Protecting the environment can reduce disaster impacts

Environmental degradation is a key factor turning extreme weather events into natural disasters, a new report by green group WWF has found.

The report, "Natural Security: Protected Areas and Hazard Mitigation", examined the impacts of large-scale disasters including floods in Bangladesh in 2000, the heat wave in Portugal in 2003 and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

"It is deforestation and floodplain development that most often links high rainfall to devastating floods and mudslides," said Liza Higgins-Zogib, from the WWF’s Protected Areas Initiative. "Extreme coastal events cause much more loss of life and damage when reefs are damaged, mangroves are removed, dune systems are developed and coastal forests are cleared."

According to the report, over the past 50 years the severity of impacts from natural disasters has increased, due in part to the loss of healthy ecosystems in the regions affected.

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