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Green engineering, integrated planning and development necessary to prepare for disasters

Consistent integrated development planning and implementation coupled with the protection of wetlands and technological advances are just some of the innovations shared at the Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa (DMISA) Conference Africa 2017.

Hailed as very successful by international visitors and locals alike, the two-day event took a critical look at disaster risk reduction, resilience design and innovation especially in the context of prevailing droughts and climate change.

Dr Johannes Belle, from the Disaster Management Training and Education Centre for Africa at the University of the Free State, said wetlands are very useful ecosystems that are internationally recognised to reduce disaster risks.

"Wetlands capture a large percentage of CO2 emissions which causes climate change and must be adequately protected,” Belle said.

Dr Jan Kupec, an Engineer from New Zealand, shared new technological advances used after the earthquake that shook Christchurch a few years ago.

"I believe the conference was a success as consultation and interaction took place between a number of role-players from different levels of government and civil society.

"We are currently busy with the development of experimental software packages that will be useful for disaster management authorities and their service providers during disasters,” Kupec added.

Dr Mal Reddy, Council Member of DMISA, agrees that the conference achieved the desired outcome.

"We managed to achieve our goal to bring people together, but also shared good practices in terms of global initiatives, new perspectives and lessons learnt to provide an opportunity for retrospection on what is working.

"Back to basics in our environment accentuates the fact that we live and work in an evolving environment that propels us to look at learning and development of disaster management officials in the different spheres.

"It is therefore clear that the notion of integration must be in place and that the correct questions must be asked from the onset when applications are implemented. We need to ask ourselves. How soon can we implement it? Do we have the necessary support structures in place during implementation?” Reddy said.

Dr Johan Minnie, Executive Committee Member of DMISA, said he was especially touched when role-players during the recent Knysna fires shared their personal experiences with him.

"I had goose bumps just listening to the stories they had to tell,” Minnie added.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Disaster Management Sub-directorate is one of the main sponsors of the event (that took place on 27 and 28 September) and annually deal with disaster risk reduction and other related matters.

Mr Bafana Mazibuko, President: DMISA, said it is pertinent that the protection and regeneration of wetlands must be recognised as part of green engineering.

"This personifies the back-to-basics approach of DMISA as legislation is already in place focusing on the preservation of water bodies.

"If wetlands are our first defence against climate change and disaster risks, the regulatory environment must be followed even to the extent where it is foremost in the minds of Town Planners at a municipal and district level,” Mazibuko said.

Exhibitors at the conference included Nelson Mandela Bay Disaster Management, Tourism, South African Weather Services and Aurecon amongst others.

Mr Pat Adams, Chairperson of DMISA’s Executive Committee, said that it is high time that the National Disaster Management Framework and the Disaster Management Act must be implemented by all spheres of government.

"We have a number of beautiful pieces of legislation and yet government is not serious enough when it comes to the implementation thereof. It is high time that they wake up and come to the party,” Adams added.

Delegates from afar afield as New Zealand and Zimbabwe attended the gathering, as well as Disaster Management representatives from across the country.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Cllr John Best, said the streamlining of procedures for the classification and declaration of disasters is in the interest of communities.

"As a metropolitan municipality, we are striving in line with innovations to maximise outputs with the limited resources at our disposal. Our team of officials at the local Disaster Management Centre continue to contribute positively to that objective,” MMC Best said.

One of the core functions of the Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa is to professionalise disaster management officials and their respective environments. The conference started yesterday and came to an end today (Thursday, 28 September).


Issued on behalf of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality by Media Management Officer Kupido Baron (082 780 2726 / 041 506 1500 / / @kupidobaron).

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