Efforts are being called for strengthening science and technology innovation and cooperation in disaster prevention and mitigation and sustainable development along the Silk Road, striving for a safe, green and resilient Silk Road. 

The call came from the International Conference on Silk-road Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development (SiDRR Conference 2019), which was co-hosted by Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Association for Science and Technology, United Nations Environment Program, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Alliance of International Science Organizations (ANSO). 

More than 780 experts and scholars from over 40 countries and regions met in Beijing on May 11-12 to exchange ideas on how to make the areas along the Silk Road more sustainable and disaster-proofing. 

They reached the consensus on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and sustainable development through the announcement of the Beijing Statement, which is a scientific, technical and political dialogue for the better implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Aligning with and contributing to the global Science and Technology Road Map to support the implementation of Sendai Framework, the Statement recommended actions on 4 priorities and 9 initiatives, improving the understanding and management of disaster risk, investing in DRR and SDG for resilience construction, enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to build back better. 

Under the witness of all participants, Alliance of International Science Organizations on Disaster Risk Reduction was launched in the closing ceremony. The Alliance has already attracted around 30 institutions and universities from countries including China, Italy, Belgium, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It shares strong interests in DRR and strong geographic focus on the Silk-road regions, sharing the vision of UN landmark framework agreements including Sendai Framework, 2030 Agenda, and Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Alliance will serve as a new platform for international coordination and provide scientific support for disaster relief and sustainable development. 

The Alliance emphasizes on enhancing disaster mitigation and response through multi-national and multi-disciplinary cooperation, such as disaster with healthcare science; encouraging partnership with the engineering community; enhancing cooperation between natural and social sciences; focusing on higher education; contributing to disaster-proofing and resilient infrastructure; connecting with existing networks as well as private sectors. The Alliance also welcomes new partners to join in. 

“Atlas of Silk Road Disaster Risk” exhibited at the conference attracted attentions. The Atlas with over 120 drawings will vividly illustrate the physical and social conditions, disaster characterizes, and typical disaster events along Silk Road, visualizing the results of disaster risk assessment at multiple scales from the entire Silk-road area to regional and local level. Along with the Atlas, the Report of “Glance at the Silk Road Disaster Risk” provides a detailed explanation and description of all maps that have been presented in the Atlas. In addition, the involved human geographers and social scientists will share their experiences in risk governance and management in the Report. 

Chunli Bai, President of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in the conference's opening ceremony that areas along the Silk Road are prone to various natural disasters that have resulted in massive loss of life and economic damage. 

"As a result, it is paramount to use new technologies and international cooperation to jointly tackle these natural disaster risks, protect ecological security and achieve sustainable development," said Bai, who is also the President of ANSO, a group created to connect the scientific communities of B&R participants. 

Runqiu Huang, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said disaster risk reduction of natural hazards along the initiative is crucial for its success and sustainability. 

He said that due to the strong tectonic movement, rugged terrain, fragile geo-environment and extreme climate, many regions, especially the Tianshan-Pamir Plateau, Himalayas, the eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and South Asia, were severely affected by different kinds of geo-hazards, such as landslides, debris flows and glacial lake outburst floods. 

He called for international collaboration in linking research facilities and sharing knowledge to create a more effective disaster risk reduction platform and build a safe B&R. 

In a video speech, Mami Mizutori, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), told the conference that the Belt and Road Initiative was one of the most important large-scale infrastructure development projects being carried out in the world. The scale and reach of the initiative will impact billions of people and reshape the physical world, and countries should be mindful of these projects' impact on the environment and inhabitants. 

"It is encouraging that the government of China is taking proactive measures to ensure that the development of the Belt and Road Initiative is risk-informed and sustainable," she added. 

"Disaster-proofing the world's largest infrastructure initiative is a challenge, but achievable," she said, adding that at the heart of this challenge lies great potential for innovation and creativity. Scientists and researchers can use this opportunity to create a new wave of innovation in disaster-resilient infrastructure and wide-scale disaster risk reduction. The impact of such innovation will certainly benefit the Belt and Road Initiative and beyond, she said. 

Henrik Slotte, a senior disaster management expert from the UN Environment Program, said poorly managed infrastructure projects can damage the ecosystem. He said it is key for scientists to communicate with government officials to create better planning and new solutions, and more interdisciplinary research into natural disasters and risk management is also helpful. 

17 young scientists were awarded in the closing ceremony with the Best Oral Presentation Award for Young Scientist, giving recognition to outstanding young scholars who are doing research related to disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. 

The conference had 19 keynote speeches, 347 oral presentations in 24 parallel sessions and 88 posters. The Silk-road Culture and Development Forum was held on 12th for students from middle school to college and for the public. A photo exhibition on the theme of Beauty Coexists with Disaster, Civilization Rises out of Disaster was demonstrated to arouse public awareness on DRR and sustainable development.