Natural disasters: between vulnerability and negligence.

share on:

From 1958 onwards, Mexico hadn’t been struck by two natural disasters at the same time. Tropical storm Manuel, on the Pacific Ocean, as well as hurricane Ingrid, at the Gulf of Mexico, have affected over 29 states throughout the country. Over the course of the next few hours, the former could gain force and strike the three remaining entities (Sonora and the whole of the Baja California peninsula). As days go by, the number of deaths increases and, regardless of the tragedy that 1.2 million Mexican are going through right now, the current administration’s lack of knowledge about certain isolated communities is quite worrisome. These communities’ future should be of concern. In the next couple of years, natural disasters could get worse due to climate change and affect 27 million Mexicans, which is why it is essential to implement policies that aim to decrease the population’s vulnerability.

Governments are not responsible of the frequency of meteorological phenomena but they are accountable for preventing its damaging effects. One of the targets of former President Felipe Calderón’s National Hydric Program (Peña hasn’t yet come up with a project of his own) was to prevent risks derived from meteorological phenomena and to address potential damages suffered by the population, infrastructure as well as services and production systems. In addition, the program included a relocation of inhabitants of the most vulnerable zones, all with the purpose of guaranteeing their safety. PNH, as it was known, was full of good intentions, but its enactment was poor, at most. Positive effects of meteorological phenomena, such as the reload of deep-water basins as well as the increase of water storage in dams and lakes, cannot be used to supply water for 40% of Mexico’s territory that is constantly going through droughts.

Supporting those affected by natural disasters is a humanitarian act. There is no doubt about it. Nevertheless, this is used by both sensationalist journalism as well as political opportunism. On the other hand, taking preventive measures, such as the relocation of human population living in the most vulnerable zones and investing in infrastructure (like developed countries do, with the aim of avoiding negative impact of natural disasters on the population) does not seem to sell advertising spaces nor to generate grateful clients. The Fund for Natural Disasters (Fonden), for the quick rehabilitation of federal and local infrastructure affected by natural phenomena is a positive aspect but is not enough. Within the reform framework that is so shown-off by Mexican politicians, it would be ideal to develop a hydric plan that would effectively decrease the vulnerability of millions of Mexicans to natural disasters. Any other way and the real tragedy will not be the loss of goods and lives, but knowing that they were not prevented due to negligence.

Mexico has a rich history of natural disasters. If only the ten most expensive ones were taken into account, the country has suffered losses of over 4.5 billion dollars (that is, without taking into account the “black number”, generated through imprecision of data or authorities’ omission). Of those ten disasters, nine were hurricanes or floods. Likewise, one can see some sort of frequency rate within the damaged zones, not only due to their geographical characteristics but because of the lack of adequate infrastructure needed to face these sort of emergencies. The impotence of watching entire zones of the country struck by drought while some others suffer with floods is absolutely horrific. It is worth noting that one of the essential steps of civilization was the water’s “domestication”. Though fully achieving the aforementioned remains a chimera (the 2005 tragedy of hurricane Katrina or the floods suffered in Central Europe a few months back come to mind), leaving such an issue at stake is irresponsible.


share on: