SCHOOL OF NATURAL AND APPLIED SCIENCE
EXPRESSION OF INTEREST IN A NEW RESEARCH CENTRE
A proposed Centre for Disaster Reduction
To reduce the impact of natural and man-made disasters in PNG and region by
· The study of past disasters as a guide to the future;
· The study of any contemporary disasters, their causes and effects;
· The promotion of public awareness of and preparedness for disasters; and
· Developing and offering a program of training in disaster management.
Justification of the initiative.
Papua New Guinea is prone to natural disasters. This is because of our location on an active plate boundary. In fact, PNG ranks in the top ten nations worldwide in terms of loss of life by natural disasters in proportion to population. At the same time we, in PNG, are not well prepared for disasters and carry out very little disaster-related research and very few disaster awareness activities.
This proposal seeks to address these deficiencies, or rather to make a start to address the deficiencies. We hope that from this small beginning a larger and more broadly based program might develop, involving other universities and agencies, as outlined below.
Why make a start at UPNG?
The University has a strong track record in disaster reduction, including involvement in the response to the 1994 Rabaul eruption and in research arising from that eruption, and involvement in the response to the 1998 Aitape tsunami and 2002 Aitape earthquake. The tsunami work has included a vigorous public awareness campaign by UPNG Geosciences staff, counseling of victims by staff and students from Psychology strand and one from IDCE, and continuing research into the cause and effects of the tsunami. More recently we have started research into the frequency of major tsunamis on this coast since pre-historic times.
Several papers on the science of the tsunami have been published (e.g., see noaa.pmel website) and others are in the mill, being assembled for a special issue of the journal Pure and Applied Geophysics (Prof Davies is senior co-editor). Publications on the public awareness aspects of the tsunami have been produced in two booklets, both printed in 7000 copies and widely distributed, two posters, and two pamphlets, one printed in 200,000 copies. Two papers on research into the Rabaul eruption are 90 percent complete. Unpublished bound reports on the eruption were prepared for (a) a professorial address on the eruption given at UPNG in 1999, and (b) a UNDP sponsored national conference that addressed Disaster Management.
In addition, one of us (Professor Davies), at the behest of the Director-General of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), established and is chair of a National Disaster Awareness and Preparedness Committee (NDAPC), a sub-committee of the national government's inter-departmental National Disaster Committee. The NDAPC serves to draw together all of the agencies concerned with disaster reduction and provides advice to the Director-General NDMO, and to the NDC.
As part of this function Professor Davies convened a conference to review all aspects of the tsunami, in September 1999, sand produced an initial report on the results of the conference. A more complete report remains unfinished because of pressures of UPNG commitments.
Another focus of disaster-related research in the Geosciences Division is the characterizing of tephras (volcanic ash) from pre-historic eruptions in the Morobe and West New Britain provinces, with the ultimate aim of developing a chronology of major eruptions for all of PNG. This information is useful for predicting the future behavior of each volcanic centre. The current program is being undertaken, unfunded, in cooperation with palaeoclimate researchers at the Australian National University Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Canberra (Professor Hope), and at Latrobe University, Melbourne (Dr Haberle), archaeological researchers at the Australian Museum in Sydney (Drs Torrence and Specht), and volcanologists in the PNG Government service and at Massey University in New Zealand (Professor Neall).
All of these activities are directed toward disaster reduction, i.e., reducing the destructive effect of natural disasters. The benefits of such a program are both economic and social, in that it can reduce not only loss and damage at the time of disaster, but also trauma and social disruption
Existing activities and partnerships will be strengthened. These include strong links to NDMO and to Government agencies that are active in this field (includes Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory, Rabaul Volcano logical Observatory, National Weather Service and NAQIA), and to non-government agencies including Caritas PNG, Religious Television Association and representatives of donor agencies, including AusAID, EU and JICA.
Linkages would also be built and maintained to overseas counterpart organisations including Emergency Management Australia (EMA), the New Zealand equivalent of EMA, Geoscience Australia (was AGSO, was BMR), the Natural Hazards Centre at Macquarie University in Sydney, and the similar but smaller centres at James Cook University campuses in Townsville and Cairns.
Within the University, expressions of interest and participation will be invited from all schools, and from divisions within SNPS. There is scope for all schools to be involved, including Law, Health Services, Medical, Sociology and Anthropology, Business Administration and Economics.
Other Universities will be encouraged to establish similar centres with the idea that, in time, a network of CDRs will develop across the nation. Centres at DWU Madang, University of Technology in Lae, Vudal University in WNB, and the UPNG IDCE Centre in Buka, would comprise a good nation-wide spread and would have specific functions and responsibilities in their own regions. The UPNG Centre could serve as a coordinator for the other centres, at least through the start-up phase.
The UPNG CDR is already functioning in an informal way (see list of activities under "Why make a Start at UPNG", above) and does not immediately require additional funds. More can be done if funding becomes available. Funds can be sought from the appropriate source within the University and, once the Centre is established and program defined, from external agencies, including AusAID and EU, both of which have a strong interest in disaster reduction. For example, AusAID is currently providing K48,000 funding for the UPNG Geosciences program that aims to determine the frequency (recurrence interval) of major tsunamis on the Aitape West coast. Similarly, in recent years UNDP and USAID have provided $US50,000 that has been used by Professor Davies (under the aegis of NDMO) to produce disaster awareness materials, as listed above.
Items that require funding are very diverse because the potential program is itself diverse. There are items of funding that reach across the board in all disciplines, such as Honours and MSc scholarships, travel and support costs in the field for supervisors and students, and home base support costs including aerial photographs and maps, computer access and GIS mapping software training and support, and costs of commercial analysis of samples collected in the field. For example, each radiocarbon date (essential for pre-historic research costs between K1000 and K1300.
Items that are needed specifically for geological and physical geographic investigations include
· one electronic distance measuring integrated theodolite (about K9000) and
· a set of modern coring devices, at the top end of which, in terms of cost, would be a portable vibracorer.
The coring devices are essential for any program that seeks to determine the history of natural disasters (volcanic eruption, tsunami, landslide) at any one location.
There is a great range of activities that can be undertaken in disaster-related research by specialists and students in all fields across all schools of the University. The only limit is our imagination, availability of staff to participate and, of course, funding. For the geosciences we will seek to continue and expand research into past disasters, to extend the record back into pre-historic time. This work requires scholarship support, operational funds and equipment along the lines outlined above.
Awareness and Preparedness:
In order to improve the standard of disaster management nationwide and in the region, the University can and should develop a training program in disaster management, perhaps leading to a diploma in same. This could be offered to graduates or non-graduates, and be available as an after-hours course and in distance mode. We would need help to develop the course but should be able to run it without assistance once it is established.
Once the Centre is established, and becomes inter-disciplinary, it will need a governing body that includes representatives of each of the active discipline areas. At the same time, the governing body should not become so large as to be unwieldy. The governing body will set priorities, seek funding from external and internal sources, oversee the allocation of funds to specific projects and monitor progress.
Professor of Geology 12.2.02