UN ESCAP launches Drought Monitoring and Early Warning Cooperative Mechanism in Nanjing

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), today launched in to service a Regional Cooperative Mechanism on Drought Monitoring and Early Warning in Nanjing, China.

The Mechanism provides satellite products for general drought monitoring and higher resolution products for identified high drought risk areas, and assists its members in developing localized products and services for relevant decision making. Space capable countries in the region committed to provide satellite information based technical services through the Mechanism, to drought prone ESCAP member countries to help them achieve effective monitoring and early warning of drought events so that the Governments and relevant stakeholders will have more lead time to take measures in preventing drought hazards become major disasters.

“The Mechanism will form one major tool to provide information links and activate provisions of space-based products, soon after a major disaster strikes, to the affected member governments,” said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Executive Secretary of ESCAP in a statement read by Mr. Zengpei Xuan, Director of the Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division of ESCAP, Dr. Heyzer emphasized that the Mechanism will also provide a one-stop information portal where member states can not only draw on technical services, but also to engage ESCAP’s other technical support for the social and economic elements of disaster risk reduction.

The meeting which was being held from 14 to 16 September 2010 was attended by more than 50 officials from 15 countries of the Asian and Pacific region and 5 international organizations with the cooperation of China, India, Republic of Korea and Thailand.

Of all the people in the world that were killed by disasters in 2008, more than 96 per cent were from the Asia-pacific region. Droughts severely affect the Asia-Pacific region. From 1980 to 2009, droughts were the second most devastating disasters only after floods in terms of affected population, with 1.3 billion people affected, and economic losses amounting to US$ 53 billion worldwide.

When droughts occur, agriculture, husbandry, water resources, food security, public health as well as the urban livelihood are severely affected. In 2009, in India, drought affected 10 states during the monsoon season causing farm production to fall by 15 to 20 percent, in China five provinces of southwestern China were affected this year causing losses of more than 23 billion Yuan or US$ 3.3 billion, while the Mekong River reached its lowest level in two decades, entailing extreme suffering to the people along the river.

The Mechanism will help members access the Asia-Pacific Gateway on Disaster Risk Reduction and Development, a regional cooperation initiative bringing together all the stakeholders of disaster risk reduction and management in the Asia-Pacific region. This Gateway will consist of a one stop information portal where member states will exchange knowledge, and obtain ESCAP’s expertise in areas such as the development of policies, and post-disaster assessments of damage and losses.

ESCAP has also started exploring how the modalities established for the drought mechanism can be extended to other disaster types, starting with floods.