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ASEAN launches disaster management centre

Jakarta, Indonesia: The ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre). Based in Jakarta, Indonesia, the centre will connect all disaster management agencies in the region and provide warning of disasters by linking up early warning systems.

The centre will also gather natural disaster data — such as disaster vulnerability maps — scattered across the region, and develop new technologies to predict and deal with disasters. “Remote sensing technology will be used to monitor weather, forest fires, volcanic eruptions and disaster impacts,” said Ridwan Djamaluddin, deputy head of technology for natural resources development at Indonesia’s Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology — the AHA Centre’s host agency. He added that the centre will issue updates on disaster situations and that all its data would be freely available to ASEAN National Disaster Management offices.

Local universities and national disaster centres in member countries will be involved in the AHA Centre’s research. Allen Yuhung Lai, a disaster management expert at the National University of Singapore, said, “It is a good move but it is critical to do a ‘health check-up’ of each member state’s disaster management capacity and policies.”

The centre will begin operating in June this year and is receiving USD 6 million from Japan, USD 500,000 each from Australia and the United States, and technical support from New Zealand.

While not finalised, each ASEAN country is expected to contribute USD 100,000 per year and Indonesia — as the host — is set to spend USD 555,000 per year.

The centre is under the responsibility of the ASEAN Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance Division. But Alexander Lim, the head of the separate science and technology division at the ASEAN secretariat, said that the S&T’s flagship programme on early warning systems and disaster risk reduction is also expected to feed into the AHA Centre’s work.

Source: www.scidev.net