Few weeks back, I was in Davos, with Peter Anderson and Natasha Udu-gama. Nuwan Waidyanatha, the man who carried the HazInfo Last Mile Project on his broad shoulders was there in spirit too. We were there to tell the world about the project and learn about how early warning fits into the big picture of disaster risk reduction.
And we did. Strangely enough, I learned more from one off-print lying on a table than the entire whole conference on the subject that brought me to Davos. The second author happens to be a friend of mine teaching at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, but that was not why.
It was just a very good review of the massive scientific literature coming out of the analysis of the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami addressing a central policy question about whether we should pour limited resources into growing mangroves and other “barriers” along the coasts or whether we should allocate them to solve the hard problems of early warning and preparedness. The answer, like most answers in the policy world, was not unequivocally this or that. It leaned on the early warning side, much to my satisfaction, but also pointed out that without paying attention to the coastal environments, the people whose lives are saved by early warning and preparedness will have no livelihoods. I had been kind of skeptical about the mangrove story, so it was gratifying to see meta-analysis of masses of research fully support the gut conclusion.
But still, the main conclusion was dead-on with the holistic approach always impressed upon the team by Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, based on the Sarvodaya philosophy. We at LIRNEasia have a comparative advantage with early warning and it will truly save lives if properly implemented, but we have to keep the larger context in mind. Otherwise, the people whose lives are saved will rot in government camps with no livelihoods to go back to.
But anyway, that was not the only thing that happened in Davos. We conducted a session on the project that attracted a quality audience, even if the quantity left much to be desired. We got on the ISDR radar screen. If this results in the broader dissemination of our research, the trip would have been well worth it (apologies to the beautiful mountains of Davos).