On 14 March 2015, the international symposium Mainstreaming Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction and Reconstruction: Lessons Learned from 3.11 for the World and the Future was held at the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction’s public forum in Sendai, Japan. The event was organized by UNU-IAS, the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ) and IUCN.
Ecosystems such as coastal forests and wetlands not only support livelihoods through regular ecosystem services, but also reduce disaster risks. This symposium showcased best practices of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and reconstruction (Eco-DRR), and discussed how to mainstream Eco-DRR in Japan and internationally.
Opening the symposium, Mr. Yoshio Mochizuki (Minister of the Environment of Japan) and Mrs. Akie Abe (Spouse of the Prime Minister of Japan) reflected on the significance of the role ecosystems play in disaster-prone areas. The minister stressed the need to maintain ecosystems that can mitigate natural disasters, and noted Japan’s contribution to this field. Mrs. Abe emphasized Japan’s history of coexisting with nature, and questioned the effectiveness of constructing huge coastal levees – currently underway in parts of Japan – as a disaster risk reduction measure, calling attention to their environmental impacts.
Highlighting ecosystems’ role in strengthening local resilience, Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi (Senior Vice-Rector, UNU) introduced ecosystem-based approaches for a resilient society living in harmony with nature. He presented case studies such as the Green Reconstruction Project in Kesennuma-Oshima, an island greatly affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
Ms. Inger Andersen (Director General, IUCN) stated that the post-2015 agenda for disaster risk reduction should include nature-based solutions, and announced the launch of a joint publication by IUCN and MOEJ titled “Protected Areas as Tools for Disaster Risk Reduction – A Handbook for Practitioners”.
The event also featured best practices of Eco-DRR. Ms. Jane Madgwick (CEO, Wetlands International) presented on practices of disaster risk reduction through wetland management, which could also bring about other benefits. Mr. Shoichi Shirahata (Chairman, Kesennuma-Oshima Tourism Association) reaffirmed the importance of sustainable reconstruction, sharing experiences from Kesennuma-Oshima where the local community chose to foster disaster-preventive forests over increasing the height of seawalls. Ms. Marlynn Mendoza (Chief Ecosystem Management Specialist, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines) and Mr. Christopher Briggs (Executive Secretary, Ramsar Convention) presented on wetlands’ ability to control floods and droughts, underscoring the importance of protecting, managing and restoring these rapidly disappearing ecosystems. On the role of forests in disaster risk reduction, Mr. Hiroki Katsuragawa (Director, Forest Planning Division, Forestry Agency of Japan) showcased Japan’s forest rehabilitation and conservation projects as well as the country’s erosion control technology.
The symposium concluded with a panel discussion with input from prominent academics and experts. The panelists addressed challenges to promoting Eco-DRR, and called for business investments in natural infrastructure, active involvement of local communities, interdisciplinary education in the field of Eco-DRR, and integration of ecosystem management into local and national disaster risk reduction plans as well as climate change adaptation plans.
For more information on this symposium, please refer to the symposium report.
This event was held as part of the Global Environmental Outreach Centre’s (GEOC) project activities. GEOC supported the event, along with the Forestry Agency of Japan.