We launch new project on “Adaptation of Solid Waste Management to Frequent Floods in Vulnerable Mid-Scale Asian cities”

Ever increasing number of flood events in Asian region

You might remember the great flood in Thailand that occurred in the later part of 2011. You may also recall the images of brand new cars sunk under water in the industrial zone in Ayutthaya, Thailand where many Japanese manufacturers set up their manufacturing hub for Southeast Asian region. Frequent occurrence of huge-scale floods can be found not only in Thailand but also in other Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, Indonesia and China in the recent years. One of the main factors that cause the huge-scale floods is due to the global warming. Increased frequency of heavy rain and continual rain inevitably increases the risk of flood. Associate Professor Dr. Hirabayashi of the University of Tokyo explained “Out of the 29 major rivers in the world, including major rivers like the Yellow river and Mekong river, current frequency of once in 100 years of flood risk may shorten to once every 10-50 years at the end of 21st century.”

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The increase of flood damage risk in Asian region is not only due to the increased flood frequency but also due to the increase of population in urban area. The survey conducted by Asian Development Bank in 2012 estimates the population in coastal zone and inland zone that may be affected by flood in 2025. The survey estimated 1.4 times of population compare to that of 2010 will be affected by flood both in coastal and inland zone and many of them would be those in Asian region.

Proposal of flood waste management plan in the mid-scale cities

One of the damages caused by flood is generation of huge amount of waste and debris. If flood waste is not cleared promptly, it not only prevents the recovery of city, but also damages the sanitation of the city, too. At our research center, we focus on the research on how waste influence people’s life at flood time and flood waste management in the city. We also try to apply the accumulated knowledge and experience on flood waste management to the Asian countries which may experience more floods in the future. From November of 2013, with the grant of Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN), we launched the project on “Adaptation of Solid Waste Management to Frequent Floods in Vulnerable Mid-Scale Asian cities”. This research project focuses on the two flood-prone cities, namely, Ayutthaya in Thailand and Hue in Vietnam. The project will propose the pre-flood countermeasures at municipality, collection, transportation and final disposal of the waste when flood occurs and post-flood countermeasures for each type of waste (food waste, woods, plastic, hazardous waste containing heavy metals and etc.) at each waste management process to the municipality. The project aims to propose to the two municipalities tangible flood waste management plan and its implementation.

Comparing Ayutthaya and Hue alone, we can identify the different patterns of flood, different patterns of waste management, and different development level of urban infrastructure which affects the waste management during flood times. Noting the difference of urban conditions and patterns of flood, we will extract the general waste management countermeasures based on the similarity in industrial structure and scale of population. Understanding the vulnerability and resilience of the Asian cities towards waste management allows us to step forwards to the appropriate waste management during flood times.

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You may wonder why we don’t target mega cities in Asia like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City. We intentionally chose mid-scale cities because they are facing much more constraints in terms of capacity on budget and human resources for natural disaster like flood. In mega-cities, to prevent suspension of nation’s capital function and economic activity, national government may assist in budget and human resources. Because the capacity of mid-scale cities directly reflects in how well the municipalities can manage the waste during the flood, we decided to conduct the study focusing on the mid-scale cities.

Transferring Japanese disaster experience to Asia

Japan has repeatedly recovered from number of disaster events including the East Japan great earthquake in 2011. Despite of difference in legislation, administrative system, economic development level and citizen’s awareness, we think it is still possible to apply Japanese experience to the Asian countries. The first priority is to rescue lives of people during the disaster. Rescuing, treating and disposing waste appropriately prevents the increase of spread of epidemic disease or encounter with hazardous substances which indirectly affects human’s lives and health. The understanding on appropriate flood waste management should be spread among the practitioners who deal with waste management. We consider an awareness raising is part of our important mission of this project and hope to assist engaging more practitioners to achieve the aim of an appropriate flood waste management.

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