices to share nationally and internationally.
GFDRR has supported efforts to strengthen China’s capacity to respond to disasters and to improve preparedness at the local level since 2008. GFDRR’s support for DRM in China began at the regional level to help systematically quantify expected welfare and human development losses associated with natural hazards across countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region.
In the post-Wenchuan Earthquake environment, GFDRR supported the government as it undertook a comprehensive damage, loss, and reconstruction needs assessment and supported recovery efforts for two more years. Reinforcing these efforts, GFDRR and international partners delivered training to the ASEAN Regional Forum on developing a common framework for post-disaster needs assessments, recovery, and reconstruction.
A 2009 GFDRR-financed study on coastal cities and climate change led to a multi-hazard Urban Disaster Risk Index pilot in the city of Ningbo in 2010. The pilot enabled local policymakers to assess the city’s susceptibility to climate and disaster impacts.
An ongoing GFDRR-supported project aims to strengthen multi-hazard risk reduction—especially for earthquakes, floods, landslides, and storms—in the provinces of Fujian and Sichuan. Developing information and early warning systems and including climate change considerations for hydrological hazards are among the activities, which began in 2016. To support implementing the World Bank $300 million disaster-resilient infrastructure project in Sichuan Province, activities will also share risk information and seismic risk mitigation measures for key infrastructure.
GFDRR and the Shanghai Meteorological Service, in December 2016, organized a capacity-building and knowledge-sharing event on reducing the impact of hydro-meteorological (hydromet) hazards in Shanghai. The event gathered representatives and experts from a variety of countries and regions and included practitioners from hydromet agencies and DRM authorities.
GFDRR anticipates continued demand from the Government of China for the following:
- Helping cities build disaster resilience, especially for hydromet and seismic risks;
- Reducing disaster risks in coastal areas;
- Strengthening mechanisms to manage and to adapt to climate change; and,
- Exchanging knowledge and sharing best practices from China’s national and international experience.