UN agency unveils report on lessons from earthquake response in China

A devastating earthquake struck Sichuan Province in China on 12 May 2008

7 July 2010 – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today released a report on lessons learned while working with the Chinese Government to address the environmental impact of the devastating earthquake that hit the country’s Sichuan province in May of 2008.

In the report, entitled UNEP in China: Building Back Better, the agency details its main interventions on the ground, including raising awareness on environmental and ecological considerations within the overall State planning processes for post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction.

The 8.0-magnitude quake affected 70 million people, destroyed some 6.5 million homes, and caused 15 million people to be evacuated. The release of the publication coincided with UNEP’s “Nature of Cities” exhibition in the UN Pavilion at Expo 2010 in the Chinese city of Shanghai.

With regard to capacity-building in the aftermath of the earthquake, UNEP was able to bring together the best international experts to share practical knowledge with Chinese civil servants on a wide range of environmental issues linked to disaster recovery and reconstruction.

UNEP also strengthened its office in Beijing by hosting international experts and technical staff from across the agency to assist China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) to address the environmental challenges of the post-earthquake period.

In addition to lending support for the drafting of inputs to national recovery plans and appeals, as well as numerous reports and project proposals, UNEP worked closely with the MEP and local governments to help “green” the reconstruction, while addressing environmental improvements across sectors such as industry, education and agriculture.

UNEP deployed experts on the ground to assess the situation and advise national and provincial authorities engaged in reconstruction, providing specific guidance on the approaches that should be adopted for rehabilitation and restoration.

According to the report, the Chinese Government appreciated UNEP’s ability to be flexible and respond quickly to changing needs and circumstances.

Cooperation with the Government resulted in better quality of support and technical assistance relating to environmental health and safety, prevention of secondary damage by industries, monitoring of water quality for drinking, and the prevention of contamination of water resources during the rescue phase of the earthquake.

In particular, UNEP was recognized for its environmental expertise in debris and waste management and for helping to “green” the recovery work.

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