Research center will help prepare for disasters

By He Dan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-21 09:04
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BEIJING - China's first academic institute to specialize in the management of natural disasters is expected to be founded in late 2011 or early 2012 in Southwest China's Sichuan province, the location of a devastating earthquake in May 2008 that left 87,000 people dead or missing.

Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), a non-profit racing organization, has pledged to donate 870 million yuan ($129 million) to help fund seven reconstruction projects in Sichuan province. Five of the seven initiatives focus on education, including the research center for disaster management and reconstruction, which will be located within Sichuan University in cooperation with Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPU).

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"As the bond between Hong Kong and the mainland has grown stronger over the years, the club has been increasingly addressing the needs of mainland compatriots by making donations and contributing to different causes," said Chen Zuze, the chairman of HKJC.

Dou Yupei, vice-minister of civil affairs, told China Daily that research on disaster management should be encouraged because it is beneficial to the government's decision-making process and the nation's capacity to mitigate emergencies as well as carry out recovery efforts and reconstruction.

"Human beings are facing increased extreme climate events and natural disasters such as droughts, floods and earthquakes. All these call for more specialized research on disaster management," said Xie Heping, president of Sichuan University.

The HKJC's total funding of 200 million yuan will cover the construction of the campus building, laboratory and practicum sites, as well as the first phase operation of its educational programs. It is anticipated that some 5,000 professionals will be trained there during the first three years.

"HKPU has been participating in the curriculum design for the research center via introducing international experience in disaster management and localizing the knowledge in a bid to meet Chinese national conditions and locals' need," noted Professor Angelina Yuen, vice-president of HKPU.

Wang Hong, a project manager in the mainland affairs office of HKPU, further explained that localizing international experience was vital for disaster relief in China.

"For example, at the beginning, we simply translated some World Health Organization manuals about nursing for medical care personnel in Sichuan but, soon, they told us a lot of theories could not be implemented in local circumstances," Wang said.

"Therefore, we started to collect the requirements from the earthquake-affected people and healthcare providers, and then integrate the information into our textbooks for the research center."

When asked whether HKJC intended to get business profits from doing charity work in the mainland, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the club's chief executive officer, answered in the negative.

"I don't agree with the idea of using charity as a marketing tool," he said. "Charity is part of our DNA. We think, in everything we do, we want to be responsible for the community. I think what we advocate is our model."