Natural Hazard Risk
Kazakhstan is highly prone to droughts, earthquakes, river floods, and landslides. Earthquakes are a dominant risk, affecting an annual average of about 200,000 people and about $1 billion in gross domestic product (GDP). According to GFDRR analysis, a high intensity seismic event with a low annual probability, such as the one statistically due to strike the capital city of Almay, has the potential to cause around 20,000 fatalities and $20 billion in capital loss. This is about 10 percent of GDP.
Flood hazards pose a significant and more frequent risk, and have resulted in widespread displacement and secondary impacts such as mudflows. In 2008, unusually warm weather and heavy rains resulted in the inundation of 48 settlements in the South, displacing 13,000 people. Currently, over 26 percent of the population lives in areas prone to mudflows, including the nearly 1.4 million residents of Almaty City. Based on climate projections, an increase in torrential rains will bring more frequent mudflow events.
Climate change is a significant threat. 70 percent of the terrain is desert or semi-desert, and almost 13 percent of the population lives under high drought hazard—the highest in the Central Asia region. The changing precipitation patterns of climate change are also increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts, and straining the management of water resources.
Kazakhstan recognizes its vulnerability to natural hazards and has taken measures to build an institutional infrastructure to mitigate risks. In 2001, the president approved a 20-year strategic development plan. It aims to ensure security by creating conditions that reduce the risks and minimize the damages of natural disasters. One of the ways Kazakhstan intends to do this is through infrastructural development to counter seasonal floods, mudslides, landslides, and earthquakes.
In 2014, Kazakhstan’s Committee of Emergency Situations became the central body for managing emergency preparedness, response, and recovery and for inter-ministerial coordination. Despite such progress, public awareness of earthquake hazards and how citizens can mitigate such risks is low in Kazakhstan. Preparedness, given no major earthquake in living memory but one due for Almaty, is a serious challenge for the government.
The priorities of the Government of Kazakhstan include:
- Building financial resilience to natural disasters;
- Improving regional partnerships to mitigate disaster risks; and,
- Strengthening disaster preparedness measures in national and local policies.
Since 2008, GFDRR has supported activities in Kazakhstan to better plan for extreme weather events and to improve regional collaboration to mitigate disaster risks. Initial support began with a review of hydro-meteorological (‘hydromet’) services in Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan. GFDRR’s recommendations informed a $27 million World Bank project to modernize hydromet systems in Central Asia and strengthen trans-boundary weather, climate, and hydrological service delivery.
In 2014, GFDRR began supporting the government to develop a catastrophe insurance market infrastructure to affordably cover extreme weather risk and protect the country’s finances through innovative insurance products. Support will also assist the government in preparing the Law on Compulsory Catastrophe Insurance and developing climate insurance, which will be further developed under a $5 million Global Environment Facility grant.
GFDRR support also has helped improve national and regional knowledge sharing on seismic risks and best practices for mitigation. This includes supporting the 2014 Central Asia Knowledge Forum and the 2015 Central Asia Earthquake Risk Reduction Forum to stimulate dialogue among Central Asian countries on the status of seismic risk in each country, ongoing reduction and mitigation initiatives, and the needs and challenges each country faces.
In 2016, GFDRR, together with the World Bank, developed quantitative country risk profiles for Kazakhstan 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.
Further, in 2016, GFDRR began supporting regional efforts to strengthen early warning in the mountainous regions of Central Asia, including Kazakhstan. Efforts are focusing on cross-boundary cooperation and on capacity building of national hydro-meteorological services to leverage technology for severe weather forecasting; to strengthen assessment of flash floods, debris flows, and avalanches; and to better utilize satellite data, common standard operating procedures, and decision-support tools to improve early warning delivery.
GFDRR expects continued demand from the Government of Kazakhstan for the following:
- Convening regional and global knowledge and experts in Central Asia to enhance Kazakhstan’s ability to prepare for and respond to disasters;
- Improving early warning systems and building climate resilience; and,
- Reducing fiscal vulnerability caused by natural disasters.