09 July 2009 | News story
Natural ecosystems help reduce the damage from disasters while supporting livelihoods needed for post-disaster recovery. If we want to prevent the impact disasters have on people, we have to manage and restore our ecosystems properly.
Nature supplies us with food, water, and building materials. When we extract these essential resources we have an impact on nature. Too often, this impact destroys ecosystems.
The use of dynamite or cyanide for fishing, for example, kills nearby coral reefs, which means that when a cyclone hits, the storm surge damage will be far greater. The dead coral reefs no longer reduce the wave energy striking the shore, leaving coastal settlements exposed to the full force of the storm.
Similarly, when wetlands are drained for urban development and paved over with roads, properties and car parks, flooding becomes a major issue. Rainwater, instead of being soaked up gradually by the wetland and released slowly downstream, runs directly off paved surfaces and into the nearest waterways. Unsurprisingly, they cannot cope with the sudden influx of water and they flood, threatening both lives and livelihoods.