In the wake of tragic disasters such as the Wenchuan and Yushu earthquakes, China has been very active in enhancing its disaster risk management capabilities.
By Denis McClean
GENEVA, 4 July 2014
- China has succeeded in keeping its direct economic losses from disasters to within a target of 1.5% of GDP for three consecutive years, according to a new film which celebrates the country’s achievements in implementing the five priorities of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), the global blueprint for reducing disaster losses adopted in 2005 by all UN member States.
Based on the statistics presented here, China ranks as the most disaster-prone nation on earth. Over the last 20 years, the average annual death toll has been 4,000. In any given year 2.8 million houses collapse and 10 million people have to be relocated.
Several disaster events can affect the same individuals and families in parts of the country exposed to multi-hazards which accounts for a figure of 400 million cases each year of people affected by disasters including floods, earthquakes, storms, snow storms and heat-waves.
China has been an enthusiastic backer of the HFA ever since it was adopted by all UN Member States in 2005, a year marked by mega-disasters including the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake and Hurricane Katrina.
With the HFA due for an overhaul at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction next March, the Chinese are leading the charge to celebrate how the HFA has helped to change attitudes and policies towards disaster risk management over the last decade.
This dramatic 16-minute film highlights China’s vigorous promotion of the HFA through all strands of the nation’s life, urban and rural, industrial and agricultural, young and elderly.
A key turning point was the adoption in 2007 of the 11th Five-Year-Plan for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Reduction which required local governments to include disaster risk reduction in their economic and social development plans.
This was followed in 2011, by a revised plan which set a target of no more than 1.5% of GDP for direct economic losses from disasters. This has been accompanied by huge investments in earthquake proof buildings including over nine million houses for 40 million people and 375,000 primary and middle schools.
There has also been a strong focus on river management and some large rivers have been strengthened to withstand once-a-century flooding.
In the wake of tragic disasters such as the Wenchuan and Yushu earthquakes, a National Disaster Loss Assessment Index was created with the aim of ensuring speedy disaster assessments and minimal delays in drawing up comprehensive reconstruction plans.
China has also invested heavily in technology including GIS, satellite and aerial surveillance to improve disaster preparedness and response. There are also now over 5,000 model DRR projects engaging people at local level in practical initiatives to reduce exposure to disaster risk; other towns and communities are encouraged to emulate these examples of best practice.