UNESCO Global Geoparks celebrate the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction

Source(s): United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Headquarters

Forming a network of 169 Geoparks in 44 countries, UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGp) are located in various geographical settings that may be partly or entirely exposed to a multitude of natural hazards and extreme weather events. Aggravated by the effects of climate change, several extreme natural events have recently caused extensive damage to some UNESCO Global Geoparks.

As a response to this, many UNESCO Global Geoparks have disaster risk reduction strategies in-place aimed at reducing the territory’s exposure to natural hazards and at implementing disaster preparedness measures to safeguard infrastructures and local populations. In this regard, the UNESCO Global Geoparks’ holistic management approach, which enhances the links between an area’s geological heritage and its natural, cultural and intangible heritage, promoting the understanding of key issues, such as the use of Earth’s resources, the impact of natural disasters, climate change effects and mitigation and empowering of indigenous people, is of great value.

Recognizing the importance of communication of training and awareness-raising actions, as well as of the existence and implementation of adequate risk management plans, UNESCO Global Geoparks actively engage in Disaster Risk Reduction on a daily basis and are very active in the promotion of the resilience concept.

With this in mind, many of UNESCO’s designated sites are celebrating the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, as an opportunity to raise awareness and empower their local communities.

In Asia and the Pacific region, UNESCO Global Geoparks are frequently exposed to multiple natural hazards. As a consequence, the UNESCO Global Geoparks actively work on strengthening their territory’s resilience. Among various actions on awareness raising and education of local and national population in Japan, two UNESCO Global Geoparks located in active volcanic regions  – Aso and Toya-Usu – annually celebrate the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. These UNESCO Global Geoparks are frequently affected by earthquakes and heavy and in the past centuries have experienced several volcanic eruptions.

Toya-Usu UNESCO Global Geopark, Japan

Living in the shadow of an active volcano

Toya-Usu UNESCO Global Geopark is located in Hokkaido, northern Japan and displays a unique showcase of active volcanism on the Pacific Rim. The UNESCO Global Geopark certifies local residents as “Volcano Meisters” those who have learned the nature and characteristics of Lake Toya and the Usu Volcano area and pass on both the memories and experiences of eruptions and the wisdom to mitigate a disaster to the next generation in and outside the community. They are resilience promoters.

In 2011 the Toya-Usu Volcano Meister Network was established as a volunteer based educational association that not only organizes conferences and lectures focused on disaster prevention but it is also dedicated to highlighting the charms of the Toya-Usu UNESCO Global Geopark. Certification examination of the Toya-Usu Volcano Meister takes place once a year as part of the International Day for Disaster Reduction celebrations.

Volcanic geoheritage for resilient communities

Due to its unique and diverse geoheritage, the Toya-Usu UNESCO Global Geopark is a popular destination for school trips providing the opportunity for integrative and active education about the culture, history and habits of people living in volcanic areas. This includes the way local communities have, along the years, lived with the constant threat of disaster and the measures they took to prevent it.

Eighty-one thousand students, mainly in junior high and high school from Japan and other Asian countries, visit the area every year. They visit Nakadake Geosite, which is well maintained and allows for safe observation of the active crater, the Kusasenri Geosite, ideal for trekking on volcanic topography, and the Daikanbo Geosite, where students can look out over the magnificent caldera. Working together with curators and museum interpreters at the Aso Volcano Museum, they deliver lectures of volcanic disaster prevention, geological disasters and the study of regional resources which are part of the curriculum for most elementary and junior high school students in the Aso region. Aso UNESCO Global Geopark continues encouraging children to learn about important resources as key step towards Aso’s long-term sustainable development.

Rinjani-Lombok UNESCO Global Geopark, Indonesia

Poetry for Disaster Risk Reduction

Rinjani-Lombok UNESCO Global Geopark is situated on the island of Lombok in Southeast Asia. Home to a rich and diverse landscape with forests ranging from savannahs to tropical evergreen forests, the geopark is dominated by volcanic elements.

To contribute to disaster risk reduction efforts, Rinjani-Lombok UNESCO Global Geopark regularly organizes various activities targeting students. Since 2018 when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the island the geopark has continuously disseminated and expanded the reach of information in the community through activities culminating in Disaster Risk Reduction Day. As in previous years, the geopark is celebrating the International Disaster Risk Reduction 2021 with a three-day activity programme that includes a trip to the Sembalan Volcanic Complex, a focus group discussion on “The Role of Children in Mitigation & Adaptation to the Climate Change, a workshop on “Forest & Land Fire”, a poetry, storytelling and earth science quiz competitions for students of several ages and a workshop  on the “Geological Hazard’s Early Warning Systems in Gumantar & Selengen” regions.

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