The head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said Wednesday that
the recent Indian Ocean tsunami could have serious impact on the environment of
the countries affected.
Although it was too early to make a detailed assessment, early indications
from the UNEP's work on the tsunami were that the direct damage to the
environment, including water supplies, forests and other natural resources will
likely be high in many ofthe countries affected, said Klaus Toepfer, executive
director of the UNEP.
"Beyond the immediate concerns of threat to human health and livelihoods,
there is increasing evidence of serious impacts on the natural environment, such
as damage to coral reefs and protective forest in a number of countries," he
said at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction which started here Tuesday.
He stressed the importance of the environment in disaster reduction. "Without
the environmental dimension firmly in the equation, there will be no long term
disaster risk reduction," he said.
To highlight the role played by sound environment protection inreducing
damages by natural disasters, he said the Hurricane Jeanne last year killed up
to 3,000 people in Haiti, because deforestation made flood rush down unchecked
from hills, while theneighboring Dominican Republic saw few casualties partly
thanks togood protection of forest.
Toepfer called for increasing investment in environmental protection and
putting a disaster prevention value on the natural ecosystems.
More than 4,000 participants from about 150 countries and organizations are
attending the five-day to map out a disaster reduction guideline for the decade