Handover of the Sittwe Seismic Station from ESCAP to the Government of Myanmar

Remarks as Delivered by Dr. Noeleen Heyzer
United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Executive Secretary of
the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General for Timor-Leste

Handover of Sittwe Seismic Station
During ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction, third session
Bangkok, Thailand, 27 November 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to use the occasion of this meeting to mark the official handover of the Sittwe seismic station from ESCAP to the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

The station was completed in 2010, as part of a project funded by the ESCAP Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster, and Climate Preparedness, and implemented by RIMES.

Located close to the fault zone where the Burma tectonic plate meets the India plate, it has a central place in our tsunami warning system – not just nationally but also regionally.

The Sittwe station uses highly sophisticated sensors to detect earthquakes in Myanmar and across the region, and automatically sends this information to national and regional centers for further analysis. In this way, the station helps ensure that vital information on potentially tsunami-generating earthquakes is quickly shared, so that timely warnings can be issued to save lives and property.

Since 2010, RIMES and other partners have worked with the Myanmar Government’s Department for Meteorology and Hydrology – the DMH – to build up the national capacity and expertise required to take over the ownership and the responsibility for operating and maintaining the station.

I am very pleased that we have now reached this milestone, where the Government stands ready to assume control of this key facility, and I would like to commend RIMES and the DMH for their close collaboration.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The strengthening of early warning systems is now considered an integral part of efforts to reduce disaster risk across the region. But it was not always so.

In 2004, when the Indian Ocean Tsunami struck many countries with devastating consequences, early warning systems were inadequate at the regional, national and local levels, and Myanmar was no exception.

Significant progress has now been made, however, across the region, and ESCAP is proud to have played an active role in this development, particularly through the ESCAP Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster, and Climate Preparedness.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In addition to the transfer of the seismic station, I am pleased to announce today a newly-approved ESCAP Trust Fund project that will further strengthen the early warning capacity of Myanmar and the DMH in particular.

This project has a total budget of US$ 705 000 and will be implemented by RIMES. It constitutes a second phase in ESCAP’s support to strengthen Myanmar’s early warning systems and their regional contributions.

The new project will help to increase the capacity of the National Earthquake and Data Center to a level that meets the UNESCO/IOC standards for national tsunami warning centers, including by establishing a joint electronic platform for analysis of information from all the main seismic stations in Myanmar.

ESCAP is grateful to the donors of the Trust Fund, most notably Thailand and Sweden, but also Turkey, the Philippines, Nepal, and Bangladesh, for their very generous support.

In closing, the seismic station in Sittwe is a practical example of how Governments and international organizations can work together in partnership in order to build resilience, protect property, and save lives.

I thank you.