Special session on tsunami early warning system to be held at UN World Disaster Reduction ConferenceThe establishment of a tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean will be the subject of a special session organized by UNESCO and the Japanese Meteorological Agency at the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR), which opens in Kobe (Japan) Tuesday, January 18.
For this session, UNESCO will bring together institutional partners, specialized agencies and donors who have offered support to set up an early warning system. They will discuss the blueprint for an Indian Ocean alert system announced by UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura earlier last week. They will also set up the framework to ensure effective coordination between the various partners involved in the implementation of the system, and the efficient use of resources to avoid duplication.
The UNESCO strategy presented by the Director-General foresees the implementation of an early warning system for the Indian Ocean by June 2006, and a worldwide alert system by June 2007. It is based largely on an effort to have a fast track transfer of the knowledge and experience gained operating the tsunami early warning system for the Pacific, initiated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in 1965.
“The estimated cost of the scientific infrastructure for the Indian Ocean system – including deep water buoys, tide gauges and a regional tsunami alert centre – is about $30 million,” Mr Matsuura said. “The annual maintenance costs for a regional warning system would probably be in the order of one to two million dollars,” he added. The costs for establishing and maintaining such systems at the national level would be additional.
Launching the new strategy at the Mauritius International Meeting on Small Island Developing States on January 12, Mr Matsuura stressed the importance of collaboration in undertaking such a project and said that UNESCO would be working closely with key institutional partners such as the UN World Meteorological Organization, donor countries and national authorities.
UNESCO is also organizing three other sessions at the Kobe conference: i) education for sustainable development: towards effective disaster reduction and enhancing human security; ii) cultural heritage risk management; iii) new international initiatives for research and risk mitigation of floods and landslides.
In cooperation with the Kyoto University, the Organization will also launch, during the conference, a report entitled “Disaster Reduction and Human Security: Education for Sustainable Development. Case Studies and Best Practices.”
UNESCO has a long experience in the area of natural disaster reduction and has many programmes in place that deal in one way or another with the study of natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods and tsunamis) and the mitigation of their effects. In this field the Organization seeks to: promote a better understanding of the distribution in time and location of natural hazards and their intensity; to help set up reliable seismological stations and networks and early warning systems for volcanic eruptions and tsunamis; to foster the adoption of suitable building design; to protect educational buildings and cultural monuments; to strengthen environmental protection for the prevention of natural disasters; to enhance preparedness and public awareness through education and training, communication and information; and to foster post-disaster scientific and technical investigation.