Shanghai, 7 July 2010 - A new publication from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reflects on two years of cooperation with the Chinese Government to address the environmental impacts of the devastating earthquake that struck the Sichuan Province on 12 May 2008.
UNEP in China: Building Back Better outlines the shared learning from UNEP's work in China to help rebuild lives and landscapes in the aftermath of the 8.0 quake that affected 70 million people, destroyed some 6.5 million homes, and caused 15 million people to be evacuated.
The publication is being released today to coincide with UNEP's "Nature of Cities" exhibition in the UN Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
At the request of the Chinese Government, UNEP engaged in the post-disaster recovery effort immediately after the disaster, deploying experts to assess the situation on the ground, advising national and provincial authorities on managing the environmental impacts of the disaster, and providing guidance on the best approaches for "greening" the reconstruction.
The UNEP team was able to raise awareness of environmental and ecological considerations within the overall state planning processes for post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction, and to ensure that these considerations were duly included.
As the primary environmental actor on the ground, UNEP was also able to bring together the best international experts to share practical knowledge with Chinese civil servants on a wide range of environmental issues linked to disaster recovery and reconstruction, including contamination of water and soil resources, disposal of hazardous healthcare waste, and the management of vast quantities of building rubble.
A welcome feature of the post-earthquake intervention in China was that UNEP experts were also able to learn from Chinese best practices.
For example, the Government issued clear guidance to communities on what areas could be used for rebuilding and what areas should remained untouched, on the basis of an environmental and disaster risk assessment. This enabled local communities to rapidly deploy their resources, rebuild their homes where possible, while ensuring that reconstruction was not undertaken in environmentally sensitive or disaster-prone areas.
This type of knowledge is invaluable and can be applied to other post-disaster situations around the world.
UNEP's former China Project Coordinator, Muralee Thummarukudy, will travel to Shanghai on 17-18 July to take part in a series of events on post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction in the UN Pavilion at Expo 2010.
UNEP's post-earthquake activities in China were supported with funding from the Government of Norway.