Singapore — In light of the growing threat of disasters from natural hazards such as floods, storms, fires and earthquakes, one growing city is taking the lead in piloting a new tool to assess how prepared cities of all sizes will be when disaster strikes. Coimbatore, India, is the first city to apply a new United Nations’ Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) scorecard which was developed jointly by IBM and AECOM, the companies announced at the World Cities Summit in Singapore.
The direct cost of natural hazards in the 21st century is already $2.5 trillion, at least 50 percent greater than previous estimates, according to the United Nations. The average estimated loss from earthquakes, tornadoes and cyclones alone are $180 billion each year. The scorecard will help Coimbatore and other cities improve preparedness and resilience to disasters by reviewing policy and planning, engineering, informational, organizational, financial, social and environmental aspects of disaster resilience in 80 assessment categories.
According to UNISDR head, Margareta Wahlström, "More than half the world’s population lives in urban centers. Cities are expanding rapidly and this presents an opportunity to both address existing risk and avoid the accumulation of new risks. Good urban planning is at the heart of building resilience to disasters and it will be interesting to see the results of this pioneering trial of the Disaster Resilience Scorecard which is designed to help cities establish a baseline measurement of their current level of disaster resilience, identify priorities for investment and action and track progress over time."
Coimbatore is a thriving industrial hub with a population of more than 1.5 million people located in Southern India. In a moderate to high seismic zone, Coimbatore needs to build energy and power resiliency, better water quality management for drinking and industrial uses, improved ecology, reduced environmental degradation, as well as significantly improved traffic infrastructure. According to Mayor S. M. Velusamy, “Working together for resiliency, we will create a sea change for Coimbatore.”
AECOM and IBM detailed the United Nation’s Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient to create a tool that enables cities to prioritize needs, track and measure the progress cities make, and identify major areas of weakness — before a natural disaster identifies these for them. The tool, in the public domain, will strengthen the understanding of what it will require to protect lives, livelihoods and facilitate a more rapid economic recovery of a more urbanized world.
Dr. Peter Williams, chief technology officer, Big Green Innovations at IBM, and AECOM’s Michael Nolan, global technical director climate adaptation, are discussing Environmental Resilience and Strengthening the Building Blocks of a City at the World Cities Summit conference session on Building Resilient Cities.
IBM and AECOM are part of UNISDR’s Private Sector Advisory Group and the Making Cities Resilient Steering Committee. The resiliency scorecard can be downloaded at www.unisdr.org/campaign/resilientcities.