Issue 7
Monday, 22 May 2017
Charles Darwin University
Dr Akhilesh Surjan urges proactive policy to prevent uncontrolled spirals. Photo: Julianne Osborne
Dr Akhilesh Surjan urges proactive policy to prevent uncontrolled spirals. Photo: Julianne Osborne

Urban infill a ‘looming disaster’ in Asia-Pacific

By Andrew Hall

Charles Darwin University humanitarian, emergency and disaster management expert Associate Professor Akhilesh Surjan will address concerns surrounding increasing urbanisation in the Asia-Pacific region at a conference in India this week.

Dr Surjan will present a paper titled “Cities at Risk: Increase Resilience, Proliferate Happiness” at the 19th Architects Regional Council Asia (ARCASIA) Forum in Jaipur.

“Architects have a major role to play in creating a safer built habitat in our region, as well as globally,” he said.

“My presentation is quite specific to the Asia-Pacific because, on a global scale, this region is the most prone to natural disasters.”

By 2018, half of the region’s population will be urban, which is estimated to grow close to two-thirds (64 per cent) by 2050 according to United Nations (UN) estimates.

“For at least a third of the urban population, however, access to minimum housing in a safe neighbourhood, clean water and sanitation, health care, transport and access to energy is still a dream,” Dr Surjan said.

More than two billion people in the region live in urban areas already, with an estimated one billion to be added by 2040. Nine of the 15 countries in the world with the highest exposure and risk are in Asia and the Pacific, according to the World Risk Report.

The UN Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2015 states that, in the decade up to publication, a person living in the region was twice as likely to be affected by disaster as a person living in Africa, almost six times as likely as someone living in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 30 times more likely than someone living in North America or Europe.

Dr Surjan’s presentation will encourage architects to take leadership in reducing risk to cities through embedding disaster and climate-sensitive principles in design, construction materials and building technology.

“The best way to address disaster scenarios is to create a built habitat that is resilient to the multi-hazard risk factors in any given place,” he said.

“Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon reminded us in 2015 that for every dollar invested in preparedness, $7 are saved in response and recovery, and in some places that ratio is even higher.

“So it makes very strong sense, business and policy-wise, for governments to invest in preparedness, prevention and pre-disaster activities.”