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Achieving disaster countermeasures and environmental protection: Promoting Eco-DRR

Hello, this is Sunny Risk Management.

Today, I would like to discuss a new form of disaster prevention. There are two types of crisis management: "soft measures," which are approached from the perspective of rules, systems, and people's awareness, and "hard measures," which are approached from the physical side, such as infrastructure development. In recent years, however, hard measures for disasters have focused on disaster prevention and mitigation alone. There is a movement to simultaneously tackle environmental protection.


Now that disasters are occurring frequently, the concept of Eco-DRR is attracting attention as a new sustainable form of disaster prevention and mitigation. This time, let's take a look at the concept and content of Eco-DRR's initiatives, the merits of each implementation entity, and points for better implementation by each activity entity.


What is Eco-DRR, which uses the power of nature for disaster prevention?

Eco-DRR (Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction) refers to reducing vulnerability by utilizing ecosystems and Avoiding exposure to the phenomenon*. Eco-DRR has its origins in the PEDRR (Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction), which was established in 2008 by UN agencies, international NGOs, and research institutes, and was expanded in the 2010s. Since joining, it has started to attract attention from all over the world.

Japan, which has experienced many different types of disasters every year and has experienced recovery and reconstruction from numerous disasters, has been applying its experience and the knowledge and lessons learned from it to support developing countries through JICA even before the spread of Eco-DRR. This country is implementing disaster prevention and mitigation efforts that utilize ecosystem functions.


Compared to disaster prevention and mitigation through artificial infrastructure development, Eco-DRR is superior in its multi-functionality and avoidance of environmental burden by making multiple uses of the complex effects caused by ecosystems. In particular, regarding the latter, there are concerns about the impact on the environment due to the need to artificially change the natural environment in the case of artificial infrastructure, and the issue of sustainable maintenance and management due to the aging of disaster prevention infrastructure.

On the other hand, since Eco-DRR gradually changes the natural environment itself, it is possible to minimize the environmental impact. Specific methods include establishing disaster prevention forests (windbreak forests, tide protection forests, sand protection forests, etc.) to reduce the impact of wind, salt, and sand on houses and fields, and creating wetlands to reduce river flow. Some types of terrain make it difficult for floods to occur by creating strong currents.


*Reference: Cabinet Office (in charge of disaster prevention) (2019) “Disaster prevention and mitigation utilizing the expanding ecosystem in developing countries”, Bousai, No. 95, pp. 20-21, Japan: Cabinet Office (in charge of disaster prevention). (written in Japanese) /Science Council of Japan Integrative Biology Committee/Environmental Studies Committee Joint Natural Environment Conservation and Restoration Subcommittee (2014) “Recommendation: Promoting the use of ecosystem infrastructure for reconstruction and national resilience”, September 19, 2014, Japan: Science Council of Japan. (written in Japanese)


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Advantages and weak points of Eco-DRR


While Eco-DRR, an environmentally friendly disaster prevention measure, has many advantages, there are also challenges in its implementation and promotion. From here, let's take a look at the benefits of Eco-DRR and its challenges.

First of all, there are benefits. Eco-DRR has the following benefits:


(A) Creating sustainability through the protection and restoration of the natural environment

(B) It can be connected not only to disaster prevention and mitigation but also to preserving the ecosystem and promoting the local economy.

(C) Can be implemented at a lower cost compared to artificial infrastructure development

(D) Long-term disaster prevention and mitigation effects may be expected.


First, (A) can be said to be the main element of Eco-DRR. By protecting and restoring the natural environment, disaster prevention and mitigation can be carried out while protecting the local nature. Conservation of the ecosystem and promotion of the local economy in (B) means that implementing Eco-DRR, can protect the diversity of living things and plants in the area, improve the ease of living by developing gardens, etc., and increase tourism income.

In addition, as mentioned in (C), Eco-DRR involves planting trees to increase the number of trees, and conversely, intentionally avoiding contact with nature that may increase disaster risk. Because it takes an approach that involves making only a few changes or not making any changes, it may be possible to proceed with measures at a lower cost than constructing artificial infrastructure such as building embankments or dams.

Furthermore, as (D) Eco-DRR gradually changes the natural environment, it can be expected long-term disaster prevention and mitigation against disasters that occur over a relatively long period, such as wind and flood damage, and disasters that are expected to occur every year.


However, there are also some weak points:


(a) It is not always possible to respond to all disasters

(b) It is difficult to predict the effect

(c) Specialized knowledge and skills are essential

(d) Not suitable for short-term disaster prevention/mitigation


As mentioned in (a), while Eco-DRR is sustainable, it is considered difficult to respond to sudden disasters such as earthquakes. In addition, as mentioned in (b), the implementation of Eco-DRR is likely to be affected by the state of the ecosystem and geographical/climatic conditions, and it is difficult to know what effects can be expected by taking what measures when and where. It is not expected to be easy to accurately predict whether such risk trade-offs will occur.

To implement Eco-DRR, (c) specialized knowledge and technology are essential. In particular, insight into the natural environment centered on biology and environmental studies is important, as well as knowledge about disasters and weather, knowledge about the local ecosystem, and the ability to implement measures based on that knowledge. technology is required. Also, while Eco-DRR is suitable for long-term measures, it is not suitable for (d) short-term measures. This is because it takes many years for ecosystems to recover and regenerate, and the natural environment changes slowly as the organisms and plants that belong to that ecosystem grow over several generations.



What we can do to effectively implement Eco-DRR


Eco-DRR can be implemented by various entities such as (1) the government, (2) local communities, (3) NGOs, and (4) companies. Each entity has its own merits and challenges in implementing Eco-DRR, and one way to ensure effective implementation is for each entity to cooperate.


(1) If the government implements this, it can be expected to have strong measures through legislation, etc., and has the advantage that the government itself can take the lead in implementing it. On the other hand, there are constraints on funding and human resources, as well as concerns about the pros and cons of implementing policies, the speed with which they are implemented, and the degree of achievement, so it is necessary to consider public-private partnerships.

(2) If the local community implements the project, they will be able to play a major role as they have a wealth of knowledge about the local environment and topography. In addition, by having local communities take initiative, it will also lead to the creation of social education opportunities where participants can experience first-hand disaster prevention and improved resilience and become more interested in the community and disaster prevention. However, local communities alone may lack funds, technology, and expertise, so it would be more likely to be realized if universities and other research institutes and municipalities involved residents in a compromise with step (1). It is also possible to propose local community-centered Eco-DRR in resident-centered town development during the recovery phase after a disaster.

(3)When carried out by NGOs, the advantage is that they have a base of specialized knowledge and funds, and that it is easy to collaborate with the government and local communities. International NGOs can operate across national borders and have the advantage of being able to operate in many areas. When NGOs implement projects, they are required to have the upper hand in knowledge and technology not too much, and to work closely with the local community to avoid implementing projects without incorporating local culture and needs.

(4) The biggest advantage of having a company implement, is the abundance of technology and funds. For companies, it can also be used to promote CSR, such as being eco-friendly, SDGs-friendly, and focusing on disaster prevention. However, since Eco-DRR is a long-term initiative whose effects are difficult to predict, it may be difficult to pursue profits and develop it as a business.


In addition, to effectively implement Eco-DRR, it is necessary to provide sufficient opportunities for explanations and consultations and to educate and educate stakeholders so that they can understand the rationale, effects, and trade-off risks of the project. Risk communication is important.


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