YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia – (AFP) – Asia’s fast economic growth has increased the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters, with new developments springing up in catastrophe-prone areas, the UN warned on Tuesday.
Asia-Pacific countries suffered “staggering” losses of $294 billion from natural disasters last year, with the Thai floods and Japan’s quake-tsunami major contributors to the huge bill, the United Nations report said.
GDP per capita in the region has increased 13-fold since 1980 but disaster losses have risen 16-fold, it said.
“The region has been slow to be concerned by how the growth of disaster risks has been spurred by rapid economic growth,” said the report from the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
The UN noted a “pattern of recent growth where most new development in the region has been along coastlines and in floodplains, locations highly exposed to natural hazards”.
The report, released on Tuesday at the start of a regional conference on reducing disaster risks being held in Yogyakarta, central Java, urged countries in the region to spend more to avert future catastrophes.
“The region has yet to commit adequate resources to reduce disaster risks and protect the development gains made possible by sustained growth,” it said.