Natural disasters: saving lives today, building resilience for tomorrow

The rapid growth in the number of people living in cities and urban landscapes is increasing the world’s susceptibility to natural disasters, according to this new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The report warns that the unprecedented influx of people to urban areas across the developing world is leading to a large increase in people living in locations susceptible to natural disasters, and the situation is exacerbated by the explosive expansion of informal settlements or ‘slums’. About 180,000 people move to urban areas every day, with 18% of all urban housing being non-permanent or ‘slums’ – which are particularly vulnerable to the impact of extreme natural events. In addition many of the world’s largest cities are located in earthquake, storm and flood prone areas (three quarters of the world’s largest cities are located on a coast), and urban land development is leading to the degradation or even total destruction of natural barriers like swamps, wetlands and mangroves. Globally, changes to ecosystems have contributed to a significant rise in the number of floods and major wildfires on all continents since the 1940s.

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