China to make greater efforts in disaster reduction

08:04, October 14, 2010      

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At the Shanghai Expo and on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, governors, non-governmental organizations and the public agreed that creating better cities meant making them more resilient.

Helena Molin Valdes, deputy director of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), urged governments to make more efforts in disaster reduction and prevention at a forum, "Is Your City Ready?" held at the Expo Wednesday.

Molin Valdes said the UNISDR has launched the "Making Cities Resilient Campaign" with 10 points to be accomplished. The main objectives of the campaign include raising the awareness of citizens and governments at all levels of the benefits of reducing urban risks, identifying budget allocations within local government funding plans to invest in disaster risk reduction activities, and including disaster risk reduction in participatory urban development planning processes and protect critical infrastructure.

Two cities in China, Chengdu in Sichuan Province and Baofeng in Henan Province, have signed to join the campaign, making commitments to reduce urban disaster risks, according to Molin Valdes, and she hoped there would be hundreds of Chinese cities joining the campaign next year.

Molin Valdes said to encourage local governments to invest in disaster reduction, it was important to make local governments' work visible and let the media broadcast it, so that the public could know what was happening.

"And the public will also participate in finding solutions. It's a collaboration between the population and the local government," she said.

The UNISDR will work with China's Ministry of Civil Affairs and Chengdu City to promote the campaign with other cities, she said, adding "We just start to do a plan with Chengdu, and we will organize a forum with local governors next year."

Mao Zhixiong, Assistant Mayor of Chengdu, said at the forum that the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 made people aware about the importance of disaster reduction, including education on disaster prevention and infrastructure construction.

"We will do more to build the city's capacities against disasters," Mao said.

"We have taken measures to ensure the information about risks and response of the government to be delivered to the public as quickly as possible," he said.

Among disaster reduction, relief and reconstruction, Mao said local government should make reduction work a top priority.

Yin Yin Nwe, United Nations Children's Fund Representative and UN Disaster Management Team Chair in China, agreed and said governments should put a lot of resources into preparation and disaster reduction.

"If you are well prepared, you won't need too much in the aftermath," she said.

The UN General Assembly designated the second Wednesday of October as the International Day for Disaster Reduction. The theme of this year's International Day for Disaster Reduction, the 21st year it has been observed, is "making cities resilient."

China plans to invest hundreds of billions of yuan in the next five years reinforcing the country's small and medium-sized dilapidated reservoirs to prevent large flood-triggered geological disasters, said Du Ying, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planning body, in Beijing on Tuesday.

A new mechanism of ecological compensation will also be established to finance these projects, according to Du.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Water Resources, China has invested 64.9 billion yuan (9.72 billion U.S. dollars) in consolidating the country's 9,197 run-down reservoirs since major floods that left more than 4,100 Chinese dead in 1998.

By Monday, floods, landslides and mudslides in China had killed 3,313 people, forced the relocation of 15.7 million people and caused direct economic losses of 369.67 billion yuan (55.36 billion U.S. dollars), according to statistics from the Chinese National Committee for Disaster Reduction and the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In September, the Chinese central government issued a statement stressing the importance of improving river controls and preventing mountain floods in the wake of frequent natural disasters this year.



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