State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi addressed an event commemorating the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR) held with the theme “Build to Last” at the Myanmar International Convention Centre II (MICC-II) yesterday morning.
Speaking on the occasion the State Counsellor said that it was necessary to give some explanation about natural disasters at this event. All over the world, whenever there was a natural disaster there was some dissatisfaction against responsible persons. At the day’s event the people were informed firstly that the government thinks about the disaster affected people and made it a priority to coordinate with regional governments toward rapid restoration and development of their lives. In addition to this the government considers “People’s hurts as its own” and strives toward mitigating and relieving the affects while providing necessary support.
To go back to a few background facts about IDDRR, October 13 was designated as IDDRR by UN Resolution 64/200 at the 2009 UN General Assembly.
Starting from 2010, it was commemorated in the country on 13 October with information works related to natural disasters but this year the day coincided with Buddhist Thadingyut Fullmoon day. So it was commemorated instead on 18 October.
Themes were designated each year and this year’s theme was “Build to Last.” This theme came about from the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan in 2015.
The conference drew up the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and designated seven targets. Starting from 2016 the seven goals were one by one designated as the theme for IDDRR.
This year’s theme was the fourth target, Target D to “Substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services.” The year to accomplish this target was set as 2030 but the sooner it is achieved, the better it would be.
Everyone knew that Myanmar had been badly affected by natural disasters. Cyclone Nargis on 2 and 3 May 2008 caused losses in lives and properties. The effects of this cyclone were still being felt to date.
In the ASEAN region the 2004 Indonesia earthquake and tsunami, 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines were in the list of the world’s worsts natural disasters. During the last 30 years natural disasters in the ASEAN region had caused damages and losses amounting to about US$ 133 billon.
Natural disasters due to climate changes were hard to predict. The number of occurrences as well as the severity increases. Worse still was the fact that natural disasters were border less as a natural disaster in a country becomes a challenge to the neighboring country.
Looking at it from a worldwide perspective a total of 394 natural disasters occurred in 2018 and most of them occurred in the Asia region. There were 10,300 fatalities and economic losses amounting to about US$ 66 billion.
Last year a total of about 17.3 million people were displaced by climate related natural disasters.
Countries that lagged behind in development tended to have six times more people hurt and affected, loss of homes, displacements, emergency assistance required from natural disasters than the developed countries. Losses due to natural disasters for poor people were so severe to be unrecoverable.
On the other hand, progress and development took time but these were destroyed within minutes of a natural disaster. At the moment, earthquakes and tsunamis were most dangerous and most destructive. Earthquakes caused the highest fatalities followed by typhoon and flooding.
In Myanmar, Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw were most populated and urbanized and were on an earth quake fault line of the mid to severe zone. As such awareness works and emergency exercises need to be conducted in a wide ranging way.
It was also important to construct strong structures for public related basic infrastructures, schools and hospitals. If these structures were strong enough to withstand the disaster, it would save the lives of the people in the structure as well as for works to be continued without disruption. These structures would continue to provide services to the affected people.
Construction systems that can withstand natural disaster must be used to construct not only public structures but also private structures too. Constructing tall buildings in flood prone areas, including emergency exits in the upper levels of the buildings, having strong roofs and strengthening the structure of the building need to be conducted.
A preparation and response program for earthquakes has been recently approved and it was important for all relevant organizations to implement it. As soon as advance warning and information on a natural disaster was received, all organizations in the effected regions need to start counter measures systematically and in coordination. Standard Operating Procedures drawn up to respond to the natural disaster were to be reviewed in accordance with the changing climate.
Nowadays region wise disasters were on the rise and it was important for Fire Service Department, Myanmar Police Force, the Tatmadaw, Myanmar Red Cross as well as civil society organizations to effectively cooperate and work with the people. Capacities of these organizations need to be raised.
As mentioned earlier, natural disasters could not be prevented. Due to climate change, natural disasters were becoming a regular occurrence and more efforts must be made for preparation. Living and working styles need to be changed to be in accord with climate change and natural disasters. Most losses caused by natural disasters were in housing, road transport, agriculture and livestock breeding sectors.
The cause of this can be concluded due to our structures being not strong enough. Officials as well as private business persons need to understand that investment in strong infrastructures are not wasted. Not only the construction method but urban development programs were to be conducted with a view towards future occurrence of natural disasters.
Today, it could not be said that disaster would not occur because it had never happened before. The obvious examples were flooding, landslides that occurred last year and this year in Mon State and Taninthayi Region. Even if it did not happen at the present, look ahead and have working procedures ready to face it. For example, play grounds, parks and sport grounds were to be used as assembly points or places of refuge when disasters struck. Urban plans should include this in order to face natural disasters when they occurred.
Another important point was the construction of new structures to withstand disasters as well as to strengthen existing structures to reduce damage and losses. It was noted with sadness that invaluable and priceless cultural and natural heritages were lost from natural and human created disasters. Historical and cultural heritages were to be continuously checked and maintained to prevent them from being lost to disasters.
As mentioned earlier, countries lagging behind in development face the effect of natural disaster more. Development of a country could prevent and mitigate the damage and loss to its people from natural disaster. At the same time, development works could also invite disasters.
If dams and reservoirs constructed for development were not strong, follow up danger from natural disasters would have to be faced. Therefore it was important for development programs to be able to withstand against disasters.
This event was held with the aim of informing the public and relevant people involved about this important subject. It was important and necessary to increase preparation and protection from the effect of natural disasters from the individual, household and national level to world level.
In conclusion, the Myanmar word for “strong and durable” is a good example. Whatever was constructed needed to be strong. Constructions need to be conducted to reduce losses and damages from natural disasters.
The recent natural disaster in Japan was a lesson for the world. Japan was a country that was at the top in withstanding natural disasters. Let us instill in us the desire to provide help and assistance for any natural disaster that occurred in the world, said the State Counsellor.
Next, a message sent by the UN secretary general to the IDDRR event was read by UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Resident Representative Ms Marine Spaak followed by screening of a video record of IDDRR.
Afterwards State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi took commemorative group photos together with event attendees and then inspected the natural disaster exhibit, photo record of relief and rescue works and natural disaster response work equipment of the Disaster Management Department and Fire Services Department
Later IDDRR round table talk was held on natural disaster resistant vocational work, construction of child friendly school and structure and redevelopment of natural disaster affected region led by a consultant group on natural disaster management with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation; Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement; the Myanmar Engineering Society and the UNDP Project Officer Mr Hung Ling. The event was attended by Natural Disaster Management Committee Chairman Vice President U Henry Van Thio, Union Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Hluttaw representatives, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Assistant Coordinator, departmental heads, ambassadors and representatives from international organizations, civil society organizations and private sector disaster management organizations. — MNA (Translated by Zaw Min)