Turn Science to DRRM Practice, Legarda Says in IRDR Conference in Beijing

June 7, 2014

Senator Loren Legarda highlighted the challenge of translating knowledge into practice to effectively manage disasters and reduce risks, during her opening keynote speech today at the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) Conference 2014 in Beijing, China.


Legarda, UNISDR Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in Asia-Pacific, said that the overflowing information and statistics on natural hazards, disaster risks and climate change should be communicated to and understood by governments and communities to be able to make science work towards building resilient communities.


“It is not enough that climate scientists know the risks. Governments, local leaders and the people on the ground should understand the vulnerability of their communities and be equipped with options, resources and the tools to enable them to become drivers of action in their respective communities,” she said.


The Senator cited the Philippines’ experience during Typhoon Haiyan. Authorities warned communities about storm surges that may reach up to six meters high. Many citizens stocked up on food, secured their homes and stayed indoors, not knowing that it was not the kind of preparation for a storm surge. Even those in evacuation centers were not spared from the deadly onslaught of the storm surges.


“Was it a case of inadequate information or a case of information not being understood and appreciated by national and local officials, and by the people on the ground?  People had no notion of storm surges, plain and simple.  In the end, it cost thousands of lives,” she lamented.


Furthermore, an assessment of Tacloban, which greatly bore the brunt of the storm’s impact, showed that the city’s location is highly susceptible to disaster risks. The geohazard map for Tacloban showed a province massively covered by color purple on its outskirts and red within, which means the coastal areas were susceptible to flooding, while the inland was highly susceptible to landslides.


“The map’s color coding scheme represented susceptibility to landslides and flooding, but the people did not know any of that. The challenge here is to translate scientific terminologies to layman’s terms. Citizens should be able to digest the information on a geo-hazard map or a weather bulletin. Raising public awareness should be made to resonate loudly and as far deep into the communities as possible,” Legarda said.


She explained that science is needed in strengthening building codes; making risk-sensitive land use plans that are linked into yearly investment plans of governments; adopting early warning system for crop harvests; capacitating private sector, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises, in creating business continuity plans that reflect corporate strategy on how to swiftly spring back to operations after each disaster.


“Scientific experts need to be given the wherewithal to do their job of gathering, validating and processing scientific data that will enable the accurate prediction of events. These are indispensable inputs to designing practical solutions and communicating the risks to our people. Knowing when, where and in what magnitude a natural hazard will strike is fundamental to keeping our people prepared,” she said.


“We have come together to this conference to exchange knowledge and devise strategies. We must use this opportunity not just to gain knowledge from one another, but also to transform that knowledge into concrete actions. We are builders not just of communities of today, but communities of the future. Let us not rebuild the risks. We must rebuild stronger and wiser,” said Legarda.