• Kyodo

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Crown Prince Naruhito and a top national politician delivered keynote speeches on Thursday at a U.N. session on water and disasters, with both pledging Japan will share its knowledge to help communities around the world that are prone to water-related catastrophes.

“Almost 90 percent of the victims of natural disasters in the world are created by water-related disasters, such as floods and droughts,” said Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. “The resilience against water-related disasters is an urgent issue for human beings.”

Having come to the United States after a visit to disaster victims in Fukuoka Prefecture, an area hit hard by recent floods, Nikai spoke of how unseasonable rainfall on Kyushu has left approximately 50 people dead or missing.

Apart from pressing for legislation in Japan to build up resilience against floods and tsunami, he has also visited other countries to help at-risk communities better prepare for such events.

Hailing from Wakayama Prefecture — where in 1854 a farmer once set his rice fields on fire to warn the community of an approaching tsunami — Nikai lobbied to have Nov. 5 designated as World Tsunami Awareness Day. The day has taken off, he said, with plans for a special summit in the fall to be held in Okinawa, drawing students from the vulnerable Pacific Islands to meet with their Japanese counterparts.

“I consider that it is an important mission of Japan, the country with frequent natural disasters, to promote the initiative to strengthen resilience of land in the global scale and build up (a) safe and secure world,” he said. “We should share Japan’s experiences, knowledge and lessons learned with the rest of the world,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Crown Prince Naruhito in a special video message conveyed similar sentiments but also pointed to the importance of looking back at history and what humans have learned about water and disasters.

The oldest known documentation of a tsunami, he said, was recorded in the Nihon Shoki, Japan’s official history book, when in the year 684 an earthquake struck what is now Kochi Prefecture, with the ensuing tsunami sweeping away land and boats.

He also addressed the importance of working within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals — 17 objectives that were endorsed by the United Nations in 2015 to be achieved by 2030.

In addition to targets, such as ending poverty, other goals are directly related to water. One of them aims to ensure water and sanitation for all. Another target, he said, takes aim at reducing the impact of water-related disasters.

“The international community has successfully agreed on ambitious goals and targets related to water as well as disasters,” he said. “It is time for action.”

“As our ancestors did, we can and should observe water and nature around us, consider the current relations between water and people, and harmonize between water and nature, and human beings, (making) full use of our experiences, lessons, science and technology,” he noted.

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