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Japan shares lessons of Fukushima

Monday, March 23rd, 2015
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SUVENDRINI KAKUCHI in SENDAI, JAPAN

Having suffered the tragedy of the 2011 earthquake-tidal wave-nuclear disaster, Japan is trying to pass the lessons it learnt in disaster prevention and preparedness to developing countries around the world and has pledged $4 billion over the next four years.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Mahendra Pandey led an official delegation to the Third United Nations Disaster Conference that was held in this northern Japanese town last week. Nepal’s disaster management experts were among 5,000 delegates from around the world.

“The conference opened a major new chapter as it outlines clear targets and priorities for action for disaster risk reduction as it links to sustainable development goals,” Margereta Wahlstroem, the UN secretary general`s special representative told the Sendai conference.

Sendai city, the location of the major conference, is the heart of the Tohoku or northern region in Japan where a devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 killed more than 15,000 people and created almost a million evacuees.

A survivor of Tohoku earthquake and tsunami at her newly opened fish shop.

 A survivor of Tokohoku disaster at her newly opened fish shop.

Japan is keen to turn this tragic event into an opportunity to bring global attention to disasters and the importance of prevention. The international conference brought experts, environmentalists and political leaders together ended with a disaster prevention framework for the future.

Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe in his welcome speech noted the increasing risks brought by climate change to the environment. He offered $4 billion in aid to enhance disaster management in countries over four years through the exchange of disaster reduction technology. He also pledged told to train a total of 40,000 experts across the globe on disaster prevention and reconstruction from natural calamities.

There were no numerical targets set in the newly announced initiative that was termed Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030. The document, mindful of the desire for economic growth among developing countries, instead pledged a commitment for sustained aid to support risk reduction.

Between 2000 and 2012 some 1.2 million people were killed by natural calamities around the world – 90 per cent of them were from vulnerable low-income communities who live in areas affected by climate change.

Japan, a disaster prone country facing earthquakes and tsunamis and other hazards, has developed cutting edge risk reduction technologies to reduce human losses and damage.  The island country is also a leading provider of emergency funds and skilled staff who are dispatched to assist disasters around the world.

A section at the conference featured new technology developed by Japanese companies from the use of state-of the art renewable energy technology, safe shelters such as small capsule houses that can float in water during floods and also new earthquake resistant building techniques and vehicle driving over heavy debris to rescue lives or bring aid to people.

Small shelter houses that can float in water during floods.

Small shelter houses that can float in water during floods.

Companies that are supported through Japanese government subsidies have developed these technologies. “The policy has nurtured a new boom in innovative disaster resistant technology that can be shared globally,” explained Professor Toshihiko Nakata, from the management, science and technology department.

But Akiko Sugawara, chairman of the Kesennuma Chamber of Commerce and Industry, explained technology alone is not sufficient to build a resilient town.

“Apart from disaster mitigation technology, we have spent funds for developing disaster reduction education for the communities in this the tsunami devastated town. This is the way to build a sustainable programme,” he said.

Grass-root organizations also announced lessons learned after the Fukushima nuclear accident that has forced the evacuation of more than 200,000 families to escape life-threatening radiation exposure spewing from the tsunami destroyed plant.

Professor Masaaki Ohashi, who lead the publication of the booklet, ‘10 lessons from Fukushima’ pointed out no existing technology is available to mitigate the risk of a man-made nuclear disaster. He warned against the export of nuclear energy technology to developing countries as a prime lesson from Fukushima.

 

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