Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Nityanand Rai today attended the UNESCAP Regional Conversation Series 2021: Ministerial Panel on Disaster, Climate and Health Resilience, through video conferencing. The conference was also attended by ministers from Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea and Thailand.
In his address, Shri Nityanand Rai said that the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi always believes in working in and with cooperation with the world. Shri Rai said that we are all in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters like tropical cyclones, floods, landslides in the midst of the pandemic have multiplied the hardships and sufferings of our peoples, particularly the poor and vulnerable segment of our populations.
The Union Minister of State said that he would like to share a few key lessons and experiences from India that may help build a resilient future in the Asia-Pacific region. He said that there is much to be satisfied with from India’s achievements in the area of Disaster Risk Management over the last two decades. He said that there is a need to direct more efforts towards reducing the risk of losses from known disasters while on the other, we must be prepared for the less understood or unexpected disaster risks. Shri Rai said that COVID-19 has shown us the power of uncontrolled disaster and it has revealed how impacts can escalate quickly. Referring to natural disasters, the Minister said that the way Climate Change is taking place, it can result in many losses to nature and humans, due to its negative impacts.
Sharing India’s experiences in handling challenge of COVID-19, the Minister said that India is actively engaged in addressing this global challenge with the global community and will continue to stand with the global community.
He said that, in India, the awareness and supervision of environment has existed since ancient times. A verse from the Rig-Veda states that “Environment provides bliss to people leading their life perfectly. Rivers bless us with sacred water and provide us health, night, morning, vegetation. The Sun blesses us with peaceful life. Our cows provide us milk”.
He said that in November 2016, in the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, highlighted a 10-Point Agenda on Disaster Risk Reduction that encompassed tools and approaches to address critical challenges in achieving sustainable development objectives and renewed efforts towards DRR.
The Minister said that India has a predictable way of financing all aspects of a disaster risk management cycle. We now have dedicated resources for the entire complement of disaster mitigation, preparedness, relief and rescue, as well as recovery and reconstruction.
The Union Minister of State said that at the global level, the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi announced a global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) on 23 September 2019 at the UN Climate Action Summit.
In March this year, during the International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (ICDRI), Prime Minister Modi called for a need to foster a global ecosystem that supports innovation in all parts of the world, and its transfer to places that are most in need. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, “Infrastructure is developed for the long term. If we make it resilient, we will prevent disasters not only for ourselves, but many future generations. We should look at losses holistically. Indirect losses due to disruptions to small businesses and interrupted schooling of children maybe several times higher. We need the right accounting perspective for a holistic evolution of the situation. If we make our infrastructure resilient, we will reduce both direct and indirect losses and protect the livelihoods of millions”.
The Minister said that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us how to reduce disaster risks and what procedures need to be followed and what changes need to be made. The global crisis brought lessons due to which multi-agency and cross-sectoral governance bodies became activated with the support of political leaders. Now, the challenge is to build on these multi-sectoral models and pivot towards prevention by institutionalizing these ad hoc arrangements into forward looking, multi-hazard risk governance mechanisms. We need to continue with greater efforts now to mitigate the challenge.
India’s ‘unprecedented, private, national and international initiative’ to control this pandemic is in line with the UN Secretary General’s call.
He said that the UNESCAP and the UN system can play an important role in international health supervision which can monitor infectious diseases and share information with various countries.
Speaking about cooperation between SAARC countries, the Minister said that over the past six years, India has been increasingly promoting regional co-operation for disaster risk reduction within frameworks like SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral and Technical Cooperation), Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Forum for India Pacific Island Cooperation among others. The Indian Meteorological Department forms the backbone of support to WMO/ECAP Panel on Tropical Cyclone to provide operational and research support to manage tropical cyclones and coastal hazards in South Asia.
The Minister said that he would like to refer to UNESCAP’s Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019 that highlights a substantial increase in flood-related losses, with problems expected to become worse by 2030. The report informs that under the severe Climate Change scenario in Asia, India will be the worst affected, with annual losses of nearly $50 billion.
Calling upon the UNESCAP to take some steps for managing floods in a changing climate, the Minister said that the regional platform for the management of floods and droughts in multi-hazard risk hotspots is a part of the UNESCAP’s core mandate. He also suggested developing a regional co-operation mechanism for managing trans-boundary floods and assured that the Government of India will extend all necessary support including through institutions in this endeavour.
The Minister highlighted an urgent need to protect communities and natural habitats as a key agenda item for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 26. He said that finding solutions to address unprecedented levels of flooding is crucial for accelerating climate adaptation and resilience pathways.
He said that Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has stated – “We must move towards a zero-defect and zero-effect system. Zero-defect in production with no adverse effect on the environment”
We must embrace knowledge and share experiences as essential elements of building resilience. COVID-19 has brought forth the inter-connected nature of our world. Hence, we must pursue resilience at home as well as in the global systems. He expressed hope that this regional conversation will help to open-up newer opportunities for managing systemic and complex disasters including the pandemic.