What is Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)?
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyze and reduce the causal factors of disasters.
It involves reducing exposure to hazards, lessening the vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and other natural resources, and improving preparedness for adverse events.
DRR aims to reduce socio-economic vulnerabilities to disasters, as well as deal with the environmental and other hazards that trigger them. Disasters often follow natural hazards, and their severity depends on how much impact a hazard has on society and the environment. The scale of the impact, in turn, depends on the choices we make for our lives and for our environment. These choices relate to how we grow our food, where and how we build our homes, how our financial systems work, and even what we teach in schools. Each decision and action make us more vulnerable to disasters – or more resilient to them.
Disaster risk reduction is everyone’s business! Disaster risk reduction is also part of sustainable development. In order for development activities to be sustainable, they must also reduce disaster risk. On the other hand, unsound development policies would increase disaster risk and losses from disasters. DRR, therefore, involves every part of society, every part of the Government, and every part of the professional and private sectors.
It is often said that there is no such thing as a natural disaster, only natural hazards. When a community is affected by a flood, for example, we think of it as a disaster and something we cannot control. We may not be able to stop a flood from happening through heavy rainfall, but could we have prevented the waters from getting into our homes? Could our buildings have been built in a way that water would not get in easily? Could our drains have been litter-free, so that the water could drain off easily? Is the area particularly low and easily flooded? If so, should we have built there in the first place?
Disaster risk reduction is about understanding our personal and environmental risks, and finding ways to reduce those risks, so that we are not affected by them, or are able to bounce back quickly if they do affect us.
Disasters do not have to happen – we can all do something to reduce our risk!
Many people around the world have lost their lives, homes, or access to essential facilities such as hospitals, due to natural hazards, which include earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis, heavy flooding, hurricanes, or cyclones. Some of these hazards have caused economic damage to some countries in addition to the loss of life.
The UN acknowledges that education, training, and information exchanges are effective ways to help people become better equipped to withstand natural hazards.
Effective risk management must involve those most at risk, and often children are overlooked. Children are often portrayed as victims of disaster and climate change. However, children can and should be encouraged to participate in disaster risk reduction and decision-making.
EPA’s role in disaster risk reduction
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) mandate is to oversee the effective management, conservation, protection, and improvement of the environment. This requires the Agency to take the necessary measures to ensure the prevention and control of pollution, assess environmental and human health impacts of economic activities, and regulate the sustainable use of natural resources.
The EPA’s emergency response forms part of Guyana’s action to reduce the severity of environmental disasters, should they occur. The Agency also works closely with the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), the coordinating agency for disaster management in Guyana, on a number of initiatives that are designed to raise awareness and craft policies to prepare communities and households to manage impacts.
The CDC has embarked on a number of initiatives to strengthen and enhance community-based early warning systems (CBEWS) in vulnerable coastal, hinterland, and Indigenous communities across Guyana. The project entails the incorporation of CBEWS into the already implemented community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM) system in the hazard-prone coastal, hinterland, and Indigenous communities in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) Strengthening Disaster Management Capacity of Women in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Commonwealth of Dominica project. Further, a number of target-specific public education and awareness campaigns are being conducted to help us all understand disaster risk management a little better, and what we can do to contribute.
On Thursday, October 13, Guyana would join the rest of the world in observing the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.
For additional information on Disaster Risk Reduction, contact can be made with the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), at Thomas Road, Thomas Lands, Georgetown, or on telephone numbers: 226-1114, 226-8815, 225-5847, or 226-1027; or by visiting the website at www.cdc.gy
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