State Authority: Early warning systems for the reduction of natural disasters in China

Zhen-Yao Wang
No. 147, Bei he Yan Street, Beijing 100721, China.
Tel. /Fax: +86-10-65229170,
E-mail: cncidndr@ihw.com.cn

There are many natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, storm surges, forest fires, landslides etc., which have frequently affected the sustainable development in China. According to the statistics, the annual loss caused by natural disasters in China is about 5% of the gross national production which is equivalent to 27% of the country’s financial incomes. It exceeds by far the corresponding proportion of developed countries.

Disaster reduction is a systematic "engineering". It requires efforts of the whole society and comprises 10 basic elements such as monitoring, prediction, assessment, disaster resistance, disaster prevention, disaster relief, resettlement and recovering, insurance etc. Among these, early warning systems are of particular importance for the mitigation of disaster losses in life and property.

To cope with the major disasters in China, there are 7 governmental agencies responsible since the 1950s for the early warning work in their respective fields, for example the China Seismological Bureau for earthquake disasters, the China Meteorological Administration for meteorological disasters, the State Forestry Bureau for forest fires and the Ministry of Land Resources for the geological disasters (landslides, rock bursts, mudflows) and marine disasters (storm surges, sea waves, red surges etc.). The Ministry of Water Resources is in charge of flood disasters and the Ministry of Agriculture of agricultural diseases.

After several decades of construction and utilisation, these early warning systems have developed very quickly, and many lives and much property have been saved through their application. However, there are still difficulties, such as the insufficient density of the monitoring networks and out-of-date observation instruments. A completed three-dimensional monitoring and early warning system is not yet available. Much work remains to be done in the future.