25.07.2018 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Developing Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy of Heritage Cities

Experience Sharing Workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Strategy in Three Heritage Cities in Southeast Asia and the Pacific took place in Semarang, Indonesia, from 24 to 25 July 2018. The Workshop was a part of the ongoing project “Capacity Building for DRR of Heritage Cities in Southeast Asia and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific” funded under the UNESCO/Malaysian Funds-in-Trust. The pilot sites selected for this project is: i) Melaka and George Town (Malaysia), ii) Semarang Old Town (Indonesia), and iii) Levuka Historical Port Town (Fiji). Since its inception meeting held in Penang in 2017, the three pilot cities have been implementing the activities involving research, consultations and workshops with a view to developing and upgrading a DRR strategy of the respective cities. The Semarang Workshop provided the coordinators in the three pilot cities to share progress and lessons learned since the Penang meeting.

The Mayor of Semarang opened the Workshop on 24 July 2018. Extending his warm welcome to all the participants, he emphasized the historical and socio-economic importance of the Semarang Old Town which embodies “both stories in the past and perspective for the future”. Dr Noraisah Binti Spahat, the Secretary-General of the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO congratulated the city of Semarang for organizing the workshop that aimed to safeguard heritage for tomorrow. Representing the host country, Ms Gasim at the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO reminded the participants to refer to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction to frame their discussions and deliberations. 

The Opening session was followed by an introductory session where Ms Moe Chiba at UNESCO Office in Jakarta provided the background information on the project. She highlighted the contribution of the project to the SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities.  Following that, Mr Rohit Jigyasu, at Institute of Disaster Mitigation for Urban Cultural Heritage, Ritsumeikan University which hosts the UNESCO Chair, made a keynote presentation on DRR in heritage cities. He stressed the importance of working across sectors in order to address the different risks related to safety, livelihoods and cultural values of heritage cities that are vulnerable to multiple hazards including climate threats.

The first day was focused on the presentation of the three pilot cities. For Semarang Old Town, the DRR strategy development has been coordinated by the Catholic University of Soegijapranata under the coordination of Semarang Old Town Management Board and Semarang Municipal Government. Flood, fire, land subsidence, earthquakes and vandalism were main risks identified at the National Workshop held in Semarang in February 2018. The workshop produced an action plan including concrete actions addressing each of the main hazards to strengthen the protection of the Semarang Old Town.

In the case of George Town World Heritage site, the DRR Strategy was developed by George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) with input from Think City. Flood and fine were identified as two dominant risks. The national workshop held in March 2018 in Penang provided an opportunity to bring together local stakeholders to discuss area-wise issues and possible countermeasures, resulting in an adoption of a way forward plan.

Ms Kasaqa Tora, the Fiji National Trust (FNT), made a presentation on progress in the activities related to Levuka Historical Port Town. In Levuka, fire, cyclone, floods, and landslides were identified as the major risks to the integrity of this World Heritage site. Within the framework of the project, the hazards map of Levuka has been produced and the vulnerability assessment has been conducted by structural engineers following the cyclone Winston. The collected information was then compiled in a GIS database hosted at FNT. In addition, stories and memories of the community on the past hazards were also collected. FTN also mapped the existing mitigation measures such as the place of fire hydrants and evacuation centers. All this has allowed FNT to do a risk assessment in order to develop a DRR strategy and a heritage risk map. Ms Tora informed that a national workshop would take place in Levuka in mid-August planned for Levuka in August 2018 with the participation of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).

On the 2nd day, the participants worked in a group to share challenges and lessons learned from the works carried out thus far. The presentations by the resource persons on good practices in other heritage cities, namely Yogjakarta, Borobudur, Ayutthaya, Vigan, and Pacific SIDS contributed to enriching the discussions. These presentations showed the importance of understanding the risks and finding solutions locally. Having learned the new knowledge through information sharing and networking at the Workshop, the three pilot cities will engage in the finalization of a DRR strategy of the respective heritage cities, and the dissemination of the outcomes of the project through the production of information materials. 


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