"Iran is a disaster-prone country, and we want to create better coordination between the different organisations who are involved in disaster management," the programme officer of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Hossein Jafari, told IRIN. The UN was assisting the government of Iran in formulating its first-ever national disaster management plan for the sustained protection of population, property and development, he explained.
According to Jafari, the plan will introduce the structure of emergency management at the national, provincial and local levels under preparedness, mitigation and recovery phases. It will produce disaster implication check lists for major development projects, prepare an improved plan for disaster management communication and information systems, as well as prepare operational and public participatory procedures for earthquake response to enhance public awareness in urban areas, he added.
The plan will also establish the structure, functions and technical requirements for emergency operation centres in Tehran and provincial capitals, as well as provide recommendations for flood early warning systems. Given the magnitude and frequency of natural disasters threatening Iran, improvement in the system could considerably help to save lives and avoid financial losses, Jafari maintained.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Iran is the sixth most disaster-prone country in the world. For the past 10 years, an average of 4,000 people have been killed and 55,000 affected annually by disaster.
Iran is located in one of the most seismically active areas in the world, with a major earthquake occurring every two to three years. Rapid urban growth, including that caused by displacement of rural populations due to drought, together with inadequately regulated building and urban development, are factors which further increase earthquake-disaster risk.
Over the past 90 years, earthquakes have killed over 130,000 people in Iran. Moreover, there is a strong probability of a future earthquake in the capital in the coming future. Historical data suggest there is a major earthquake in Tehran every 158 years and the last one there was in 1830.
Since 1997, a series of devastating earthquakes with a magnitude of between five to seven on the Richter scale have hit the northeastern province of Khorasan, affecting the cities of Bojnurd in the north and Birjand and Qa'en in the south of the province, as well as the northwestern province of Ardabil. The quakes left 2,458 people dead, scores injured, and some 26,000 buildings devastated or destroyed. Moreover, 177,750 head of livestock were lost and 157,000 hectares of farmland ruined.
According to UNDP, losses to drought, floods and landslides are also severe in Iran. Moreover, there are clear linkages between the occurrence of droughts, floods, landslides and wild fires in arid and semiarid areas. Environmental damage due to drought magnifies the future impact of these other hazards, which in turn increases the risk of drought. In the last three months, the country witnessed three devastating floods, causing loss of life and millions of dollars' worth of financial damage.
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