Monday, May 20, 2024
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Focus on disaster risk reduction efforts

James Kon

The Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) through the Brunei Darussalam Meteorological Department (BDMD) is actively undertaking several projects under the 11th National Development Plan (RKN-11) in ensuring the strengthening of infrastructure that supports more accurate weather monitoring, forecasts, advisories and warnings in the country.

The projects are the replacement and upgrading of weather radar network, Automatic Weather Observation System (AWOS) at Brunei International Airport and replacement of National Automatic Weather Stations (NAWS) nationwide.

This was said by Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yusof in his message to mark World Meteorological Day 2022, themed ‘Early Warning and Early Action’.

Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib said Brunei Darussalam with fellow members of World Meteorological Organization (WMO), every year on March 23, celebrates World Meteorological Day to commemorate the emergence of the WMO convention on this date in 1950. This celebration is also to acknowledge the important contribution provided by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the global community.

This year, he said “the theme chosen by WMO ‘Early Warning and Early Action’ emphasises the importance of hydrometeorological and climatological information for disaster risk reduction”.

According to WMO, over the past 50 years, there were more than 11,000 disasters attributed to weather, climate and water-related hazards recorded, which resulted in more than two million casualties and economic losses of USD3.64 trillion. In terms of global daily average, there are 115 casualties with economic losses amounting to USD202 million.

Meanwhile, data from Atlas of Mortality and Economic Loses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2019 published by WMO showed the number of disasters between 1970 and 2019 increased five-fold, while economic losses increased even higher, up to seven-fold. However, the number of casualties has decreased nearly triple since 1970, resulting from the increasingly improved early warning and disaster risk reduction strategies.

Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yusof. PHOTO: MTIC

The minister also cited the capability of issuing early warnings is the result of various technological advances as well as the result of research done over decades.

“Development in terms of the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as the use of supercomputers and satellite technology have greatly helped in the preparation of faster and more accurate forecasts. The research also helped provide services according to the users’ needs, while the advancement of communication technology such as mobile phones, enabled the delivery of early warnings more quickly and can even reach remote areas.

“Brunei Darussalam through BDMD also emphasises the use of Early Warning System in providing weather warnings to the public. Colour-coded weather warning is a method that has been used since 2010. The same method is also used by most WMO member states and it is a method that is easy to understand and very effective,” the minister added.

The issuance of these colour coded warnings, he said, “ is also intended to support the efforts of National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) in making any coordination with relevant agencies in addressing issues related to national disasters. This includes increasing public preparedness and awareness to disaster risks and to take action when facing disasters.”

“The National Weather Briefing (NWB) is also conducted by BDMD four times a year in which it is a programme for user groups which include the safety and first responders, industry and economy and mass media group. This programme, among many others, enables users to make early preparation and take action in the face of any weather impacts such as heavy rain or drought,” the minister added.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General of WMO Petteri Taalas stressed on this year’s celebration noting great achievements of national meteorological and hydrological services in improved early warning systems. It also highlights the vital work of the disaster risk reduction community in making sure that these early warnings lead to early action.

However, he also iterated “We cannot be complacent. We face many challenges, especially in making sure that early warnings reach the last mile to the most vulnerable who need them most.”

Climate change, he described, “is already very visible through more extreme weather in all parts of the world. We are seeing more intense heatwaves and drought and forest fires. We have more water vapour in the atmosphere, leading to extreme rainfall and deadly flooding.

The warming of the ocean fuels more powerful tropical storms and rising sea levels increase the impacts”.

“We expect this negative trend to continue. Greenhouse gas concentrations are at record levels, locking in climate change to continue for decades to come, melting of glaciers and sea level rise up to centuries. In addition to climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation is a top priority. Early warning systems are a powerful way to adapt,” Taalas added.

“Last year, WMO published a report on disaster statistics for the past 50 years. It showed that there were more than 11,000 disasters linked to weather, climate and water-related hazards, almost equal to one disaster per day. There were two million deaths recorded – or 115 per day.”

He added, “The number of disasters has increased five-fold in the past 50 years. And the economic cost has soared. But the good news is that the number of casualties has fallen dramatically. We are better than ever before at saving lives.” Supercomputers, satellites and advances in science, he added, “have greatly increased the accuracy of our forecasts. Mobile phone alerts and weather apps can reach even remote areas”.

WMO, he said, “is promoting impact-based forecasting, of what the weather will be and what it will do. That is needed to enhance the preparedness and early action of various user and customer groups, who are dependent on weather. But much more remains to be done. Only half of the 193 members of WMO have multi-hazard early warning systems in place. There is also a major need to enhance the impact based forecasting skills of a large fraction of members.”

He explained that there are severe gaps in weather and hydrological observing networks in Africa, some parts of Latin America and in Pacific and Caribbean island. This undermines forecasts local and globally. WMO has therefore created a financing mechanism known as SOFF (Systematic Observation Financing Facility) to drive investment in the basic observing system and fill data gaps.

WMO is an implementing partner in the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative, which builds resilience among vulnerable countries and communities.

“WMO is spearheading a new water and climate coalition to focus more attention on water-related hazards and shortages. We have highly successful programmes and projects on tropical cyclones, coastal inundation, floods and drought. In Geneva we have joined forces with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction to form a centre of excellence on climate change and disasters.

“WMO has been developing a support mechanism to provide reliable and authoritative information to the UN humanitarian agencies to be able to optimise the humanitarian aid before and after a weather-related disaster. We are working together with financing institutions like the World Bank, European Union, UNDP, Green Climate Fund, to allocate more funding to early warning services and to ensure sustainability of the investments.

“WMO is committed to the 2030 international agenda on climate action, sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. WMO’s vision is that by 2030, we see a world where all nations, especially the most vulnerable, are more resilient to the socioeconomic consequences of extreme weather, climate, water and other environmental events.

“Early warnings work. They must work for everyone. They must lead to early action,” he said.

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