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How “Unnatural Disasters” Can Be Prevented Cost-effectively


Public Lecture at UC Riverside to Discuss How “Unnatural Disasters” Can Be Prevented Cost-effectively

Speaker is World Bank senior economist Apurva Sanghi, expert on the economics of natural hazards

(April 21, 2011)

Apurva Sanghi is a senior economist at the World Bank.  Photo credit: World Bank.Enlarge

Apurva Sanghi is a senior economist at the World Bank. Photo credit: World Bank.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – While earthquakes, droughts, floods, and storms are natural hazards, “unnatural disasters” are the deaths and damages that result from human acts of omission or commission. But can unnatural disaster be prevented, and, if yes, how could such prevention be achieved cost-effectively?

Apurva Sanghi, a senior economist at the World Bank, will explore these issues in a free, public lecture, titled “Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention,” that he will give at noon, April 22, in Room 355, the Highlander Union Building at the University of California, Riverside. UC Riverside’s Water Science and Policy Center is hosting the 90-minute lecture.

Sanghi’s lecture is based on a joint World Bank – United Nations report, also titled “Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters,” which argues that while every disaster is unique, each exposes actions—by individuals and governments at different levels—that, had they been different, would have resulted in fewer deaths and less damage. The report also asks: Should all disasters be prevented? Do disasters increase or decrease conflict? Does foreign aid help or hinder prevention? Funded by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the report is the culmination of original research done by more than 70 experts from more than two dozen institutions around the globe.

“When disaster prevention is done right, even poor countries in harm’s way – such as Bangladesh or Cuba – have managed to protect their population over time,” Sanghi said. “Geography need not be destiny. Many of the preventive actions we outline in the report do not always require more spending. For example, governments can make information about hazards and risks – such as flood and seismic maps – more accessible at negligible cost. Moreover, by taking correct actions today in terms of managing future changes in exposure and vulnerability of people and property, we could help prevent future natural hazards from turning into unnatural disasters.”

Currently, Sanghi is team leader for the joint World Bank – United Nations report, and is also an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author. He has worked on development topics ranging from infrastructure and climate change to microfinance and agricultural economics.

Prior to joining the World Bank, he worked for the Thailand Development Research Institute, and held teaching and research positions at the University of Chicago, Thammasat University (Bangkok), and Yale University. He holds degrees in physics and economics, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

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