A Global Action Plan to reduce both human and financial losses caused
by landslides was adopted in Tokyo (Japan) on 20 January, at an
international meeting held under the auspices of UNESCO and in conjunction
with the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
The meeting also set up a global network of International Programmes
on Landslides. Based at Kyoto University in Japan, the network will
function under the aegis of UNESCO and other international bodies.
The Global Action Plan foresees strengthening human resources and
boosting funding to ensure adequate risk assessment and identify
hazard zones. It will also foster the drawing-up of appropriate
building codes, safety regulations and response plans. To reduce
landslide risk, the Plan will also target local institutes and universities,
encouraging them to develop expertise and early warning measures.
In parallel, the Plan will foster education and research.
Almost a year to the day after the UN World Conference on Disaster
Reduction in Kobe (Japan), close to 100 experts from 14 countries
spent three days at the United Nations University setting international
priorities for mitigating losses due to landslides.
Landslides are the seventh most deadly natural hazard in the world,
after droughts, windstorms, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions
and related disasters and extreme temperature. On average, a single
landslide claims 8001000 lives.
Landslides and mudslides can be triggered by heavy rain, as in the
case of the tragic mudslide last February in the Philippines, or
by rapidly melting ice or snow. They can also occur when an overflowing
crater lake sends large amounts of earth, rock, sand or mud down
mountain slopes, especially slopes covered in sparse vegetation
where there is little to slow the movement of the slide. Landslides
and mudslides can reach speeds of over 50 km/h and bury, crush or
carry away people, objects and buildings. They also threaten some
of the worlds most precious cultural sites, including several
UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Episodes of heavy rainfall are becoming more intense and more frequent.
This trend is drastically increasing the number of casualties associated
with landslides, especially in developing countries where pressure
on land often leads to the cultivation of slopes, an activity conducive
to disastrous landslides. All regions experience landslide disasters
but the damage they cause is most acute in developing countries,
where the knowledge base required to identify landslide-prone areas
is often either non-existent or fragmentary. With climate change,
landslides could also be caused by new factors.
or contact B. Rouhban