Joint efforts needed to reduce disaster damage and casualties

by Muliarta on 2013-08-23

Indonesia is recommending that members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) work together to reduce economic loss, damage and casualties caused by natural disasters.

In the opening speech of the 7th Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum (SDMOF) in Kuta yesterday, Syamsul Maarif, chairman of Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) stated that natural disasters caused the affected country tremendous economic loss.

Reducing the risk of disaster could be possible by implementing the latest sophisticated technology.

“We have to install the most advanced technology as a warning system and for the prevention of natural disasters. This will ensure capital inflow and investments to disaster-prone areas continue flourishing,” Maarif stated.

One of the most vulnerable areas in Indonesia is West Sumatra, which faces the possibility of earthquakes estimated at 8.9 on the Richter scale.

According to studies released by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in 2012, the Asia-Pacific region has been categorized as the most disaster-prone area in the world.

In the period between 1970 and 2011, around 2 million people died due to natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region, or 75 percent of all disaster casualties globally. In 2011 alone, the region suffered around US$294 billion in losses from disasters, a staggering 80 percent of the world’s disaster-related economic losses that year, as well as 80 percent of the region’s total disaster losses for the decade 2000-2009.

Maarif went further, saying the most daunting task for any country in the region was to bridge the wide gap between the scientific world and real community lives.

“Disaster analysis and prevention schemes are usually based on scientific parameters, which often do not address real conditions in the field and the needs of the affected community.”

“In this forum, we need to share our experiences and expertise on how to reduce the risk of disaster to benefit the people,” he said.

Wide, open access must be developed to allow people from member countries to join disaster prevention teams.

Dody Ruswandy, deputy chairman of BNPB’s Prevention and Preparedness section, admitted that presently facilitating volunteers from APEC member countries was complicated due to tight immigration procedures and time-consuming bureaucracy.

“When a disaster occurs, what we need is a quick emergency response. Therefore, we have to reduce or, if possible, eliminate any obstacles, including immigration ones, to let foreign volunteers and aid into the affected area,” Ruswandy declared.

He further said Indonesia was proposing the need to utilize and share satellite data and information to provide accurate facts on disasters and possible disasters.

Meanwhile, Dr Li Wei Sen, co-chair of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG), warned that collaborative efforts to manage, prevent and reduce disaster risks were of the utmost importance.

“Any disaster will result in a gigantic economic impact on the affected country, such as in Japan [tsunami and earthquake] and Thailand [monsoon flood],” Sen stated.

Japan and Thailand were two of APEC’s most important economic and trade hubs, he said.

He expected the meeting would produce a strong cooperation agreement and recommendations to deal with disaster management, as well as prevention and mitigation efforts among APEC member countries.

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