UNESCO plans global tsunami warning system for mid-2007UNESCO is working towards the establishment of a global tsunami warning system that would be operational by June 2007, said UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura. Speaking at a press conference at the Mauritius International Meeting on Small Island Developing States on Wednesday, Mr Matsuura said that assessment missions are already being undertaken to concerned countries as a step towards the creation of the first regional component of the global system, in the Indian Ocean, foreseen for June 2006.
“The estimated cost of the scientific infrastructure for the Indian Ocean system with a regional centre and properly equipped national centres is about $30 million,” Mr Matsuura said. “The annual maintenance costs of a regional centre would probably be in the order of one to two million dollars, he added.”
The Director-General said that two meetings of experts will be held in March to analyze the recent Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and to look at exactly what will be required for a global alert system. They will also seek to harmonize all international efforts being made towards the establishment of the Indian Ocean early warning system.
“Plans for the Indian Ocean component should be finalized in June at the annual meeting of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)”, Mr Matsuura said. The IOC initiated the successful International Tsunami Warning System for the Pacific, which “has undoubtedly saved many lives over the past four decades of its existence,” the Director-General said.
“We have learned some important lessons and gained much experience in the Pacific, and this will prove invaluable in setting up a new global system,” Mr Matsuura said.
The Director-General stressed the importance of collaboration in undertaking such a project and said that UNESCO would be working closely with key institutional partners like the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and other international partners, donor countries and national authorities.
“The role of the latter,” he said, “is crucial in the success of any alert system. It is up to the authorities in individual countries to set up the communication networks needed to ensure that information on tsunami, and other natural disasters, reaches threatened populations. They are also responsible for education and awareness-raising programmes to inform people about the actions they can take to save lives and limit the damage of such disasters.”
“UNESCO will do everything in its power to help nations develop their disaster preparedness,” Mr Matsuura said. “The Organization has already produced a wide range of materials for school children and teachers in the Pacific, which could be adapted for other regions of the world,” he added.
Photo © Digital/Global: Banda Aceh, before and after 26 December 2004.