13.05.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

Geoparks discuss managing geohazards

© Unzen Volcanic Area Global Geopark

Reflecting on the triple disaster that occurred in Japan just over a year ago, many of the speakers focused on the need to use geoparks to teach and learn about how society can reduce risks associated with geohazards during the opening of the 5th International UNESCO Conference on Global Geoparks.

The conference got underway on 12 May 2012 in Unzen Volcanic Area Geopark, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. The event was opened by a panel of dignatories including the vice-chancellor of the Ministry of Environment. The Conference was greatly honored by a visit from Prince and Princess Akishino from the Japanese Imperial Family.
Besides the normal geopark discussion on preserving geoheritage, geoeducation and sustainable development of local communities, this conference is focusing specifically on geohazards and disaster recovery.

Over 580 participants from 31 countries have now registered for the conference. Unzen Volcanic Area Geopark itself hosts the youngest mountain in Japan, Heisei Shinzan, which was created during eruptions between 1991-95 which created a fatal pyroclastic flow. The conference center was constructed on reclaimed land underlain by debris from this flow.

A Global Geopark is a unified area with geological heritage of international significance, where that heritage is being used to promote the sustainable development of the local communities who live there. It is a pre-requisite that all Global Geoparks develop and operate educational programmes to spread awareness of our geological heritage and its links to other aspects of our natural, cultural and intangible heritages.

UNESCO gives its ad hoc support to national Geopark initiatives which are coordinated through the Global Geoparks Network (GGN) where national geological heritage initiatives benefit fully from their membership of a global network of exchange and cooperation. The network was launched in 2004 with UNESCO’s support to encourage cooperation between geological heritage experts and practitioners.

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