Econ Essay

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Are human actions making natural disasters more destructive? By Matt Ford -- As Pakistan struggles to recover after one of the worst floods in its history, questions are already being asked about how human decisions may have exacerbated the effects of this natural disaster. "Human activities have made the impacts of disasters more destructive," Claire Seaward, Oxfam, told CNN. In Pakistan, as in many countries around the world, a growing population has forced more and more people to live in vulnerable coastal areas and floodplains. "Increasingly, people are choosing unsafe areas to live and there is mass congregation into increasingly concentrated areas... as people look for access to water and land to grow food," says Seaward. As scientists predict that climate change will cause a more unstable and volatile weather, it seems essential that governments across the world learn the lessons of Pakistan. One of the problems is that a rising population places demands on the landscape in terms of food production, and in Pakistan agricultural irrigation projects altered the natural flow of water -- with disastrous consequences. "In order to increase the amount of agricultural land available and bring benefits of a better food supply to millions of people, they have put in a lot of hardcore engineering," James Dalton, Water Management Advisor, International Union for Conservation of Nature told CNN. "This has many benefits and makes people feel safe. But with that kind of irrigation it is only possible to plan for a certain percentage increase in water and when you get an event like this, it's impossible to prepare. "Then suddenly you have this infrastructure intended to move water around more efficiently, and it vastly increases flow rates, which is what has done a lot of the damage we are seeing." Pakistan is a natural disaster-prone country -- in the past

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