November 30, 2020

Experts ask for more "prevention" instead of "reaction" to disasters in Mexico

The Mexican Government has made progress in responding to emergencies caused by disasters, but "has made little progress" in its prevention and risk reduction, which is reflected in investment problems and in the lack of a comprehensive vision, warn specialists consulted by Efe.

Before the International Day for Disaster Reduction, commemorated this Sunday, Mexican experts ask the Government to invest in improving the prevention capacities of the states and municipalities of the country by arguing that disasters "are not natural", but the product of human errors and bad planning.

"In Mexico we think that prevention is better prepared for the emergency, when in the rest of the world, at least in countries with better risk management systems, prevention is focused on reducing risk and preventing disasters from happening," he explains. Mara Torres Pinedo, researcher at University College London (UCL).

The risk specialist questioned that the National Disaster Fund (Fonden) has had its lowest budget in eight years this 2019, of only 3,644 million pesos (189 million dollars), an amount 85% lower than the previous year, and that by 2020 it will be just 3,800 million pesos (197 million dollars).

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who came to power last year with the promise of "republican austerity," has justified the reduction of this and other resources by stating that "there was a lot of corruption" and that Mexico has "been lucky" this year regarding the arrival of natural phenomena.

"It meant using money from a bag to buy groceries, cots (light beds), sheets and so on, and there was corruption in that fund management, because it was a bit like the so-called national security expenses," the president said at his conference September 26 morning.

In this context, Torres Pinedo regrets that the country has laws and policies, but that they lack "teeth", budget and application, since disaster risk should be considered in all public policies, such as the assignment of building permits, investment and adaptation to the climate crisis.

"To do territorial planning, be it urban or rural, without considering the risks, when the methodology and technology is within reach, is to put at risk the life and heritage of millions of people, as well as millions of pesos of public investment" .

One of the main instruments to reduce disasters is the Risk Atlas, as there are homes and critical infrastructure in vulnerable areas of the country and citizens ignore it, says Naxhelli Ruiz Rivera, Academic Secretary of the Institute of Geography of the National Autonomous University of Mexico ( UNAM).

"The truth is that they are still difficult instruments for most citizens to understand, because the information is not in friendly formats or clearly communicates the implications of risk. That is a real problem," says the researcher.

To pay for the solution, the Geography Institute has opened the digital public consultation # CuéntameTuRiesgo, which gathers citizen information from Mexico City, which is vulnerable to floods and earthquakes such as the magnitude 7.1 of September 19, 2017, which left 228 dead alone in the capital.

Ruiz Rivera details that the Risk Atlas acquires relevance in the face of the climate crisis because, although the risk has always existed in cities, the "increase in uncertainty" is "more visible and problematic."

"What changes are not the risk zones, but the scenarios in which that risk materializes. The climate regime is now changing in frequency and intensity, and also presents greater uncertainty, that is, it is more difficult to predict extreme phenomena," concludes

. (tagsToTranslate) Experts (t) prevention (t) reaction (t) disasters (t) Mexico

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