The Republic of Palau is a small, independent island nation located in the northern Pacific, and is under a compact of free association with the US. Palau’s population is approximately 20,956 (2011 estimate). The country has shown recent economic growth rates of 8%, reflecting increased tourism within the country along with related industries in communications, wholesale and retail trade, and financial intermediation. Tourism is predicted to continue to increase for the coming years.
Hazards that have had the greatest impact on Palau in the past are typhoons (tropical cyclones) and storm surges. Storm surges and the resultant saltwater inundation of taro fields and water tables are a pressing concern and appear to be linked to climate change and sea-level rise. The majority of the population live along the coast, which is also where most critical infrastructure is located. The main hospital is located very close to the sea, and the causeway connecting it to the mainland is vulnerable to storm surge and/or tsunami. Technological hazards, such as the bridge collapse in 1997 and the fire that gutted the main power plant in 2011, are additional concerns.
In late 2012, Typhoon Bopha struck Palau and affected hundreds of people, destroying 70 homes and displacing 131 people. Soon after in 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan impacted the islands again, especially the northern-most state of Kayangel, destroying 39 homes and some parts of Babeldaob Island. The impact of these cyclones is still being felt by communities in Palau.
Palau has a national DRM framework developed in 2010 which promotes a multi-hazard approach to managing hazards and vulnerability. Palau consists of 16 states and each state is currently in the process of developing its own DRM plan. Many of the key agencies and sectors have emergency plans in place. Palau does not have a national climate change policy or plan and is relatively unprepared for climate change.
Despite the existence of DRM policies and plans, Palau is relatively poorly prepared for reducing hazard risk and coping with disasters. This is in part due to its historical reliance on the US for disaster response and humanitarian support. Awareness is however growing (particularly at political and operational levels) of the need to invest in preparedness and risk reduction. Recent technological disasters have also helped to improve awareness of the linkages between poorly planned development and hazard risk. Palau is heavily dependent on marine-based tourism and the need to protect this industry is understood.