East Asia is situated in an extremely risky area, where natural and human-made hazards pose a significant threat. Prior to the onslaught of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, ICM programs focused largely on managing the impacts of human-induced hazards, such as overexploitation of resources, habitat conversion, pollution, oil and chemical spills, harmful algal blooms, floods and landslides. Although natural hazards have been brought up in specific site coastal strategies, implementation of associated management measures have not been treated with much urgency. The Indian Ocean tsunami brought devastation to the lives of people around the world and to coastal cities in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and even as far away as Somalia, in particular. And although national and local efforts to mitigate the effects of other natural hazards, such as typhoons and earthquakes, have been vigorously instituted, these too seem inadequate given the frequency and severity of these disaster agents in recent years. The link between ecological degradation by human activities and the increasing vulnerability to, and impacts of, natural hazards is increasingly being validated.
The link between environmental management and disaster reduction and mitigation requires strengthening. The integration of risk assessment and mitigation into coastal area planning and into the outlooks of planners and managers is the key. In particular, strengthening the ICM framework and process, through risk assessment, contingency planning and integrated land- and sea-use planning ensures that local governments are able to respond to disasters by instituting the culture of safety before hazards wreak havoc.
Effective disaster response plans have been implemented in a number of PEMSEA sites, including Xiamen, Danang and Batangas.
Preventing and Managing Disasters
The Manila Bay Oil Spill Contingency Plan was developed by various local government units and national government agencies in partnership with oil and shipping companies and other stakeholders with technical assistance from PEMSEA. The plan delineates roles and responsibilities among the various agencies and stakeholders, identifies response mechanisms, and establishes institutional arrangements to strengthen coordination and better integrate resources and ultimately build capacity in the area to efficiently cope with and reduce damage to the marine environment.
Forward planning can also be seen in the integration of Red Tides/Harmful Algal Blooms Response Plans into the strategic action plans of a number of ICM demonstration sites including the Bohai Sea, Xiamen, Manila Bay, and Bataan. Significant decrease in red tide frequency in Xiamen is attributed to government efforts in reducing the level of nutrient inputs into the sea, however, the frequency and geographical coverage of red tide occurrence in the Bohai Sea are still increasing, indicating the need for continued effort and enhanced measures to combat this problem.
Local communities have also successfully implemented initiatives of their own to deal with various hazards. One example of this is in Sriracha Municipality, in Chonburi, Thailand, where fishers and youths and local communities organized a Marine Environmental Protection Volunteer (MEPV) group in partnership with the private and government sectors. The group assists in oil and chemical spill monitoring and reporting and other coastal management activities. The Marine Department and private oil companies provided free training on basic oil spill cleanup techniques to the MEPV and other government officers.