Kamal Kishore has been working as Programme Advisor with the Disaster Reduction and Recovery Team of UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery since July 2007. He is currently based in New York and is responsible for providing coherence to UNDP's global portfolio on disaster risk reduction and strengthening its practice globally within UNDP.
12 Mar 2012
One year ago, a major earthquake struck off Japan's northeastern coast, causing a devastating tsunami.
A massive tidal wave followed, overwhelming some of the tsunami protection systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, killing thousands of people and forcing 100,000 more from their homes.
While radiation at the nuclear site has now been contained, it will take years to decommission the plant and gauge the radiation impact it has had. Three simultaneous major disasters—earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leak—this was a crisis without precedent.
Japanese authorities drew sharp criticism from domestic constituencies.
But we must recognize that some parts of the Japanese disaster management system worked well, preventing losses of an inconceivable magnitude as might have occurred in many other countries.
In earthquake-stricken areas, trains came properly to a halt, electrical systems shut down, people were evacuated, lives and property largely survived. Most of the damage stemmed from the tsunami and nuclear leakage.
The lessons from Japan are complex:
Japan has developed disaster risk reduction systems – building codes, systems for implementation of buildings codes, emergency response systems, and public awareness of disasters, painstakingly over several decades. This investment has paid off.
Take Indonesia as another example reinforcing this message: A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Aceh on 10 January this year, but this did not result in significant damage or casualties. This was due largely to the active stance the Government has taken on disaster risk reduction.
Aceh bore the most brunt of the Asia-Pacific tsunami in 2004 that killed 180,000. As part of its recovery, Indonesia made conscious efforts investing in the formation of local-level disaster management agencies, the training of volunteer disaster responders and creation of a disaster management plan and map demarcating high-risk areas – which influenced reconstruction.
Global strategic preparedness is essential.
Even when countries are well prepared for natural disasters, some scenarios are unimaginable and overwhelming. No country can deal with this alone. The world must continually expand its capacity to respond. As part of its membership in the UN Inter- Agency Standing Committee-- a unique inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners— UNDP, UNICEF, OCHA, WFP, UNHCR and other agencies are focusing on building the international system's preparedness to respond to large scale disasters in selected high risk countries. This is important work and will continue to grow over the years.
Expect the unexpected.
Japan was indeed prepared for a tsunami—it was prepared for a once-in-200-years tsunami. It wasn’t prepared for a once-in-a-millennium tsunami. Can officials invest in reducing the risk of an event that might or might not occur in the lifetime of their great-grandchildren? If a nuclear reactor is involved, they clearly must.
About the Author
- #SDG10 Reduced Inequalities Giving voice to different ideas and finding synergies to promote sustainable projects is one way to advance an inclusive and equitable 2030 Agenda. Today at the final session of The Global Summit 2016 four themes were covered in this matter: Thriving Cities, Whole Health, Climate Economics and Education for All. #EmpoweringHumanity #TGSV #2030Agenda #SDGs Programa das Nações Unidas para o Desenvolvimento - PNUD Brasil United Nations Development Programme - UNDP Museu de Ciências da Terra Impact Hub Rio Criativo Empowerment Works 2 hours ago
- On Women's Equality Day, we want to give an enormous "Thank You!" to those organizations who participated in MIUSA's 2016 Gender, Disability and Development Institute (GDDI). These organizations recognize that there cannot be equality until women and girls with disabilities are included as participants and leaders in international development programming. #womensequalityday Photo descriptions: 1. WILD delegates Ballah and Jemimah visit with Bertra McGann of Management Sciences for Health (photo by Darcy Kiefel, www.kiefelphotography.com) 2. WILD delegate Anjana reviews the WILD manual with Jocelyn Lehrer of USAID - US Agency for International Development (photo by Darcy Kiefel, www.kiefelphotography.com) 3. Chandi Kadirgamar of the United Nations Development Programme - UNDP addresses the group. She holds a microphone in one hand and raises the other. Photo by Viktoria Midelauri 4. Allen Neece of the Peace Corps participates in a discussion with WILD delegates and MIUSA staff while a sign language interpreter interprets. Photo by Viktoria Midelauri 5. Boram Lee from Women's Refugee Commission shares a USB drive of electronic resources with WILD delegate Boikhutso, who holds a white cane. Photo by Viktoria Midelauri 6. WILD delegate Janice snaps a glamorous photo with Ivana Rosas of Global Fund for Women. Photo by Viktoria Midelauri 7. Viktoria Midelauri from World Vision Georgia takes a break from her photography to join hands with WILD delegate Camy. Photo courtesy of Viktoria Midelauri 8 hours ago
- "See more posts on"Facebook