India suffered economic losses of $79.5 billion (Rs 590000 crore at current exchange rate) over the last 20 years due to natural disasters, said the United Nations in a report released on Wednesday. Globally, climate-related and geophysical disasters killed 1.3 million people and left 4.4 billion injured, homeless, displaced or requiring emergency aid between 1998 and 2017, said the report.
The report, titled “Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2017”, was released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction ahead of the International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13.
Most fatalities were due to geophysical events such as earthquakes and tsunamis, but 91% of all disasters were caused by climate-related events such as floods, storms, droughts and heatwaves, the report said.
Economic losses from extreme weather events in 1998-2017 rose 151% since 1978-’97 and such events accounted for 77% of economic losses due to all disasters, said the report. Between 1978 and 1997, climate-related disasters accounted for 68% of economic losses from all disasters.
India is the fourth-most affected country in terms of absolute losses, pegged at $79.5 billion during 1998-2017. The most affected country was the United States at $944.8 billion, followed by China at $492.2 billion and Japan at $376.3 billion.
As many as 91% of all 7,255 major recorded events in the 20-year period were climate-related, with floods (43.4%) and storms (28.2%) the most frequent occurrences.
In low-income countries, an average of 130 people died per million in disaster-affected areas compared to just 18 in high-income countries, said the report. “That means people exposed to natural hazards in the poorest nations were more than seven times more likely to die than equivalent populations in the richest nations,” it said.
Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Reduction, said the losses from extreme weather events are “unsustainable”, reported The Times of India. “It is clear that the economic losses suffered by low and lower-middle income countries have crippling consequences for their future development and undermine our efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, the eradication of poverty,” she said.
Last month, UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa cited several natural disasters across the world, including the recent floods in Kerala, to urge world leaders to act faster to slow down climate change.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also cited the floods while expressing concern that climate change was “running faster than we are”.