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New Delhi : Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 4, 2019, inaugurated the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Joint Exercise on Urban Earthquake Search & Rescue (SCOJtEx)-2019 in New Delhi. The exercise has been organised by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from November 4-7, 2019.

The exercise is the outcome of 9th Meeting of the Heads of Government Departments of SCO countries dealing with the prevention and elimination of emergency situations in Kyrgyzstan during 2017, in which India offered to organise the next Annual Disaster Management Exercise for the region.

Sha, in his address on the occasion, extended warm greetings to all delegates from the SCO Nations that have come together to participate in the joint exercise. He said that their presence for this exercise represents their governments’ passion and commitment to make this exercise a success. He informed that India attaches special importance to SCO as an excellent platform for synergising the efforts of all member States in the field of multilateral, political, security, economic and people-to-people interaction in the region. He also noted that SCO has emerged as an international organisation as it represents 40 % of global population, 20 % of global GDP and 22% of the global geographical area.

Shah said that PM Narendra Modi gave ‘HEALTH’ mantra for SCO Members for cooperation in 6 areas. He called for strengthening mutual cooperation on issues in six areas which are Healthcare cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Alternate Energy, Literature and Culture, Terrorism-Free Society, and Humanitarian Cooperation.

Bringing the importance of this joint exercise in perspective, the Home Minister said that during 1996-2015, more than 3lakh people had lost their lives due to natural calamities. Earthquakes have taken more than 2 lakh lives, which account for two-thirds of disaster related mortality in SCO countries. In this background, this joint exercise will be very useful for improving the collective preparedness & building a common understanding of internationally recognised procedures to co-ordinate post-earthquake responses.

Establishing the centrality of SCO Nations in tackling disasters, Shah said that none of the global targets on reducing disaster losses- whether they are enshrined in the Sendai Framework or Sustainable Development Goals -can be met by 2030 unless achieved by the SCO countries. International cooperation in this area is, therefore very important, he stressed, according to a PIB release

Speaking on India’s efforts in this direction, Shah said that we are making concerted efforts for strengthening our response capabilities and taking focused steps. Our National Disaster Management Plan was launched in 2016. All our 28 States, 9 Union Territories, and 90% of our districts have completed their disaster management plan. Now, efforts are on to revise this National Plan which has taken in to consideration not only the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction but the Sustainable Development Goals and Agreement on climate change also, he added.

Talking about India’s focus on disaster resilient infrastructure to minimise deaths, Shah informed that India is championing a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, which will be multi-hazard oriented and will also help in minimising the losses to property and infrastructure. Shah also highlighted that India has established the Tsunami Early Warning System for the Indian Ocean RIM countries.

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