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Public Education Urged on Disasters

Disaster-prone China will face more catastrophes such as droughts, floods and earthquakes in the years ahead.

Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju Wednesday called for a national campaign to educate people about natural disasters resulting from global warming and the impact of human activities.

"The trend is a continuation since the 1990s," Li said.

Statistics show that despite rapid progress in 1990s, there were 40 percent more natural disasters in China compared with the 1980s, Li said.

"Facing the situation, we should first teach people how to prevent them and strengthen the national disaster relief network," he said.

Li made the remarks during a three-day China-Europe Forum on Government Management which started Wednesday in Beijing.

He said his ministry will be informed within two hours after disasters occur in most parts of China by a national disaster relief and first-aid network.

The government can usually send necessities such as food, drinking water and medicine to victims within 24 hours. The central government has built up relief material storage centers in 10 cities, including Beijing and northeast China's Shenyang, to back most of the disaster-vulnerable regions.

A national disaster relief and first-aid network and an information sharing platform are in place.

So far, 80 percent of cities and counties have a disaster-relief plan. The plan can ensure rapid action in case of a disaster, Li said.

The latest technologies including computer networks and remote sensing have been used to improve the country's capability to deal with emergencies and minimize the damage, Li said.

Liu Gengguang, deputy-head of the research centre of Li's ministry Wednesday said the government agency will gradually retreat from its role in collecting charitable donations and transfer it to non-governmental organizations.

"The government has finally decided to remove itself from a job that others are much better positioned to handle," Liu said.

Chinese people are thoroughly familiar with the government's role in this work. Once an area suffers a disaster, either flood or earthquake, the civil affairs department directs the collection of public donations to help the victims.

"But with the government's involvement, donating, which should be a purely voluntary act can be seen as an administrative process," said Liu.

He said the government's withdrawal is expected to bring charitable donation work onto a healthy development track.

"This is also in line with the goal of building a government with limited administrative power, as opposed to the old system of omnipotent government," said Liu.

(China Daily June 10, 2004)


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