Beijing, May 12: More than 700 scientists from around 40 countries, regions and international organizations have agreed to support a declaration issued after a two-day International Conference on Silk-road Disaster Risk Reduction and Development, which concluded in Beijing on Sunday.
The theme of conference was: Towards Safe, Green, and Resilient Silk Roads.
The declaration recommended actions including data-sharing, investing in disaster risk reduction technologies and infrastructure, and jointly enhancing disaster preparedness and response protocols.
Scientists from China and other countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative agreed to work together to enhance scientific and technological cooperation in disaster prevention and mitigation, according to a joint declaration.
This new collaboration platform aims to make areas along the initiative safer, more sustainable and disaster-proof, according to the declaration published during the event on Sunday, which also marked China's 11th National Disaster Prevention and Reduction Day, an annual campaign which began in 2009 after a devastating earthquake hit Sichuan and neighboring provinces on May 12, 2008, l
The conference also saw the launch of a scientific alliance on international disaster risk reduction, which included around 30 institutions and universities from countries including Italy, Belgium, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The organizers of conference said this alliance will serve as a new platform for international coordination and provide scientific support for disaster relief and sustainable development.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Association for Science and Technology, United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and international scientific partners jointly hosted the International Conference on Silk-roads Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development (SiDRR Conference 2019)
Speakers from various countries discussed issues such as hazard information detection and data sharing mechanisms and physical process, risk analysis and management, monitoring and early warning, disaster prevention and mitigation, emergency management and post-disaster reconstruction, cross-border disasters, sustainable development, milestones
Commenting on climate change effect, Bai Chunli, president of the academy, said in the conference's opening ceremony on Saturday that areas along the Silk Road are prone to various natural disasters that have resulted in massive loss of life and economic damage.
"As a result, it is paramount to use new technologies and international cooperation to jointly tackle these natural disaster risks, protect ecological security and achieve sustainable development," he said.
The academy will continue to collaborate with foreign partners to create new platforms and mechanisms to improve disaster management and ecological protection, he further added.
Mami Mizutori, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, in his remarks said in a video speech that the scale and reach of the world's largest infrastructure initiative will impact billions of people and reshape the physical world, and countries should be mindful of these projects' impact on the environment and inhabitants.
"It is encouraging that the government of China is taking proactive measures to ensure that the development of the Belt and Road Initiative is risk-informed and sustainable," she also added.
"Disaster-proofing the world's largest infrastructure initiative is a challenge, but achievable," she said, adding that at the heart of this challenge lies great potential for innovation and creativity, such as new disaster risk prediction and analysis, and disaster-resilient infrastructures.
Huang Runqiu, vice-minister of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, in his comments said disaster risk reduction of natural hazards along the initiative is crucial for its success and sustainability.
Regions at the heart of the initiative, such as the Tianshan-Pamir Plateau, the Himalayas, eastern parts of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and South Asia, are facing serious disaster threats due to tectonic movements, fragile ecosystems and extreme weather, he said.
Henrik Slotte, a senior disaster management expert from the UN Environment Program, in his remarks said poorly managed infrastructure projects can damage the ecosystem.
He further said it is key for scientists to communicate with government officials to create better planning and new solutions, and more interdisciplinary research into natural disasters and risk management is also helpful.
The Silk Road, beginning in the Han Dynasty (207 BC-220 AD), crosses more than 70 countries and affects some 4.4 billion people (63% of the world). For centuries, the Silk Road has played an essential role in connecting the East and the West, through the exchange of the trade, science, technology and civilization. However, due to active underlying geological structures, including rapid tectonic uplift, climate change, and natural hazards (e.g., earthquakes, landslides, floods, typhoons, tsunamis, etc.) that occur frequently, these conditions place threats on both social development and livelihoods along the Silk Road.
Challenges of disaster management in BRI region
Furthermore, numerous challenges related to disaster risk reduction exist in this area, including a lack of background information and data sharing mechanism, as well as an absence of a scientific risk assessment method, and mitigation countermeasures etc. As a result of this serious situation and integrated with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, there is an urgent need.
China’s initiative for international cooperation in disaster risk reduction along Silk Road
China has taken new initiatives to promote international cooperation in disaster risk reduction and sustainable development along the Silk Road. The action will boost resilience against natural hazards must be improved and an international platform for joint research and information sharing of the field is needed.
Therefore, an international research program for the disaster risk reduction along the Silk Roads is being implemented under the umbrella of SiDRR (Silk-roads Disaster Risk Reduction) by Chinese Academy of Sciences. The implementation of this program will enhance disaster prevention and will contribute to our ability to guarantee the security of livelihood of the affected countries.
By Muhammad Arif
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