Natural Hazard Risk
Georgia is highly exposed to a wide range of natural hazards, including droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, storms, and volcanoes. Over the last four decades, 70 percent of its territory experienced a natural hazard, with economic losses exceeding $14 billion.
Flooding occurs very frequently and has compounding effects, as over half of the country is predisposed to landslides (58 percent) and nearly half (3.5 million hectares) is at risk of mudflows and landslides. In 2012, severe storms in the East and the South caused damages and losses of $123 million. In 2015, flash floods and landslides led to major mud- and debris-flow in the capital, killing 19 and indirectly affecting Tbilisi’s entire population.
Further, Georgia lies in a region with moderate to very high seismic hazard. Each year earthquakes, according to GFDRR analysis, affect about 200,000 Georgians and about $900 million in gross domestic product. A high intensity seismic event with a low annual probability has the potential to cause around 20,000 fatalities and $7 billion in capital loss, which is about 50 percent of Georgia’s gross domestic product.
In Georgia, climate change is expected to raise temperatures within a range of 1.3 to 2.8 degrees Celsius by 2050 as well as limit the availability of potable water, and increase the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events. Further, sea level rise and associated coastal erosion will impede development in the region.
Disaster risk management (DRM) is a national priority for the government. The country has focused on developing legislative and institutional frameworks for DRM. The DRM system is governed by the Civil Safety Law, which was established in 2014 and defines emergency response at the national, regional, and local levels. The same year, the Natural Disaster Prevention and Rapid Response Unit was established to integrate disaster prevention, early warning, response, and post-disaster recovery into infrastructure planning and development. Most recently, the government adopted the country’s first Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy and Action Plan.
To continue strengthening DRM, the government’s key priorities include:
- Devising a new building code to guide safer construction;
- Developing a unified disaster damage and loss assessment system; and,
- Supporting urban resilience activities.
Since 2008, GFDRR has supported activities in Georgia to improve weather forecasting, to better assess disaster impacts, and to build financial and infrastructure resilience. Initial support began with a review of hydro-meteorological (‘hydromet’) services in the Southern Caucuses, including Georgia.
In the aftermath of destructive 2012 storms, GFDRR supported the government to lead a multi-sector rapid post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA) in collaboration with the United Nations and other partners. The PDNA identified the agricultural sector as the most impacted in the country, with 20,000 farming households affected, and concluded that investing in resilient agriculture could be an opportunity to manage disaster risks in the future. The PDNA led to a 2014 World Bank study to assess climate-change impacts and adaptation options for Georgia’s agricultural systems.
In 2015, GFDRR began supporting a review of the country’s exposure to natural hazards and a fiscal risk assessment to underpin a financial protection strategy. GFDRR also helped facilitate a PDNA after the floods in Tbilisi that year, identifying the housing, transport, and water sectors, as well as the zoo (which was destroyed during the flooding) as the most severely impacted. Building on the PDNA recommendations, GFDRR is newly supporting the government to assess the road network’s vulnerability to climate change. The outputs will help develop priority climate-resilience measures for piloting on about 200 kilometers of Georgia’s Racha road network.
GFDRR has also supported activities to help Georgia better understand its flood and seismic risks. In 2016, GFDRR, together with the World Bank, developed quantitative country risk profiles for Georgia and other Europe and Central Asian countries to equip government decision-makers with more information about how floods and earthquakes are likely to impact people and the economy.
Going forward, GFDRR anticipates continued demand from the Government of Georgia for:
- Improving disaster risk financing mechanisms;
- Transitioning to a unified building code system; and,
- Developing an urban resilience program in the municipality of Tbilisi.