Failure to properly maintain farmlands and forests in underpopulated areas could promote disasters in the 21st century, the government said Tuesday.

According to the 2002 white paper on disaster prevention, issued by Jin Murai, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, it has become difficult to maintain farmland and forests in 10 percent of the 48,000 or so underpopulated communities nationwide.

Because farms and forests absorb water and prevent erosion, their loss raises concerns that flooding, mudslides and other disasters may strike more frequently and cause greater damage.

Rising air temperatures and sea levels caused by global warming may also contribute to future disasters, the paper said.

To prepare for acts of nature, the annual report stresses society as a whole must formulate three types of disaster-prevention measures. The first is “self-help,” which means companies and individuals protect themselves. The second is “co-help,” meaning they support each other. The third is “public help,” which involves action by the national and local governments.

As an example of self-help, the report cites measures such as those to prevent furniture from falling over during disasters. As for co-help, individuals and companies were urged to participate together in local disaster-preparedness activities.

For public help, the report emphasizes the need to strengthen the government’s crisis-management systems and to disclose more information about disasters.

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