DESK REVIEWS | 01.03.05. Environmental and infrastructural aspects

DESK REVIEW | 01.03.05. Environmental and infrastructural aspects

Brazil was the only country in the Americas that is among the world’s ten countries with the highest number of people affected by disasters between 1995 and 2015. Most incidents are related to rain/flooding-related disasters (Federal University of Santa Catarina, 2013). From 2008 to 2013, 40.9% of Brazilian municipalities suffered at least one natural disaster. Around 2,376 cities were affected by gradual flooding, abrupt floods and/or landslides in that period. Gradual flooding alone left 1,406,713 people homeless or displaced. Almost 50% of the 5,570 city councils around the country had no resources to deal with these occurrences (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 2019e). In the last four years, two large environmental accidents happened in the state of Minas Gerais, which were associated with crime. The first was in 2015: a dam disruption in the city of Mariana led to 19 deaths, communities were destroyed, rivers were polluted and the vegetation was devastated (Brazil Agency (EBC), 2018). A little more than three years later, another dam disruption occurred in the same state, but in the city of Brumadinho. This disaster led to 179 accounted deaths and 134 people disappeared. A “muddy sea” invaded the region destroying communities and the entire city of Brumadinho and put forest areas at risk of contamination. Both environmental disasters were under the responsibility of a company called Vale do Rio Doce (Brazil Agency (EBC), 2019).


Brazil Agency (EBC). (2018, November 5). Tragédia Mariana. Agência Brasil.

Brazil Agency (EBC). (2019, February 25). Tragédia em Brumadinho. Agência Brasil.

Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. (2019e). Perfil dos municípios brasileiros 2013. IBGE.

Federal University of Santa Catarina. (2013). Atlas brasileiro de desastres naturais 1991 a 2012.

Hong Kong’s climate is seasonal due to alternating wind direction between winter and summer. From September to December there are pleasant breezes, plenty of sunshine, and comfortable temperatures. January and February are cloudier, with occasional cold fronts followed by dry northerly winds. March and April are milder although there are occasional spells of high humidity. The period from April to August is hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms. The months from July to September are most likely to be affected by severe weather phenomena such as tropical cyclones, monsoon troughs, and thunderstorms. There are on average about 30 tropical cyclones form in the western North Pacific or China Seas every year, and about half of them reach typhoon strength. Heavy rain from tropical cyclones may last for a few days and subsequent landslips and flooding sometimes cause considerably more damage than the winds (Hong Kong Observatory, 2018, November 30). Waterspouts and hailstorms occur infrequently, snow and tornadoes are rare, and there is a very small chance of major earthquakes (Hong Kong Observatory, 2018, November 27). Moreover, Hong Kong is not seriously affected by tsunami (Hong Kong Observatory, 2018, November 8).


Hong Kong Observatory. (2018, November 8). Tsunami Monitoring and Warning in Hong Kong. Retrieved from

Hong Kong Observatory. (2018, November 27). Chance of a Significant Earthquake in Hong Kong. Retrieved from

Hong Kong Observatory. (2018, November 30). Climate of Hong Kong. Retrieved from

India is at risk for several natural disasters. Out of the 7,516 km of Indian coastline, 5,700 km of coastline is prone to tsunamis and cyclones (National Disaster Management Authority, 2019). Approximately, 58.6% of the total landmass is prone to moderate to high intensity earthquakes. Moreover, 12% of land is susceptible to floods (National Disaster Management Authority, 2019) .


National Disaster Management Authority. (2019). Vulnerability Profile. Government of India.

As discussed above (01.02.02), environmental aspects are an important risk factor to economic productivity in Indonesia. According to the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, reconstruction following disaster costs the Indonesia government between $300 and $500 million annually. Costs during major disasters can amount to 0.3 per cent of national GDP and up to 45 per cent of provincial GDP. In addition, loss of life, damage to infrastructure, destruction of agricultural crops, and a reduction in income from tourism are considerable costs to bear (GFDRR, 2019). Lasting change, caused by ‘rising sea levels and changing weather patterns’, due to climate change pose a serious risk to Indonesia’s development.

Following the 2004 tsunami, the Government of Indonesia implemented a law on disaster management in 2007 and established the National Disaster Management Agency (BNBP) in 2008.  Activities to improve resilience and to reduce risk include relocation of families from high risk areas or road improvement work in areas prone to earthquake and landslides (GFDRR, 2019).


GFDRR. (2019). Indonesia. Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.


Kenya experiences: (i) natural hazards such as recurring droughts, landslides, lightening and thunderstorms, flooding during rainy seasons but limited volcanic activities; and (ii) environmental pollution including water pollution from urban and industrial waste, water shortage and degraded water quality resulting from use of pesticides and fertilisers, deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, and poaching. The level of destruction is increasing leading to more deaths, loss of livelihoods and infrastructure destruction (Central Intelligence Agency, 2019; United Nations Development Programme, 2007).

Another aspect hampering Kenya’s effort to improve its annual growth is inadequate infrastructure. The current efforts through multisectoral collaboration with international financial institutions and donors have raised capital in the global market by investing in infrastructure. One of the most recent projects is the construction of the Chinese financed standard gauge railway between Nairobi and Mombasa (Central Intelligence Agency, 2019).


Central Intelligence Agency. (2019). The World Factbook: Africa – Kenya.

United Nations Development Programme. (2007). Kenya Natural Disaster Profile. Enhanced security Unit.

Mexico has a long history and constant hazard of large earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Volcán de Colima, south of Guadalajara, erupted in 1994, and El Chichón, in southern Mexico in 1983. Although dormant for decades, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl occasionally send out smoke clearly visible in Mexico City and ashes that sometimes reach the city. Popocatépetl showed renewed activity in 1995 and 1996, forcing the evacuation of several nearby villages and led to concern about the effect that a large-scale eruption might have on the heavily populated region nearby. Popocatépetl’s activity and all related concerns continue to date (Abeldaño Zúñiga & González Villoria, 2018).

In addition, the country registers more than 90 earthquakes every year with intensity of 4 degrees or higher on the Richter scale and has had major earthquakes over the past decades. Most recently, in September 1985, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale and centred in the subduction zone off Acapulco, killed more than 4,000 people in Mexico City, more than 300 kilometres away. The same region was rocked in September 2017 by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake that killed nearly 100 people and damaged thousands of buildings. A more damaging 7.1 earthquake in central Mexico later that month left more than 400 dead, including at least 228 in Mexico City.

It is estimated that 90% of natural disasters are hydro-meteorological and affect mainly the southeast of the country. Finally, there is an average of 23 hurricanes with winds of more than 63 km/h between the months of May and November. Of these, on average, 14 hurricanes occur in the Pacific Ocean and 9 in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, 2015). According to the United Nations, Mexico is classified amongst the top 30 countries worldwide exposed to three or more natural disasters of multiple magnitudes per year (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, 2015).

Mexico has a National Civil Protection Program 2008-2012 that promotes a multi-institutional coordination, in the area of civil protection in order to protect the life, the environment and the patrimony of society. Thus, in an emergency, the first authority that has knowledge should provide immediate assistance and inform the specialised civil protection authorities. The hierarchical order goes from municipal authorities to the state ones and, finally, the federal ones. The municipal authority is the first specialised instance, and if its response capacity is overcome, then it must resort to the state authority, and so on, until it reaches the federal authorities.

In addition, the DN-III Plan organised by the Navy and Armed Forces, is in charge of organising and mobilising relocations (shelters, safe houses) for hurricane watch and of conducting recovery and reconstruction actions in case of disasters or damages after these events. Finally, the federal government operates a Natural Disaster Fund and the delivery of support to the population (Gobierno de México, 2008), but there are not any policies/plans for people living with dementia and other disabilities in case of emergencies.


Abeldaño Zúñiga, R. A., & González Villoria, A. M. (2018). Desastres en México de 1900 a 2016: patrones de ocurrencia, población afectada y daños económicos. Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública, 42, 1–8.

Gobierno de México. (2008). Programa Nacional de Protección Civil 2008-2012. Diario Oficial de La Federación.

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. (2015). The Force of Nature in Mexico, as seen from space.–as-seen-from-space.html

The country is currently experiencing an electricity crisis with the implementation of ‘load-shedding’ (i.e., blackouts) since 2008 as ESKOM (i.e., South Africa’s power utility) struggles to meet demand.

The Western Cape Province has also been experiencing its most severe drought since 2015, with water levels beginning to rise in September 2018 (see By 2021 this drought had been resolved in the Western Cape but remains critical in some other provinces such as the Eastern Cape.