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See previous article: Climate Action through Communication

The two-day Media Summit on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) organized by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union held in Dhaka, Bangladesh concluded yesterday, May 11, 2017.

Spotlight on Bangladesh

Due to a cyclone in 1991, Bangladesh experienced a massive death toll of 138,868. But through a law approved in 2012 that involved local media in disaster management, Bangladeshis have become more aware and informed. Coupled with community-based DRR initiatives, coastal volunteers, early warning and communication campaigns, as well as gender and children-inclusive planning, the number of casualties from 2001 has decreased to less than thirty per year.

During the fifth session of the summit, Bangladesh’s Deputy Secretary-General Jakaria Khaled shared their early warning and communication strategy when disasters strike. By using print and electronic media platforms, community radio, peer communication, announcements through megaphones and flag hoisting, Bangladeshi people are now more informed of the warning system for cyclones, heavy rainfall, floods, earthquakes, river bank erosion, tornadoes, fires, landslides, arsenic contamination, and salinity intrusion.

“Technical language of meteorology, understanding of signal and degree of danger for commoners, and difference of local language are a few factors that we consider communication challenges,” said Khaled.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication Chief Executive Officer Bazlur Rahman shared the role of community radio in their country. Apart from disseminating early warnings before and during disasters, it is also a practice to report on relief and rehabilitation, livelihood issues, and agricultural production-related content after a calamity.

Bangladesh’s Department of Disaster Management Director General Riaz Ahmed concluded the third session with his recommendation on alleviating the impacts of flooding in their country. “There is a need to develop a mechanism for urban flood risk management and disaster resilience,” he said, adding that this can be done by protecting different water sources, and improving the waste and drainage management system.

Japan’s Initiatives

In the afternoon session, Japan’s national broadcasting station presented their strategies developed after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

According to NHK’s Akinori Hashimoto, their public channel is linked to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) so they can immediately report information on torrential rains, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic activities.

Because of JMA’s state-of-the-art technology, it can predict strong earthquakes a few seconds before the ground shaking. This is the reason why they are able to release early warnings on the predicted areas to be affected by the ground shaking, and safe evacuation sites with a little time before the disaster. In fact, they were able to announce the 2011 quake ten seconds before the disaster in Sendai, and 65 seconds before the ground shaking in Tokyo – something that is not yet done in other countries.

JMA releases a Tsunami Advisory if the ocean wave is less than a meter, Tsunami Warning if it’s up to three meters, and Major Tsunami Warning if the wave height is more than three meters. This warning system also informs locals on the estimated area and time of the event.

The Japanese government uses all TV and radio channels to announce early warnings and report ongoing events during a disaster. But in spite of their high technology, they still recommend the following: 1) inclusivity of people with disabilities for the early warning systems, and 2) information on the status of evacuation routes, shelters, transportation, and electric power. They also plan to have sign language interpreters on TV when disasters strike.

Aqeel Quereshi introduced the methods of delivering inclusive early warning systems during the seventh session. Apart from sign language interpretation, TV stations and other DRR organizations must also utilize open and closed captioning of reports, comprehensible electronic signs, flags, siren strobes, and community-based warnings. He also encouraged persons with disabilities to have their own disaster plan according to different emergency situations. This includes determining how to get assistance, creating a list of emergency hotlines, and preparing a 72-hour supply kit with special medication.

Quereshi concluded his presentation by encouraging the leaders to meet the universal design principles and guidelines set by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). He also requested for provisions for access to alternative communication systems, and the implementation of the web content accessibility guidelines 2.0, which explains to developers and authors how to make content more friendly to people with disabilities like him.

Dhaka Declaration of Commitment

DRR broadcasters across Asia-Pacific committed to disseminating important information on climate change and disaster risk reduction through a multiplatform level with proactive measures. Media practitioners also agreed to persuade its audience to get involved in disaster management initiatives, and to further address poverty alleviation in accordance to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG). The UNSDG is an agenda adopted by a number of countries in 2015, which aims to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all through a list of actions that can be done in and outside the home.

The Dhaka Declaration of Commitment will be presented during the UN’s Global Platform for DRR to be held in Cancun, Mexico on the 24th to 26th of May. This also serves as Asia-Pacific’s contribution in future dialogues for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and other significant international forums.

Next year, the ABU Media Summit on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Summit will take place in the South Pacific nation of Fiji, another country that constantly faces strong cyclones, storm surges, and sea level rise.

The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, in partnership with Bangladesh TV, gathered Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) advocates, climate and weather experts, and communication and media practitioners for the Third Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Media Summit in Dhaka in Bangladesh on May 10, 2017. The organizing committee chose to mount this year’s convention in Bangladesh, which is one of the developing countries most vulnerable to natural hazards.

Facing the Challenges of Climate Action

In 2015, three agreements were created to amplify climate change adaptation and disaster mitigation and preparedness. One of them was the Paris Agreement (COP21) whose purpose is to lessen global carbon emission to two degrees, and set five-yearly targets for cutting emissions. Committing the countries that produce the highest carbon to this agreement is the one of its key objectives.

“Change of government in Australia means change of perspective,” agent provocateur Dr. Martin Hadlow shared during the first session of the summit. Australia is one of the countries that strongly support the Paris Agreement, and is on track to meet the targets in 2020.

But despite this positive change, the agreement still faces many challenges. U.S. President Donald Trump, who doesn’t believe in climate change, wants to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Dr. Hadlow also mentioned that majority of those joining the agreement are developing countries, which are not considered top carbon contributors. To be able to generate bigger funds for the agreement, he said that bigger countries must also ratify the deal.

During the summit’s second session, another challenge was brought up by research investigator Mofizur Rahman. “Health is lagging behind in climate change discussions,” he said, adding that climate actions always include disaster preparedness, recovery and rehabilitation yet seldom discuss the disasters’ impacts on health. This is borne out of the massive gap in information and technology, lack of multidisciplinary approach, and complexity of the problem.

The Role of Media

On the fourth session, Panahon TV Executive Producer Donna May Lina shared the program’s initiatives that reach out to society, such as campus tours, developing citizen correspondents, and internship programs. Through these campaigns, the general public especially the youth, are empowered to get involved in DRR platforms in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, BBC’s Senior Reporter Shihan Zuberi shared the best practices of BBC in disaster broadcasting. “Communication should provide pscho-social benefits.” According to him, BBC believes that effective communication is needs-based, actionable, positive, and responsive. Reporters must also understand that the information they communicate through different media platforms should serve as the voice of calamity survivors, and not just stories about them.

The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union is a non-profit, professional association of broadcasting organisations. It currently has over 280 members in 57 countries and regions, reaching a potential audience of about 3 billion people. One of the organization’s thrust is to promote disaster preparedness to lessen casualty when disasters strike. They also conduct conferences among media practitioners to help them improve their climate change and DRR content.