Unesco picks George Town for disaster risk reduction project

George Town has been selected by Unesco as a pilot site for a disaster risk reduction project due to its commendable heritage city management efforts.

GEORGE TOWN: George Town has been picked by the Jakarta and Apia Unesco offices as a pilot site for a disaster risk reduction project due to its commendable heritage city management efforts.

Cultural unit head of the Unesco Office in Jakarta, Moe Chiba, said if there are any good examples or practices of heritage city management, it has often happened in George Town.

She said when she was based in the Unesco office in India previously, whenever there was a problem with disaster management, disaster risk reduction, increasing population and uncontrolled urban development, they would look to George Town for good practices, solutions and techniques.

“I am hoping that in terms of disaster risk reduction of a historical city, George Town will again set another example,” she said at a press conference here today.

Earlier, Chiba, along with George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) chairman Lim Guan Eng, jointly opened the national workshop on harmonising coordination to implement disaster risk reduction strategy.

George Town is selected as a pilot site for the “Capacity Building for Disaster Risk Reduction of Heritage Cities in Southeast Asia and Small Island Developing States in the Pacific” project.

The project is run by the Jakarta and Apia Unesco offices in cooperation with GTWHI and International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property.

The national workshop is specifically looking at George Town. It will discuss the development of effective disaster risk reduction strategies for the city.

Chiba said the plan could be implemented as soon as it was developed, adding that it was critical to get feedback from other stakeholders, government officials, heritage managers, disaster management offices and academics to develop the strategies.

“The challenge of a plan is that it is not a piece of document. It has to be implemented, and that means people have to understand what this is all about.

“It is going to be a long process. It is not just something you finish writing, and the next day the plan commences,” she said.

Earlier in his opening speech, Lim said the state would continue to strive for a more comprehensive and effective disaster management plan through its 4P partnership, involving the public, private sector, people and professional sectors.

“In addition to a detailed study of the hazards Penang faces, a thorough analysis of the gaps in the current disaster management plan will also be conducted during the workshop.”

The chief minister said it was especially challenging to implement disaster and risk reduction plans to safeguard old heritage buildings under a heritage management plan that did not cover disaster management.

Creative solutions, he said, were needed to include safety guidelines when restoring heritage buildings in accordance with heritage guidelines.