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«National Disaster Risk Management Policy March 2008 Dili, Timor-Leste FORWARD Because of its geography Timor-Leste is vulnerable to disasters caused ...»

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Investment in preparedness is essential. This includes contingency planning for • key sectors and substantial capacity building and training in the areas of civil protection, education, health, public works and communication, among others.

Furthermore, expediting membership in existing early warning systems is essential and a civil society right. However, regional and national systems will only work if they are linked to local warning and emergency response systems that ensure that the warning is received, communicated and acted upon by the potentially affected communities.

The approach adopted by the Government is an all-hazards approach, which deals • with the management of all hazards.

While the Government of Timor-Leste shares the internationally accepted principles of disaster risk management, there are many areas that require improved performance in order to reach internationally accepted standards. To improve the profile and performance of disaster

risk management the Government will focus on:

Elevating disaster risk management as a policy priority • Generating political commitment • Promoting disaster risk management as a multi-sector responsibility • Assigning accountability for disaster losses and impacts • Allocating necessary resources for disaster risk reduction • Enforcing the implementation of disaster risk management • Facilitating participation from civil society and the private sector •

1.2 Cartographic and Demographic Profile of the Country

Timor-Leste is located in an area that is highly vulnerable to natural disasters. Timor-Leste is vulnerable to earthquakes and associated hazards such as tsunami due to its geographical location north of the subduction zone between the Eurasian and Australian plates. It experiences the El Niño/ Southern Oscillation (ENSO) related weather anomalies associated with droughts in this region occurring in cycles every couple of years. Timor-Leste is prone to floods, landslides and erosion resulting from the combination of heavy monsoonal rain, steep topography and widespread deforestation. In addition to El Niño, the La Niña weather phenomena also has had a significant impact on Timor-Leste communities, both positive, in terms of improving agricultural production and water security, and negative in terms of increased flooding, landslides and erosion. Although Timor has no active volcanoes, TimorLeste could be affected by the Holocene volcanic groups on neighbouring Indonesian Islands to the West and East. To date, cyclones have a low frequency of occurrence. In the future, however, this is likely to change. Climatologists are predicting that, due to climate change, Timor-Leste is likely to become increasingly vulnerable to cyclones, tropical storms, flood, landslides and vector born diseases like Malaria, Dengue and other emerging infectious diseases. Radical climate adaptation measures will be required.

Trans-boundary hazards are also a significant threat to Timor-Leste’s human and national security. Timor is within a major migratory bird pathway between Australia and Asia, a vehicle for the possible transmission of animal to human disease with pandemic potential, notably the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1). Agricultural pests such as locusts are a major threat to a country already vulnerable to food in-security. Timor also sits within major flight paths for Australasian and Asia aviation, shipping and submarine traffic channels but has limited capacity to respond to an emergency in these areas.

Timor-Leste’s human and national security, recovery and development has recently been challenged by a significant crisis of internal conflict. Chronic, protracted and worsening human and national security vulnerabilities over recent years require the Government, communities and partners to strengthen integrated community resilience to both disasters and conflict crisis. Whist oil and gas revenue offers a positive economic outlook for recovery, the poor state of the environment and the continued dramatic rate of degradation and the forecasted impact of climate change makes this Policy together with policies relating to National Security and the environment a critical tool for national recovery and development.

Timor-Leste is divided into 13 districts and 65 sub-districts based on the divisions inherited from the Portuguese and Indonesian periods. The populations2 of the districts (in order from the most populated to the least populated) are as follows: Dili (175,730), Ermera (103,169), Baucau (100,748), Bobonaro (83,579), Viqueque (65,449), Oe-cusse (57,616), Lautem (56,293), Liquica (54,973), Covalima (53,063), Ainaro (52,480), Manufahi (45,081), Aileu (37,967), and Manatuto (38,580).

The Hazard Concentration Index Map for Timor-Leste in Annex 1 shows that most of the more populated settlements are located far away from high hazard risk areas. However, the northern and southern coasts of Timor-Leste are considered to be high-risk areas for earthquake hazards and associated tsunamis due to their proximity (100 km) to an active Population figures are from the 2004 Census (provisional counts).

subduction zone, where the Australian-Irian Continental Plate collides and moves under the Eurasian Plate (the Timor trough).3 Contrary to the local belief, past experience and scientific data relating to recent tsunamis indicate that islands surrounding mainland would not offer any protection against a tidal wave or tsunami.





Timor-Leste is located in one of the most seismic-tectonic active areas in the region. For example, two earthquakes occurred on 12 November 2004, with an epicentre just 40 km from Dili, one with a magnitude of 6.4 at 18 km depth and one of magnitude 7.3 at 38 km depth.

The destruction of homes and other property on Kepulaun Alor in Indonesia was due to the close proximity of the epicentre to population centres and could have also easily occurred in Dili. On 2 March 2005, an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 with an epicentre in the Banda Sea was felt strongly in Dili. Regional seismicity has been quite active in late 2004, early 2005 and late 2007 to early 2008.

A map showing earthquake epicentres in the Timor-Leste area from 1973-2006 can be found in Annex 2 and a Tsunami Hazard Map for Timor-Leste can be found in Annex 3.

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A number of natural and human generated hazards could cause major emergencies and disasters in Timor-Leste. Annex 4 discusses the potential of different hazards to affect the country and its population. While some hazards impact every year, there are others that cause casualties and damage less frequently. Some of less frequent events, such as earthquakes may have a much greater impact than the more common events, such as heavy rains and floods.

Response plans at all levels and across all sectors must take these greater impacts into consideration. Communities in high-risk areas should receive priority for community based disaster risk management training and risk communication.

1.4 Disaster Risk Reduction Framework

As a result of new thinking in disaster management, this policy uses risk management methodologies as displayed in Figure 1 below. The rationality and the methods of disaster risk management are a blend of traditional disaster management concepts and risk management approaches. A systematic analysis and decision-making process is being used widely, therefore providing a common language among all emergency responders facilitating both coordination and integration. Disaster risk management strategies will mitigate the effects of natural, human-induced and technological hazards.

With an array of issues and questions, a means of ordering and prioritising an approach to disaster response is needed. Risk analysis is an organised way to identify and evaluate hazardous conditions and to take actions to eliminate, reduce or control the risk(s) posed by such conditions. These steps can be used to formulate policies and action plans, structure planning, and identify areas needing attention, both before the disaster – including reducing the impact of the hazard agent and any preparedness needed – and in the response phase. The Timor-Leste, has been affected by a number of tsunami events, although not with such destructive power of the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26th December 2004. Perception of risk by the Timorese population was heightened in 2005 and even in the absence of either an earthquake or tsunami, the population sought refuge in elevated areas around the country.

emphasis of this process is on managing progress towards disaster reduction objectives rather than producing a “plan” as and end product.4 The disaster risk management approach, as represented in Figure 1 below, is generally

accepted to consist of the following:

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Source: UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction ISDR (2004). Living with Risk: A Global View of Disaster Reduction Initiatives, Geneva, p. 15.

1.4.1 Risks Assessment and Analyses Risk assessment includes the identification of hazard agents (seen as hazards risk factors in Figure 1, e.g., tsunamis, flooding, oil leakage, and urban fires), exposure and consequence assessment, and risk characterisation. The first, and perhaps most difficult step in the process, is to identify all hazardous conditions. For example, an earthquake can affect and damage key infrastructure such as water supply systems, roads, bridges petroleum depots, power, housing and trigger secondary events such as liquefaction, landslides, rock falls, raised and drops in land against sea level and flooding from water and irrigation systems. Risk cannot be reduced unless vulnerability and hazardous conditions are recognised before they trigger impact.

Once a hazardous condition is recognised it must be evaluated to determine the threat or risk it presents. The level of risk is a function of the probability of exposure to the hazard and the severity of the potential harm that would be caused by that exposure. Some hazards may present very little risk to people or equipment (e.g. a toxic chemical well enclosed in a strong container in a stationary secure and unpopulated area). Additionally, risk factors include social, economic, physical and environmental vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability is the condition or situation in which communities/settlements are already exposed to a threat and the hazard impact will only make the situation worse. For example, a family living on a riverbank is more vulnerable to a certain threat (in this case flooding) than another family whose house is located further away and on higher land that cannot be reached by the river even if it floods.

1.4.2 Risk Management

Risk management encompasses all those activities required to reach and implement decisions on risk reduction or elimination. Once a risk has been characterised, an informed decision can be made as to what control measures, if any, are needed to reduce the risks or eliminate the hazard. Control measures can consist of any action for risk reduction or elimination. Often control measures involve reducing the probability of occurrence or the severity of an incident.

Risk management also must start at the lowest possible level of government administration and community with each level accepting responsibility for an appropriate level of mitigation, preparedness, and response and/or recovery activity. This includes strengthening and supporting community level initiatives on disaster risk reduction and encouraging active participation or involvement of people in the process of risk assessment, planning, implementation of disaster risk management strategies and activities.

People within the community or village suffer the most from disaster damage. In practice, they are the first front line responders which may include ‘fright and flight’ human survival measures such as evacuating to higher ground and harvesting survival foods, building indigenous shelter and use of traditional medicines. Depending on the communities’ knowledge of certain hazards, physical and psycho-social health, they often undertake precautionary measures and respond to the disaster by assisting before outside help comes.

An increase in the frequency of disasters and consequent impact on lives and livelihoods has led community members to develop some coping mechanism/strategies based on their existing capacities. However, because of limited resources, knowledge, skills and technical support, communities are often outside any rapid assistance network. The ability of communities to manage emergencies limits the number of disasters requiring external assistance. At present many emergencies become disasters with when local resources do not have the capacity to respond. For example, often requests are made to Dili for assistance following vehicle accidents where a person is trapped and must be removed from a vehicle.

In partnership with communities, NGOs, the National Red Cross, the United Nations Systems and development partners, this Policy and the Disaster, Crisis and Climate Adaptation Management Strategy will direct community risk management capacity development programming for national risk priorities. This will need extensive integrated investments in community and District Administration human and physical resources to increase community resilience to disasters, conflict and climate change. This would commence with Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) partners assisting communities to map hazards, vulnerability and risk. Out of the National Risk Priorities, community specific risks will be identified and community centric management solutions identified. Community-based activities may include first aid, swimming lessons, traditional and universal survival skills.

For coastal communities hazard specific survival skills will include recognising and responding to tsunami, lowland, marine flooding and sea level change. For upland and highland communities risk management would cover risks such as flash flooding, wind damage, landslides and climate change.



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