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ASEM-EAS Roundtable Meetings on Disaster Rescue

December 04, 2014

Shri Kiren Rijiju, Hon'ble Minister of State for Home Affairs,
Smt Sneh Lata Kumar, Secretary (Border Management),
Dr. Arbind Prasad, Director General, FICCI,
Delegates from East Asia Summit & ASEM member countries,
Representatives from Industry and the Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs to the Roundtable on "Innovations in Technologies for Disaster Rescue Efforts amongst ASEM countries" as well as the "Meeting of the 24x7 Points of Contact of EAS countries" being held at Vigyan Bhawan today and tomorrow.

The Hon'ble Minister of State for Home, who has kindly consented to join us for this morning's Inaugural Session, will also be launching the Virtual Knowledge Portal for EAS countries as well as inaugurating an exhibition put together by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) on "Technology for Disaster Management Efforts".

Today's event is the culmination of over two years of hard work and symbolises the convergence of views among EAS countries on disaster related issues as well as the beginning of sharing of ideas among ASEM countries on this topical theme.

The importance of cooperation in disaster management amongst countries of the region has been acknowledged at the highest levels. At the recent East Asia Summit in Myanmar in November, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi commended the initiatives taken by the EAS in disaster preparedness and response. Other leaders also highlighted the efforts of EAS countries in this field and called for greater cooperation. At the 10th ASEM Summit in Milan in October 2014, leaders expressed appreciation for India's initiative in this vital area of mutual interest.

The countries of the Asia-Pacific are prone to natural disasters due to their geography. Their vulnerability is accentuated by the poor socio-economic conditions that prevail in some parts of the region. India itself is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. About 58.6% of our landmass is prone to earthquakes; over 12% of our landmass is prone to floods; 68% of our cultivable area is susceptible to drought and out of our 7,500 km long coastline, about 5,700 km is prone to cyclones.

Over the centuries, natural disasters have wreaked havoc in various parts of the world, resulting in large scale loss of life, livelihoods, infrastructure and public utilities. Disasters have the destructive potential to reverse years of development in a matter of minutes. There is, therefore, a pressing need to cooperate closely with each other and share experience and expertise on disaster management and mitigation, building rescue and relief capacities, and disseminating more widely technologies and innovations in rescue equipment and techniques amongst stakeholders.

In recent times, India has made strides in improving its disaster related capabilities. It has won kudos for the measures it took in averting excessive damage from Cyclones Phailin and Hudhud in 2013 and 2014.

India has also been engaged with EAS countries, the ASEAN Regional Forum and ASEM in dialogue and cooperation in areas of common concern. It is a regular participant in meetings of ASEAN Cooperation in Disaster Management (ACDM). Disaster management is also one of the six priority areas under EAS.

At the 6th East Asia Summit in 2011, our Prime Minister had proposed that India could host an EAS Workshop on Disaster Management & Relief, following up on which the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) had hosted a two-day workshop in 2012. The workshop resulted in the "Delhi Outcome on Earthquake Risk Reduction," as well as the proposed network of 24 X 7 Points of Contact or POCs, and the idea of setting up a Virtual Knowledge Portal (VKP).

It is indeed heartening to see our ideas materializing into concrete action. The network of POCs among the National Disaster Response Agencies of the 18 EAS countries is envisaged as the first point of contact in case of disasters and seeks to facilitate coordination and speedy response to natural disasters. The VKP is a web based tool for EAS countries to share knowledge and best practices related to natural disaster risk assessment, mitigation and response, and provide web services for multilateral coordination following earthquakes and other natural disasters in the region.

The 11th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in India in November 2013 had also taken cognizance of the increasing frequency and threat of natural disasters, in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines at that time. Ministers had called for greater collaboration and coordination in disaster risk reduction, management and mitigation among ASEM countries. As a result, disaster management was specifically identified as one of the key areas for tangible cooperation amongst ASEM member countries on a voluntary basis. The present roundtable on "Innovations in Technology for Disaster Rescue Efforts" is an important initiative under ASEM in this sector and will focus on technology transfers, promoting partnerships through joint ventures and interface with industry.

NIDM has invited a wide spectrum of participants from EAS & ASEM countries and resource persons from international organizations such as WMO, UNICEF, UNESCAP and UNDP, as well as the ASEAN Secretariat and the EU. We hope that the event will provide an excellent platform to share international best practices, knowledge and experiences from the developed and developing world for the mutual benefit of all participants, on crucial aspects of disaster management like capacity enhancement programmes and best practices, lessons learnt from recent disasters, transfer of technology and joint ventures in the field of disaster management, multi-agency coordination in the face of trans-national disasters, and the role of international organizations in disaster financing.

I would like to thank MHA, which is the nodal Ministry in the field of disaster management efforts in India, as well as the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), for bringing together people from many countries and institutions to deliberate upon this issue of common concern under one roof. Thanks are also due to FICCI for coordinating the presence of industry at the event, as well as hosting the exhibition on disaster management technologies. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to the foreign participants and speakers and wish them productive discussions at the meetings and a memorable stay in Delhi!

Thank you.

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