Development losses caused by disasters as well as population, and GDP exposure to hazards are continuously being increased in BiH. The country is exposed to various natural hazards, with most common ones being earthquakes, floods, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires and landslides and as well as man-made hazards.
The Western Balkans region is exposed to seismic hazards clustered around fault lines. On average, at least one earthquake strikes every three years at VII intensity on the Medvedev–Sponheuer–Karnik (MSK) scale, 13 at VIII intensity every fifteen years and at XI intensity or higher – every sixty years.
Floods are the most challenging and recurring natural hazard in the Western Balkans region, with flooding occurring in almost all river basins in the region. While predictable floods play a positive role for the livelihoods of entire communities, unpredictable and severe flooding puts their crops, health and livelihood at risk. Although floods happen throughout the year, they occur mainly in the hills and lowlands during spring, when there are high levels of precipitation and snowmelt from the mountains. Heavy rainfall can also trigger riverine floods during autumn; these are typically shorter in duration but occur suddenly and with high water flows. Furthermore, flash floods are common in mountainous areas and these can sometimes even trigger mudflows. Massive flooding in BiH in May 2014 affected a quarter of its territory and approximately one million people, representing some 27% of the country’s population of 3.8 million.
Drought and heat waves have become more widespread and destructive. The northeaster portion of the country is most prone to drought. The worst drought in 120 years occurred in 2002 and resulted in a 60% decline in the country’s agricultural production, which generated a serious food crisis.
Landslides are a continuous and well-known hazard in BiH and represent a complex and ever-increasing problem for authorities at all levels, as well as for the affected communities. The Risk Assessment for BiH adopted by the Council of Ministers in 2012 registers more than 1,800 active landslides in the country. Illegal construction of houses in areas with slopes or alongside rivers is one of the main reasons for injuries and mortalities caused by landslides. Furthermore, lack of spatial planning and geological analysis lead to unsustainable territorial development and infrastructure investments, which in the long-term aggravate the landslide risk.
The numerous challenges the country faced after the war, combined with political deadlocks and weak economic situation, placed disaster risks, traditionally connected with civil protection, at the bottom of priorities, never receiving enough political interest.
Even though the May 2014 devastating floods were one of the worst recorded natural disasters in the country, climate change predictions forecast the acceleration of extreme weather phenomena in the coming years, causing increase effect of floods and droughts. Hazards, such as seismic risk, fires and landslides threaten BiH and contribute to increased disaster losses in the country, requiring a multi-hazard approach integrating climate change in all DRR interventions.
UNDP in BiH has been progressively engaged in DRR activities since 2004, utilizing its global knowledge and expertise. During the period 2004 – 2005, UNDP implemented the Emergency Assistance to Flood Affected Areas Project, aiming to alleviate damages inflicted by so-called ‘natural disasters’. Later on, in 2007, it launched and effectively realized the Capacity Building for National Disaster Risk Reduction Project, which supported the adoption of Law on Protection and Rescue of People and Material Goods in Case of Natural and Other Disasters in BiH and the establishment of the Coordination Body for risk management. In 2009 UNDP, through the Global Risk Identification Programme, and together with relevant entity institutions, initiated an intervention aiming to strengthen institutional capacity for assessing disaster risks. This work culminated in the completion of the BiH Risk Assessment in 2012.
The UN system played a key role in the implementation of the substantial flood recovery progremme that followed the post floods needs assessment in May 2014. In June 2014 UNDP initiated the design of an early recovery intervention, which aimed to help normalization and stabilization of basic public services, supported rehabilitation of homes, mitigate post-crisis hazards and restore livelihoods. UNDP managed to support authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in and was, due to its field presence, efficiency and knowledge entrusted with mobilizing, coordinating and effectively delivering financial resources for recovery. In partnership with the EU and other bilateral counterparts, a financial package of USD 80 million (primary financial contribution by the EU) was consolidated in an integrated recovery intervention for 2014-2015.
The recovery efforts were followed by important resilience projects implemented by UNDP, mainstreaming DRR as a cross-cutting issue. All these initiatives are linked to the overarching UNDP BiH DRR Action Plan. Since May 2014, UNDP has been implementing disaster risk reduction including climate adaptation activities amounting to over 13 million USD at all governmental levels with support of local stakeholders and donors (Japan, UK, Czech, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, EU, Swiss, Sweden, GEF). Our efforts are ranging from construction works on landslides rehabilitation and flood prevention in local communities to integrating disaster risk reduction into development strategies, trainings of municipal officials, development of protection and rescue plans, strengthening legal frameworks and early warning systems and donation of civil protection equipment. Our focus is promoting contemporary understanding of DRR, which teaches that disasters are a result of poor development decisions and cannot be solved by civil protection alone. Important to highlight are our efforts to establish new frameworks, tools and know – how such as Disaster Risk Analysis System (DRAS) http://dras.undp.ba/ that allows free access to scientific hazard data to municipal decision makers and citizens to increase disaster risk awareness for specific locality.