Development practitioners now have a new tool to better understand the root causes of natural disasters in the environment.
The U.N. Environment Program and the Center for Natural Resources and Development launched on Tuesday in Morocco the first graduate course on disasters, environment and risk reduction, which aims to increase awareness about the relationship between environment and development.
Muralee Thummarukudy, UNEP’s chief of disaster risk reduction, said that the 50-hour interactive course is a “new approach” that will help some apply what they learn in the field and others gather evidence to support an environment-based strategy for disaster risk reduction.
The graduate course — funded by the European Union and the German development agency — combines ecosystem studies with disaster risk management and climate change adaptation through case studies and ecosystem-based tools on disaster risk reduction.
It examines how environment and disasters interact with each other, how disasters can cause massive damage to the environment, and how a degraded environment and climate change affect and exacerbate disaster impacts.
The curriculum has been tested at 10 CNRD universities and the materials — which include case studies from Brazil, Egypt and Nepal — are already being taught in institutions of higher learning in Indonesia, Egypt and Germany. But “for many students, the topic of Eco-DRR is completely new,” explained Udo Nehren, scientific coordinator at CNRD.
“Learning how sound ecosystem management can reduce disaster risk is crucial for [development practitioners] as they will be the next generation of researchers and decision-makers. Our mission is to disseminate the module worldwide and implement Eco-DRR in masters programs related to disaster management, environment, and climate change adaptation,” he added.