5.7 Disaster Risk Management


Although the building and maintenance of resilience to possible disasters and disaster risk reduction efforts must be prioritised in respect of potential climate change-related extreme events (e.g. heat waves, floods, droughts, storm surges, extreme whether events, etc.), South Africa has legislation governing Disaster Management that sets out a comprehensive approach to disaster management and that identifies the roles and responsibilities of key institutions and disaster management agencies. In addition, the Act establishes a National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) whose role is to address disaster prevention, coordinate the activities of disaster management agencies and capacity across government and ensure that critical information is disseminated speedily.

Climate change impacts on the disaster management sector include, among others –

  • An increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as flooding and wild fire, with heightened requirements for effective disaster management. In recent years fires, storm surges and floods have caused large scale destruction with high costs to the fiscus and to private citizens. In many cases, badly located developments and poor management have contributed to loss of property and of lives (e.g. housing that has been built below flood lines or too close to the sea, absence of firebreaks leading to fires spreading faster and further than they may have otherwise, etc.). Estimates of the cost of selected climate-related disaster types in South Africa for the period 2000 to 2008 include: R1.1 billion in respect of drought damage; R1.7 billion for fires; R4.7 billion for floods; and just under R400 million for storms.

  • Climate Change has been identified as a key strategic threat facing the insurance industry. This industry sees climate risk as a factor that increases uncertainty and therefore risk and that must be determined and included in their cost structures. This, in time could mean significant costs to particularly vulnerable sectors as well as to private householders and enterprises.

  • Government budgets stand to be increasingly strained into the future due to climate related disasters. In a country with high levels of poverty, high vulnerability and a lack of resilience to disasters, it is government who must declare ‘disaster areas’ and provide the funds necessary to support both management of the immediate crisis as well as long term recovery.

In response to these challenges, South Africa will –

  1. Continue to develop and improve its early warning systems in respect of weather and climate (especially severe weather events), droughts, floods and pest infestation warnings and ensure that these warnings reach potentially affected populations timeously.

  2. Facilitate increased uptake of seasonal climate forecasts among key stakeholders such as those in the water and agricultural sectors.

  3. Maintain and update the South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas (SARVA) as a tool to be used by provinces and municipalities to facilitate their climate change adaptation planning.

  4. Investigate and implement plans to use the mass media and information and communication technology including the use of radio, TV and SMS cellular phone text warning messages to alert threatened populations timeously.

  5. Promote Research and Development initiatives in order to explore processes and products that might facilitate increased uptake of seasonal climate forecasts amongst stakeholders.

  6. Collaborate with social networks such as community organizations NGOs, farmers’ organisations, South African Adaptation networks, etc. in order to assist in raising awareness and achieving technology transfer and capacity building. In this regard make use of the existing network of community development workers to spread knowledge of climate change and its associated risks.

  7. Strengthen both formal and informal education in respect of climate change, Disaster Risk Reduction and climate change adaptation.


No Regrets Strategies and Safety nets

Implementation of “No Regrets” Strategies and safety nets i.e. tools that reduce exposure to climate vulnerabilities and enable the opportunistic exploitation of favourable climate conditions, such as improved early warning systems and risk-transfer instruments such as index insurance.

Can we initiate pilot and fledgling programs for the risk-transfer instruments that will cover the large number of low-income households and farms facing risks from natural disasters. Risk transfer instrument like index insurance can also be considered to help manage water resources and irrigation schemes. A major advantage of index insurance is rapid payouts it comes with.

disasters and ecosystems

We feel that this is an important step in showing the link between vulnerability risk, disaster and adaptation that the SARVA tool be used by municipalities and provinces in climate change adaptation planning. Adaptation can be addressed in a series of ways, to only look at vulnerability though is not sufficient in reducing the impacts, we need to ensure planning also manages for the risk in adaptation approaches as well as confronts climate change effects such as floods etc.

It is critical that the use of climate information and risk analyses be included in adaptation plans and strategies and in these approaches ecosystems must also be seen as critical to preventing disaster and reducing the impact from disaster. We feel it is critical that an ecosystem approach to disaster management be emphasized in this section. An example would be restoring vegetation and removing alien upstream to prevent dam wall breaks or flooding downstream as well as soil loss.