(HN, September 1, 2011) - The magnitude of social exclusion is 15 percent higher in areas affected by environmental disaster than in areas where such disasters have not occurred, according to a new study.
The Social Exclusion Survey, produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), finds that, from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to the depletion of the Aral Sea, these events have an impact on the social fabric of the affected communities.
The report found the impact is significant and disproportionately felt by young people.
Addressing which type of exclusion is more prominent, the report found that in areas with environmental damage, it is economic exclusion that accounts for the biggest share (38 percent) of the social exclusion index, as opposed to exclusion from social services in non-affected areas. One way to interpret this is that environmental disasters hit the economy by disrupting production linkages and forcing qualified workers to migrate. Investments are also likely to decline.
An interesting finding from the survey is that environmental disasters might also have unexpected positive externalities. Exclusion from participation in civic and social life contributes least to social exclusion in affected areas. This might seem counter intuitive but, as the recent case of the tsunami in Japan has shown, environmental disasters encourage people to rely on informal networks and community action.
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 was the most severe in the history of the nuclear power industry, causing a huge release of radionuclides over large areas of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Today in the affected region, many people still complain of health problems and the disaster is linked, in part, to the mistrust in government in Ukraine.
The Aral Sea was once the fourth biggest inland sea in the world, but widespread mismanagement of resources that started in the sixties caused water levels to drop to alarmingly low levels. The sea is literally dying.
- UNDP, HUMNEWS staff