George Town can be centre of excellence for disaster mitigation, says Unesco expert

Attendees at the international conference on Managing Urban Cultural Heritage 2018 in George Town October 1, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Attendees at the international conference on Managing Urban Cultural Heritage 2018 in George Town October 1, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 1 — George Town took the lead in managing disasters in the heritage zone based on how it handled the massive floods last November, said disaster mitigation expert Rohit Jigyasu.

Rohit who is Unesco’s chair professor from the Institute of Disaster Mitigation for Urban Cultural Heritage at Ritsumeikan University in Japan, said George Town had successfully mitigated the effects of the flood and landslides last year.

“The initiatives taken by George Town was an unprecedented great example on how to implement disaster mitigation plans,” he said in a press conference after the opening of an international conference on Managing Urban Cultural Heritage 2018 (MUCH) here.

“We hope and already are starting a discussion to see if George Town can become like a centre of excellence not only for Malaysia, but Southeast Asia as a prime example where others can learn how to manage disaster risks through engaging local communities,” he added.

He said one of the ways to reduce disaster risk is through community engagement which George Town had excelled in.

“We are already discussing a cooperation with Unesco and the Institute of Disaster Mitigation for Urban Cultural Heritage at Ritsumeikan University in Japan with George Town on this so we hope this can be a great initiative for the region,” he said.

Penang, through George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), is currently working with the Institute of Disaster Mitigation for Urban Cultural Heritage in a Unesco pilot project on Disaster Risk Management.

MUCH is an international conference organised by GTWHI in commemoration of George Town and Malacca’s joint inscription as a Unesco world heritage site.

The four-day conference, which featured 37 speakers and moderators from 15 countries, will have 130 participants.

Topics in the conference look at the challenges and opportunities on the management of the urban cultural heritage site.

GTWHI general manager Ang Ming Chee, in her speech, said the heritage core zone covers 109ha and is surrounded by 150ha of buffer zone.

“It encompasses some 4,000 heritage buildings with an average of 100,000 people living, working and using the site on a daily basis,” she said.

She said MUCH is one of a series of 23 activities held since January this year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of George Town’s inscription as a world heritage site.

MUCH is a platform to share initiatives and proposals on cultural heritage management and also to build a network of site managers, professionals, decision makers and local communities in the management of the site, she added.

Key topics to be discussed at the conference include urban archaeology, globalisation and sustainable tourism, disaster risk reduction, world heritage site management, education and capacity building, conservation of objects and collections, site documentations, rejuvenation of urban heritage and online mobilisation in heritage management.

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