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Enhance International Cooperation and Exchange,Joint Hands for Dealing with Natural Disasters
  2009-07-14 09:21  

Enhance International Cooperation and Exchange,
Joint Hands for Dealing with Natural Disasters

——Speech at the Ministerial Roundtable Meeting on Water and Disasters

H. E. CHEN Lei
Minister of Water Resources, P. R. China
March 21, 2009

Today, it is my privilege to attend the Roundtable on Water and Disasters and introduce to you the outcomes of the Special Session “Risk Management of Water Infrastructure Projects Related to Mega Natural Disasters”. First of all, on behalf of the PRC Ministry of Water Resources, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Organization Committee of the World Water Forum and sponsors of the roundtable for their excellent organization and diligent work .

Recent years, extreme climate and resulted disasters are increasing around the world, as is seen in frequent occurrence of floods, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes and other mega natural disasters. All these have attracted great attention from the international community. The fact that the World Water Forum specially organizes the Special Session “Risk Management of Water Infrastructure Projects Related to Mega Natural Disasters” for exchange of experiences, discussion of problems and exploration of strategies fully indicates the great attention that the international community attaches to mega natural disasters and management of hydrological infrastructure. The special session itself is highly appraised by the experts and participants of this Forum.

The special session was organized by China and assisted by many countries and international organizations, including Korea, Japan, Mexico, Indonesia, USA, Netherlands and International Commission on Large Dams. Ministers of seven countries namely Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Mexico, USA and China attended the session and made keynote speeches respectively. Approximately 200 experts and delegates joined the session. Deep discussions were held on the topics of challenges brought by global climate change and mega natural disasters and common actions required for disaster prevention and reduction. Fruitful results are achieved including consensus on the above topics and proposals for future cooperation.

It is widely understood during the session that both prevention of mega natural disasters and strengthening risk management of hydrological infrastructures are key issues confronted by all countries in the world. Recent years, global climate change has intensified,extreme weather events are on the rise and mega natural disasters frequently occur, all of which have resulted in heavy losses and casualties. The 2002 flood in Europe, the 2004 tsunami in the India Ocean, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in USA, and the 2008 massive earthquake and its secondary disasters in China all left the human world with indelible pains. Under the context of rapid population growth, and accelerated urbanization, industrialization and informatization, the current society becomes increasingly fragile to mega disasters, consequently resulting in more difficulties in enhancing level of safety. Water infrastructures are crucial means for us to upgrade disaster relief capacity and achieve sustainable development. However, water infrastructures themselves might be damaged in case of mega natural disasters. Therefore, great challenges are encountered for safeguarding water infrastructures and risk management at the same time. Furthermore, different localities in the world feature different disasters and diverse social and economic development levels, which further add to the complexity of the problem. Defense against mega natural disasters and risk management of water infrastructures are not only pressing tasks at present but also long-term arduous missions for years to come.

It is widely understood during the session that integrated measures need to be adopted for the prevention of mega natural disasters and risk management of water infrastructures.

Firstly legal framework for disaster prevention and reduction needs to be improved by coordinating interests of all stakeholders, considering public interests and regulating actions of disaster reduction, so that rule by law will be realized in disaster prevention and reduction and risk management of water infrastructures.

Secondly improvement of institutional system of disaster prevention and reduction is needed for strengthening capacity of disaster relief headquarters and management of water infrastructures, by clarifying functions and duties and enhancing working efficiency.

Thirdly structural measures for disaster prevention and reduction need to be reinforced. The structures with proper layout, up-to-standard and timely maintenance and safe in operation are necessary for eliminating and preventing disasters, by taking the local conditions into full consideration.

Fourthly build disaster prevention and reduction security system. Accurate disaster forecasting and extend time of forecast needs to be highlighted; tools for communication and commanding needs to be upgraded, emergency response mechanism and inter-department cooperation needs to be improved for combating disasters in a united manner.

Fifthly disaster prevention and reduction authorities need to build up their capacity of responding to emergencies.  Emergency response planning should be reinforced from the grass-roots level; protocols for emergency response should be defined and professional training should be organized for relevant personnel.

Sixthly knowledge extension and education need to be strengthened, so as to increase public awareness for proactive prevention and reduction of disasters and self-relief ability of the public, so as to avoid casualties and minimize losses caused by disasters.

It is widely understood during the session that international cooperation in terms of following steps are necessary for prevention of mega natural disasters and risk management of water infrastructures.

· High-level exchange and communication for improving mutual understanding and build trust are crucial, together with studies on policies and strategies and finding solutions for bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

· Technical innovation and close cooperation in the fields of flood control and disaster reduction, drought relief and water supply, as well as protection of water environment is vital, together with research and development of new technologies, materials and equipment that will be widely applied and extended.

· Joint studies on prediction and forecasting of global climate change and mage emergency events are essential for accurate forecasting and extending of forecasting period.

· Technical exchange and personnel training in ways of organizing seminars on a regular or non-regular basis for learning lessens and experiences from each other and conducting in-depth discussions on issues of common interests; Technical training is beneficial for enhancing quality and capacity of working staff. For this purpose, the special session proposed to establish an international exchange platform for mega natural disasters as soon as possible, for a closer cooperation in disaster prevention and relief, realizing share of information, popularizing of advanced and practical technologies, and laying a more effective international cooperation mechanism.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Due to frequent and severe natural disasters, China depends heavily on water infrastructures for its stable, coordinated and rapid development. For decades, China has carried out substantial effective work in the construction of water projects and reduction of natural disasters, accumulated rich experiences and made remarkable achievements thereof. We are more than happy to join hands with all other countries to enhance cooperation and exchange, share achievements and experiences, and jointly address water and disaster issues. I am confident that through concerted efforts of the whole world, we will make great progress in disaster prevention and reduction and thereby contribute more to the ambition of safeguarding people’s lives and properties and harmonious world.