Delft, The Netherlands, 15 Jan 2021

Key conclusions: Online Seminar on COVID-19 and Floods in South and Southeast Asia

On 8 December 2020, an IHE Delft Alumni & Partners Online Seminars was held on floods in South and Southeast Asia. Over the past years, floods have been a regular occurrence and increasingly erratic and severe in nature. In cities as well as rural areas, floods often create emergency situations, requiring relief and rescue efforts to be rolled out. In 2020, floods hit India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Myanmar (among other countries) at a time when health and relief systems were under stress due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

At the webinar flood risk/ disaster risk management, experts from these countries led discussions about some key questions on linkages between floods and Covid. The webinar was interactive and you can watch it here.

Speakers were:

  • Chris Zevenbergen, Professor of Flood Resilience of Urban Systems at IHE Delft
  • Representing Vietnam: Professor Nguyen Hong Quan, Vietnam National University & Dr. Tran Nguyen Hai, Duy Tan University
  • Representing Bangladesh: Professor M. Shah Alam Khan, Bangladesh University of Engineering & technology
  • Representing India: Professor C.S.P. Ojha, IIT Roorkee

Key conclusions

  1. The three countries (Bangladesh, India and Vietnam) have very different experiences with COVID and consequently their responses are different.
  2. We have a limited understanding of the transmission pathways of the virus and the cause-effect relationship between floods, heavy rainfall and the number of COVID cases (In India first data indicate a positive relationship although not consistent).
  3. It is important to distinguish between the immediate and short term, direct impacts (such as social distancing, lockdown effects on preparedness and capacity to recover) and the longer term, indirect impacts, being largely economic impacts which effect preparedness (such as less attention/investments into flood risk management, education, etc) Care must be taken that COVID will not attract financial resources at the expense of disaster management.
  4. Do we need to revisit our disaster management plans (is there a new normal)? There is a need for a long-term holistic/integrative approach which include pandemic risks (biological disasters) embedded in existing policies and actions of DRM/FRM and climate adaptation. Special attention has to be paid to infrastructure resilience (particularly related to health, transport etc.).  Pandemic-proofing has to be factored into design, e.g. take social distancing into account in the design of shelters.

Prof. Zevenbergen commented, “this online seminar provided the opportunity to compare and contrast the impact of Covid in the particular countries and is a catalyst to undertake further research and then plan strategically to ensure our disaster management response takes such pandemics into account.”


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