Science Plan on Hazards and Disasters: Special Vulnerability of Islands – ICSU Regional Office for Asia & the Pacific

The majority of the vast Asia-Pacific region is made up of tens of thousands of islands, ranging from tiny and remote islets to large and highly populated insular landmasses. The Asia-Pacific is also unique as within it lay all 5 of the world’s nations that are entirely atolls.

Introduction

For various reasons, islands are inherently more vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters (H&D) than many continental or mainland areas. Physical influences include: the origin of island formation along active plate boundaries; the rugged highland interiors of volcanic islands which have unstable slopes; wet or very wet maritime climates with associated risk of cyclones (typhoons); the low elevation of small atoll and limestone islets which are at risk of inundation. Socio-economic factors which increase H&D vulnerability of many islands include their remoteness, isolation, inaccessibility, economic marginalisation and dependence on local resources. Some recent examples given for illustration are the earthquake (M 8.1) and resulting tsunami of April 2007 in Solomon Islands and the exceptional flooding produced by a cyclone in Fiji in January 2003.

All of the above mean that islands (and island communities) deserve special scientific attention in terms of assessing and monitoring hazard risk, understanding hazard impacts and longer-term effects, preparing for hazard occurrence, and implementing feasible disaster-adaptation programmes.

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