Only four months ago, heavy rains struck the country and caused severe flooding and landslides which affected around 300,000 people. To respond to the disaster, the United Nations launched an emergency appeal to raise 15.7 million dollars for the country.
With three heavy rainy seasons in just three years, leading to the deaths of over 200 people, the government of El Salvador has decided to step up education and training about disasters. From January, all private and state educational facilities will be required to include teaching on environmental safety issues. Students at school and university will learn about extreme weather events linked to climate-change and explore how to lessen the impact and risks of these events.
Speaking to Alertnet, the country’s Vice Education Minister said this awareness-raising initiative was important “to protect both human life and ecosystems in El Salvador”. The Minister acknowledged the vulnerability of El Salvador to weather events and said the timetable of the school year will be modified so that students will be at home during the rainy season. Currently, classes are often interrupted by floods or damage to roads and infrastructure caused by landslides. The government will also be running awareness campaigns among the general public.
Nine-tenths of El Salvador’s land is prone to being affected by natural hazards and climate experts say the situation is only likely to get worse. The country will experience more periods of heavy rains, with tropical cyclones and storms becoming more frequent. While floods and storms will remain a huge problem, summers will also be hotter, increasing the risk of droughts.
The government plans to improve its weather monitoring by setting up radar stations. Work to lessen the impact of flooding, such as the raising of river banks, will also be carried out. The expectation is also that local communities will become more active in protecting the citizens of their regions. Already some local governments have set up committees to work on issues such as water provision and environmental protection. And associations have been established to look at land-use planning. (Many villages in El Salvador are situated at the foot of hills and mountains, where they are vulnerable to landslides, while others lie close to river banks.) Changes won’t happen overnight. But by teaching the country’s youngsters all about climate risks, the government hopes that the next generation will become active participants in that change.