Natural Hazard Risk
Myanmar is exposed to a range of natural hazards, including cyclones, earthquakes, floods, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanoes. These hazards are accompanied by high economic and social costs, with significant impact on the poor and most vulnerable. Annual expected losses from natural hazards are close to $185 million, equivalent to nearly 1 percent of the country’s 2008 gross domestic product (GDP), the highest among all countries in Southeast Asia.
Over the last decade, natural hazards have severely impacted the country’s population and economy. In early May 2008, Cyclone Nargis, a Category 3 cyclone, struck the country. In the country’s worst natural disaster, 84,500 people were killed and nearly one-third of the population was affected. Total damages and losses were over $4 billion, equivalent to 21 percent of the country’s GDP in 2007.
From July to September 2015, heavy rains brought intense flooding and landslides to Myanmar. Over 1.6 million people were temporarily displaced, with damages and losses of over $1.5 billion, equivalent to over 3 percent of the country’s 2014–15 GDP.
Myanmar is vulnerable to climate change, with predictions of floods and droughts becoming more frequent and intense. Temperatures, rainfall, and runoff are likely to increase, and dry periods during the monsoon season may occur. These changes will increase economic losses from natural hazards, particularly in the agricultural sector, which employs about 56 percent of the population.
Myanmar has made progress on disaster risk management (DRM) and has established institutions and programs to strengthen disaster resilience. In 2013, the government enacted the Natural Disaster Management Law, with supporting disaster management rules issued in 2015. In 2016, the National Natural Disaster Management Committee was formed by the Cabinet. Its main functions include formulating policy and guidelines for mobilizing internal resources during disasters; outlining policy for coordination when international assistance is needed; assisting in managing state budget and state-owned resources to places in need; and issuing orders and notification to ensure effective management during and after disasters.
The Myanmar Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction 2009–15 provided an institutional framework for DRM in the country. On the policy side, in 2012, the government released a National Adaptation Program for Action, with an aim to analyze past and expected impacts of climate change in Myanmar and to identify priority actions for adaptation. Additionally, earthquake resilience is an integral part of a new Myanmar National Building Code.
To further advance its DRM agenda, the Government of Myanmar is prioritizing:
- Implementing integrated environmental and water resource management for enhanced disaster and climate resilience;
- Applying a disaster risk-sensitive approach to the urban resilience and transport sectors; and,
- Strengthening institutional capacity to lead and to manage disaster recovery.
GFDRR has helped enable DRM efforts in Myanmar since 2009, with a focus on supporting resilient recovery after disaster events, strengthening early warning and preparedness, and strengthening financial protection from shocks.
Beginning in 2009, for five years after Cyclone Nargis, social impacts monitoring (SIM) accompanied the post-disaster recovery period. The SIM focused on examining evolving socioeconomic conditions and social relations and institutions in a limited number of affected villages. The GFDRR report, Another Nargis Strikes Every Day, captures the SIM’s main findings on how village life changed during this period and provides insights into how aid responses could best help Delta communities, as well as inform future post-disaster recovery.
Following the July–September 2015 floods, GFDRR helped the government carry out a PDNA and inform recovery and reconstruction planning. The PDNA results were instrumental in leveraging over $350 million in World Bank funding, including for a Flood and Landslide Emergency Recovery Project and the first-ever activation of the Immediate Response Mechanism.
Also in 2015, GFDRR provided design support for a $100 million World Bank project to improve the management and development of the Ayeyarwady River Basin in Myanmar. The project is expected to benefit millions of poor people whose livelihoods are based on water-dependent sectors like agriculture. It also includes the modernization of hydromet observation and early warning systems, helping to protect vulnerable populations and improving farmer productivity through increased accuracy of agricultural advisories.
In addition, GFDRR is providing support for a $125 million World Bank DRM project in Myanmar. The project is part of a regional program spanning Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar. It is designed to help reduce the impacts of natural hazards in Southeast Asia and strengthen the region’s capacity and cooperation in the DRM field. In Myanmar, the project will support the government’s technical capacity to develop stronger DRM analytics and disaster risk financing instruments to help protect government finances and improve their post-disaster financing capacity. These upstream regulatory planning tools will be complemented with downstream resilient investments in public infrastructure in Yangon City. Additionally, structural investments will be complemented with institutional capacity-building to help mainstream resilience with a long-lasting positive impact on development.
As part of the regional program, GFDRR, is supporting the establishment of a proposed Southeast Asia Disaster Resilience Insurance Facility for Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar. This would be the first regional catastrophe risk pool in Asia, building on similar GFDRR-supported initiatives in the Caribbean and in the Pacific.
Looking ahead, GFDRR anticipates continued support on:
- Improving institutional capacity-building to help mainstream resilience;
- Enhancing climate resilience in the transport sector;
- Improving flood risk management in Yangon;
- Strengthening the structural performance of selected critical public buildings;
- Emphasizing resilient recovery of cultural heritage and DRM planning in Bagan following the 2016 earthquake;
- Mainstreaming disaster resilience into selected sectors at risk; and,
- Investing in quality and risk-resilient infrastructure, including road infrastructure.