In the backdrop of the 4th South Asian Forum of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), UNESCAP South Asia and Pacific virtually organised a special dialogue on disaster and climate resilience in South Asia today. The key objectives of the High Level meeting were to identify the opportunities and imperatives to overcome the challenges in implementing the systemic approach to disaster and public health risk management. In addition, other objectives were to formulate the strategies for capitalizing on existing regional and sub-regional cooperation mechanism including the South Asian Forum on SDG to scale up multi-hazard and multi-sectoral preparedness systems for future cascading disasters.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Shri Nityanand Rai addressed the gathering. The other panellists were Mr. Qasim Haidari, Deputy Minister, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Md. Enamur Rahman, State Minister, Bangladesh; Ms. Khadeeja Naseem, Deputy Minister, Maldives; Mr. Malik Amin Aslam Khan, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Government of Pakistan. Opening remarks were given by Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.
In his speech the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Nityanand Rai highlighted that South Asian nations are facing challenges of extreme weather events like floods, cyclone, heat waves, cold waves, landslides and drought as well as COVID-19 pandemic and its recovery. Public health issues are posing an additional challenge to all countries of South Asia. For such situations, we need to have a strong collaborative framework for cooperation. He further said that Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’ s vision for eliminating single-use plastics; expansion of forest cover, improvement and restoration of 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 have already started yielding positive results and India is encouraging a circular economy.
Shri Rai also said that the Prime Minister of India took the initiative for the coalition for resilient infrastructure and announced the global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 held in New York City on 23 September 2019.
He further mentioned that India is also hosting SAARC Disaster Management Centre, it works closely with Universities of SAARC and BIMSTEC member States. The prevailing COVID-19 situation is further increasing vulnerabilities of the region in an exponential manner. Therefore, it is the duty of all of us in the region to not only reduce our own disaster risks but also to promote regional cooperation and mutual help, before, during and after disasters.
Shri Rai affirmed India’s commitment for regional cooperation in making South Asia a resilient region and peaceful place to live. He also congratulated NIDM and ESCAP regional office for holding a joint workshop on managing cascading disaster risk with SAARC and BIMSTEC in September-October 2020.