Kaoshiung, the second largest city in Taiwan with four million inhabitants, was hit by a man-made disaster on 1 August 2014. More than 32 people died when the corroded underground industrial pipelines connecting the harbour with an inner city factory exploded. Among the victims were police and firemen which came to protect the population from leaking gas.
A month later, the city hosts the "2014 ICLEI International Conference on Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation. to share policies, tools and experiences for urban risk assessment, mitigation planning and disaster prevention.
At the conference, the Kaoshiung city government reported on their risk management activities. While such pipelines belong to private companies, the public is at risk as the pipes go through densely populated neighborhoods. The environment office is now compiling a catalogue of underground pipelines and is starting to install monitoring systems. They also urge the private sector to become more responsible.
Specifically, the city reported on the following items:
Infrastructure: In addition to urgent tasks for avoiding similar catastrophes, the ca. 7 km of destroyed streets and sewage water system must be quickly re-built, so that no further heavy rains would hit the city before the main sewage canals are re-built. Water, gas and electricity supplies are to be brought back to ten thousand households immediately.
People: Hundreds of inhabitants have lost relatives and homes. Another urgent need for the city is not only to provide emergency support but to also sue the private companies on behalf of the public.
Prevention: With similar urgency, the city has to check conditions under which the many in-city petrochemical manufacturers can continue to work or whether these should be closed down. The city should also decide on conditions for truck transport (to replace the damaged pipeline transport) of industrial raw material which still has to reach the many chemical factories of this highly industrialized city.
ICLEI Global Executive Committee Member and Vice-Mayor of Helsinki Pekka Sauri presented the new "Underground Masterplan" of Helsinki which offers a full understanding of the many pipelines, metrotunnels, sewage canals and cables which cross the city in all directions, as a pre-condition for risk mitigation and management.
ICLEI Vice-President and eThekwini Municipality (Durban) Mayor James Nxumalo placed a focus on how his city is reacting to the impacts of climate change through a new disaster preparedness plan. Durban has also taken the global lead on adaptation. They host the the Durban Adaptation Charter which calls on all local governments of the world to integrate adaptation to climate change as a key principle for all policy and planning decisions while contributing to the slowing down global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Joondalup, Australia is facing heavy rains in one part and droughts in another, reported Mayor Troy Pickard who also serves on the ICLEI Global Executive Committee. Integrating mitigation and adaptation planning and ensuring the integrity of ecosystem services are some of the key policy priorities of his city.
The Vice Governor of Chiba Prefecture in Japan, which has a long coast line close to Tokyo, shared some lessons learnt from the 2011 Tsunami, including the need for self-preparedness of all citizens, strengthened by public education systems.
It is always cities and municipalities which have to deal with the impacts of natural or man-made, sudden or slowly coming disasters. They have to protect their citizens, to avoid social and economic disasters both hitting population and infrastructure. Local governments need to have the legal responsibilities, means and willingness to be prepared, improve their urban planning practice and to react in the best possible ways if man made or natural disasters hit their ground.
Kaoshiung Deputy Mayor LIU Shyh-fang, concluded, that tax income needs re-distribution between central and local authorities
The occasion of the ICLEI Kaoshiung Disaster and Mitigation Conference serves as the continuation of the ICLEI Global Executive Committee Meeting 2014 which has started in Yichang, China on 12 September 2014 (See related newsbit)