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Taiwan must bolster disaster self-reliance as climate change intensifies

National Cheng Kung University professor urges more disaster prevention initiatives

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(NCKU photo)

(NCKU photo)

TAINAN (Taiwan News) — International academics shared their recent research related to the U.N.’s 17 sustainability development goals (SDG) at NCKU's "Pathways to Progress: Achieving the SDGs in Asia" on Tuesday (Nov. 28).

NCKU launched its "WUN Global Research Group - SDGs in Asia" in 2021 to create a platform for international collaboration on a number of projects designed to tackle the UN's 17 SDGs. This year, the group backed 15 projects, which connected 31 institutes and 71 researchers, across five continents, according to Chen.

At the opening ceremony, NCKU Vice President Chen Hong-chen (陳鴻震) said he believed the event would “provide valuable opportunities for us to exchange our ideas and share our experiences, especially for sustainability.”

The group’s chair, Lin Tsai-fuh (林財富), said it aims to “collaborate with universities around the world particularly on SDGs in Asia and try to expand our influence in Asia.” Lin said projects in 2023 focused on issues including public health and an aging society, drinking water quality and treatment, renewable energy storage control systems and carbon emissions, sustainable construction and reusable containers, and climate change education, which fall under U.N. SDG 3, 6,7, 11, and 13, respectively.

Taiwan must bolster disaster self-reliance as climate change intensifies
(NCKU photo)

Taiwan should do more to promote disaster self-reliance communities (DSRC), National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) professor Yang Yung-nane (楊永年) said at an NCKU symposium on Tuesday (Nov. 28).

In line with the U.N.’s sustainable development goals, more DSRCs should be established to improve disaster mitigation in Taiwan, Yang said. As the effects of climate change intensify, this would mean local communities could react to disasters quickly and safely, he said.

Start young

Yang recommended disaster self-reliance initiatives be taught to children and that relevant educational programs be continued through high school. “There should be some mechanism to encourage children or young people to participate," he said.

That way, the younger generation would have a sense of disaster preparedness, he said. He noted that schools “did very well” regarding campus disaster prevention, but there are no policies that encourage a broader scope of emergency protocols.

The professor said that many communities around Taiwan are old. The majority of residents in a northern Tainan village were over 76 years old, he said.

If there was a policy change in the nation’s school system, then “that would be another chance for disaster prevention communities to be sustainable,” Yang said.

Two-way street

The professor said boosting disaster self-reliance requires both a bottom-up and top-down approach. However, he pointed out that communities lack resources and money, which the central and local governments as well as non-profit organizations could provide.

These institutions should also work together to create incentives for the public, especially students, to participate in disaster prevention, he said. Meanwhile, communities should have “high motivation” to work with the local and central governments, and Taiwanese should treat this as “an important concern," he added.

Schools should also create opportunities or projects for students to learn more about disaster prevention, he said.

Keep collective memory alive

Yang emphasized that the “conscience of the community is very important,” meaning that over time, people will forget the pain and suffering that comes with natural disasters.

When Typhoon Toraji struck Taiwan in 2001, people worried there would be another mudslide in the near future, Yang said. However, over the past 20 years, many have lost that fear.

Yang said people are unaware of the importance of disaster prevention unless they experience how powerful mother nature can be. “Only then will they have incentive to work on prevention,” he said.

Future research

Yang said his research involves disaster management, which includes other areas besides nature. He listed the recent Pingtung factory blaze as an example, blaming the company for not taking fire safety seriously.

The professor also pointed to corruption and public security as challenges that fall under disaster management, since “they all could be treated as man-made disasters.”

Taiwan must bolster disaster self-reliance as climate change intensifies
National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) professor Yang Yung-nane