India's Prime Minster, Mr. Narendra Modi, delivering the inaugural address to the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction today in New Delhi, watched by UNISDR Chief, Mr. Robert Glasser (Photo: UNISDR)
By Denis McClean
NEW DELHI, 3 November 2016 - The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, today urged participants in the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction “to wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of Sendai, which calls for an all-of-society approach to disaster risk management.”
In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister said: “In India, we are committed to walk the talk on the implementation of Sendai Framework. In June this year, India’s National Disaster Management Plan was released which is aligned with the priorities set out in the Sendai Framework.
“In our effort to build disaster resilience, we stand shoulder to shoulder with all the nations of the region. Regional and International Cooperation has an important role in providing an added push to our efforts.”
Mr. Modi hailed it as a landmark conference, the first to take place in the world’s most disaster-prone region since the adoption of the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework.
The Conference was timely after a year, 2015, which saw the adoption of three interconnected agreements, the Sendai Framework, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The Prime Minister observed that hundreds of millions of people had been lifted out of poverty in the Asia-Pacific region over the last twenty years but at the same time over 850,000 people had died in disasters.
He recalled the suffering of those who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the 2001 Gujarat earthquake when he was Chief Minister for the State. The Prime Minister said the experience had given him a great respect for the value of local leaders.
“It was distressing to see the suffering of the affected people. But I was also inspired by their courage, ingenuity and resolve to recover from the disaster. In my experience, the more we relied on people’s own leadership, the better were the outcomes.”
He continued. “We in Asia have learnt from disasters. A quarter century ago, only a handful of Asian nations had national disaster management institutions. Today, over thirty Asian countries have dedicated institutions leading disaster risk management efforts. After the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, the five worst affected countries brought in new laws for disaster risk management.”
Mr. Modi said the first World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5 should be an occasion to celebrate the huge improvements made in tsunami early warning with the adoption of the Indian Ocean tsunami warning system. Great improvements had also taken place in both India and Bangladesh in reducing loss of life from cyclones.
He drew attention to the fact that “urbanization will pose greater challenges for disaster risk management, by concentrating people, property and economic activity in smaller areas, many of them in disaster prone locations. If we do not manage this growth, in terms of both planning and execution, the risk of economic and human losses from disasters will be higher than ever before.”
He then listed his ten point agenda for disaster risk management. All public expenditure must take into account risk considerations especially critical infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals; affordable risk insurance for all was needed, especially for the poor; greater involvement and leadership of women; increased risk mapping; an e-platform for exchange of expertise and knowledge; and a network of universities to work on disaster issues.
The Prime Minister said he would also like to see greater attention to the development of disaster risk management apps for use on social media; more localization of disaster risk reduction, among other things to ensure use of indigenous knowledge; more effort should go into ensuring that lessons learned from disasters are applied and lead to stronger institutions; and there needs to be greater cohesion in the international response to disasters.
As implementation of the Sendia Framework continues, India would welcome new opportunities for regional and international collaboration.
In 2015, India organized the first South Asian Annual Disaster Management Exercise. As it prepares to launch its new South Asia Satellite, Indian was willing to make its space capabilities available to any country for purposes of disaster risk management.
The Prime Minister concluded: “I am sure, this conference will energize our efforts and the outcomes of the conference will provide a solid blueprint for collective action.”