By Kenji Kato / Japan News Staff WriterEcuador needs to further develop disaster risk management plans in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Ecuadorian National Secretary for Risk Management Alexandra Ocles said in an interview with the Japan News in Tokyo on Thursday. Secretary Ocles has been touring Japan since Oct. 29 as part of a two-week JICA program, during which she has studied up-to-date countermeasures for natural disasters, especially earthquakes and tsunami.
“I would like to introduce the Japanese culture of disaster prevention to municipalities in Ecuador, focusing on strengthening capacity of risk management,” the secretary said after inspecting various sites and facilities, including a tsunami evacuation building in Nichinan, Miyazaki Prefecture, and Kumamoto Castle, which was heavily damaged in the April 2016 earthquake in Kumamoto Prefecture. “It seems that municipalities in Japan have a high level of risk management capacity, such as disaster prevention and disaster reduction. They look well-prepared and organized to deal with natural disasters,” she noted.
Ecuador was hit by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake in April 2016, which killed more than 660 people and forced another 30,000 to leave their homes, according to JICA. Secretary Ocles explained that the disaster “might have awakened more people to understand that we have to better prepare for quakes,” and that disaster prevention education at schools has since become more systematic.
JICA conducted a survey after the quake and identified a number of areas for improvement. To address such problems as inadequate land-use planning and lax enforcement of building regulations by municipal governments, JICA agreed in April to embark on a technical cooperation project with Ecuador’s government. Under the program, called Safe and Resilient Cities for Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster, JICA is helping to devise tsunami evacuation plans and implement evacuation drills. It is also offering guidance on administrative oversight of building regulations in three pilot municipalities. The project began in July this year and is scheduled to run through spring 2021.
Due to differences between the two countries, Ocles says that Japan’s disaster prevention culture “cannot be copied 100 percent” in Ecuador. Rather, she said that Japan’s approach should be “a starting point ... to build our own policies.” In implementing JICA’s program, she said, “we expect to see more disaster-resilient municipalities in Ecuador.”Speech