Experts Explore Disaster Risk Management and Sustainable Development in Khorog
The first international Summer University on Disaster Risk Management was held in Khorog, in the Pamir Mountains, from 7 to 18 August 2017. The Summer University was organised by the University of Central Asia’s Mountain Societies Research Institute (MSRI), and jointly conducted with the University of Bern in Switzerland, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH). The event was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) under its Creating Opportunities in a Safe Environment development project, aimed at fostering self-sustaining and resilient communities in the Pamirs.
The Khorog Summer University “brings together several different disciplinary perspectives, including assessing the impact of climate change, and new risks,” said Dr Margreth Keiler, Associate Professor of Geomorphology, Natural Hazard and Risk Research from the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern. She is in Tajikistan to teach some of the Summer University courses, including hazard assessments, hazard mapping, and new approaches to hazard management, which can contribute to sustainable development of mountain societies in this region.
The Summer University aims to embed disaster risk management within development planning. It also offers both scientific and practical skills in disaster risk management and a sound technical, conceptual and comprehensive understanding of disaster risk and mountain hazards.
Twenty-seven participants from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India and Europe attended the Summer University. They are from academic and technical backgrounds, and some work at government institutions in Central Asia, including Tajik Hydromet, the Department of Geology, and the Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence of Tajikistan.
Sabrina Vatanshoeva, from the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, is a Masters Student at Carinthia University of Applied Science in Austria. She noted that her expectations were to gain new knowledge about Disaster Risk Management and to network with different experts and researchers in this field: “As of now my expectations are fulfilled, and I am very excited about gaining practical knowledge specifically about the Pamir region. I hope to use this hands-on experience in my future work and contribute to the sustainable development of my region.”
Dr Usuf Rahimbekov from AKAH Tajikistan explained that he hopes to learn new methods of hazards assessment which are internationally recognised and which can be applicable in the mountain regions, such as the Pamirs. “It was quite interesting to learn about classification of the multi-hazards assessments and methods in the mountain areas considering the effects of climate change. I will take the knowledge I learn from this course and apply it to my full-time job at Aga Khan Agency for Habitat in Tajikistan.”
With a strong emphasis on field work, the Summer University curriculum also includes a case study on the Barsem debris flow which took place in Pamir in 2015. Additional themes include climate change, vulnerability, exposure and risk, multi-hazard and community-based risk management, risk-informed development, and eco-system based approaches.
To ensure the link between development planning and sustainable development, the Summer University will be followed by a Policy Forum on 21 August, where the findings of the Summer University will be presented and discussed with senior representatives from relevant ministries of the Government of Tajikistan.
The Summer University combines Switzerland’s’ internationally renowned expertise in disaster risk reduction, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s 15 years of experience working on hazard assessment and disaster preparedness in the mountainous communities of Central Asia, with the University of Bern’s academic expertise in disaster risk reduction and hazard mapping. In-depth applied research and technical knowledge of Khorog and the surrounding areas is being provided by UCA’s Mountain Societies Research Institute. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) facilitated this collaboration, as Disaster Risk Management is an integral part of SDC’s working methodology. Each project in a country at risk is evaluated to determine how vulnerable it is to potential disasters, and activities are planned to mitigate identified risks. The SDC aims to integrate disaster risk management into development.