Total population in World Bank income groups, 1960–2014, shown alongside total population affected by natural disasters. Graphic: World Bank

By Laurie Goering
16 May 2016

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Cities around the world are failing to plan for fast-increasing risks from extreme weather and other hazards, particularly as population growth and surging migration put more people in the path of those threats, the World Bank said on Monday.

By 2050, 1.3 billion people and $158 trillion in assets will be menaced by worsening river and coastal floods alone, warned a new report [pdf] from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), managed by the World Bank.

"Cities and coastal areas are woefully unprepared for the kind of climate and disaster risk now facing our world," said John Roome, the World Bank Group's senior director for climate change.

But as cities expand and revamp, they have the opportunity to lower that risk by putting in place more resilient infrastructure and preventive policies, he said.

Those could include everything from restrictions on using too much groundwater - one of the reasons cities from Tokyo to Jakarta are sinking - to planning for more green space, and new schools and apartments set above flood-prone zones. […]

A combination of sea-level rise and sinking of coastal cities - including from excessive extraction of the groundwater beneath them - could drive disaster losses in 136 coastal cities from $6 billion a year in 2010 to $1 trillion a year by 2070, the report said.

But planning now for more big typhoons in Manila, for example, by ensuring new homes are not built on flood plains and keeping drainage canals clear, will pay off, the experts said.

"The decisions we make today are defining the disasters of tomorrow," said Francis Ghesquiere, head of the GFDRR secretariat.

"We have a huge challenge - but also a huge opportunity - to try to make sure the trillions of dollars that will go into new housing, new infrastructure, the extension of cities … do not increase risk exposure but rather reduce it." [more]

Cities "woefully unprepared" for rising disaster risk - World Bank

WASHINGTON, 16 May 2016 – A new report is warning that the world is ill-prepared for an increasing rise in disasters, spurred by climate change, rising populations and increasing vulnerability of people in large cities and unregulated housing.

The report, The Making of a Riskier Future: How Our Decisions are Shaping the Future of Disaster Risk, calls for a radical new approach to assessing risk, which takes into account extremely rapid changes in global disaster risk. Annual total damages from disasters have been increasing for decades and models show that population growth and rapid urbanization could put 1.3 billion people and $158 trillion in assets at risk from river and coastal floods by 2050.

“With climate change and rising numbers of people in urban areas rapidly driving up future risks, there’s a real danger the world is woefully unprepared for what lies ahead,”  said John Roome, the World Bank Group’s Senior Director for Climate Change. “Unless we change our approach to future planning for cities and coastal areas that takes into account potential disasters, we run the real risk of locking in decisions that will lead to drastic increases in future losses. “

In examining literature and case studies from around the globe, the report cites studies showing that densely populated coastal cities are sinking and when coupled with rising sea levels, annual losses in 136 coastal cities could increase from US$6 billion in 2010 to US$1,000 billion in 2070.

It also cites research warning that in Indonesia, river flood risk may increase 166 percent over the next 30 years due to rapid expansion of urban areas, while the country’s coastal flood risk could rise by 445 percent. Earthquake risk in Kathmandu is expected to double to 50 percent by 2045 due to informal building expansion.

At the heart of effective disaster risk management is reliable and accessible risk information. To help catalyze a move towards dynamic, accessible, and actionable risk information, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank are also releasing ThinkHazard!the first of its kind open-source platform to provide hazard information and recommendations of how to reduce risk across eight hazards including earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and cyclones for 196 countries.

“By promoting policies that reduce risk and avoiding actions to drive up risk, we can positively influence the risk environment of the future,” said Francis Ghesquiere, Head, GFDRR Secretariat “The drivers of future risk are within the control of decision makers today. They must seize the moment.”

This month over 700 experts and thought leaders will gather in Venice to examine the critical role of technological advances in disaster risk management. The 2016 Understanding Risk Forum, hosted by GFDRR, will showcase the latest innovations, exchange ideas and form partnerships on risk identification and assessment.

Taking place in Venice, Italy, a city highly vulnerable to climate change, the Forum will host high level panels and live demonstrations from companies showcasing cutting-edge technologies.

About the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) is a global partnership that helps developing countries better understand and reduce their vulnerabilities to natural hazards and adapt to climate change. Working with over 400 local, national, regional, and international partners, GFDRR provides grant financing, technical assistance, training and knowledge sharing activities to mainstream disaster and climate risk management in policies and strategies. Managed by the World Bank, GFDRR is supported by 34 countries and 9 international organizations. For more information, please visit


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