Disaster Context

The Kashgar area of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China is earthquake prone. On 2 August 1998, an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale hit Kashgar Prefecture in Southern Xinjiang. This is the eighth time that an earthquake of magnitude six and greater has hit this area since early 1997.

Historically, the area has experienced numerous natural disasters, especially earthquakes. Seismic activity has intensified during the past two years. Scientists point out that the increase in earthquake activity, coupled with other geophysical data, suggest the likelihood that a major event of magnitude greater than 7 will strike the region of southern Xinjiang in the near future.

Kashgar Prefecture consists of eleven counties and one municipality. The Prefecture governs 3.3 million people and has more than forty minorities living within its borders. It has been designated by the Central Government of China as a poverty-stricken region. With only a single seismic station, this region’s ability to mitigate the impact of such disasters as earthquakes is minimal and thus the region and its people suffer greatly each time a disaster occurs.

The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA), focal point government agency for emergency relief co-ordination and disaster prevention, mitigation and post-disaster rehabilitation, fully supports initiatives of local governments to improve their ability to mitigate disasters. A suggestion was made on 7 August to help the Region strengthen its capacity to collect precursory signals for disaster forecasting and public awareness raising. An official request was submitted to UNDP on 17 August, requesting UNDP to provide emergency aid that addresses the above situation in southern Xinjiang.

Project Title Emergency Assistance to Earthquake Disaster in Southern Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China

The aim of the project was to assist the governments of Kashgar and Hetian, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, to improve their capacity in mitigating the effects of natural disasters, especially earthquakes. The project also helped the governments educate public officials on ways to mitigate earthquake disasters through recognising macroscopic precursory signals and conducting emergency preparation measures.

The project had two immediate objectives: a) to strengthen the disaster mitigation capacity of southern Xinjiang by setting up information gathering stations at three locations in Southern Xinjiang; b) to assist the local governments of Kashgar and Hetian launch a public awareness raising programme on earthquake disasters.

The project was completed within a year.

Sectors

  1. capacity building through networking,
  2. training public officials in disaster science,
  3. developing public awareness programs.

Funding

UNDP provided US$20,000 to complement the government’s initiative of setting up three information gathering stations in Kashgar and Hetian Prefectures. A matching amount, donated by an American based NGO, the Foundation for Research and International Education relating to Natural Disasters (FRIEND) provided funds for the information gathering equipment.

Partnerships

UNDP and the NGO - FRIEND became de facto partners in this initiative.

Programme Activities

a) UNDP provided funds for MoCA to field a mission to Southern Xinjiang area to install three sets of disaster information-gathering equipment. An international consultant headed the mission as the team leader. A national consultant served as the technical adviser. Both consultants are staff of the UN Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters (UNGP-IPASD).

b) Three observation sites were established in the Kashgar and Hetian areas. At the Kashgar site, an additional lay-observation method called self-potential was also set up.

c) A special three-day workshop was held in Kashgar City to train about ten local people from the Kashgar and Hetian areas on how to use their new information gathering equipment and record their observations. An exam was given at the end of this workshop to ensure recording quality.

d) Educational materials were translated into the local language of Uygur for dissemination to local public administrators.

e) Two day-long field trips were made to the area in Kashgar Prefecture hit by a magnitude 6.6 earthquake on 27 August 1998. Earthquake victims indicated precursory signals before the seismic event. Basic disaster knowledge from public education school programs helped to save lives and reduce injuries.

Improving Disaster Mitigation Capacity

Each of the three observation sites became operational within a few hours after completion. Changes in the Earth's environment over a six month period were observed using this UNDP & FRIEND funded network. On 2 March 1999, based on the recordings of the local public administrators in Kashgar and Hetian Prefectures, the following assessment was made:

Research Analysis: Before 20 March 1999, a magnitude 5 earthquake will occur in the area of Jiashi.

Actual Outcome: On 17 March 1999, a magnitude 4.7 earthquake occurred in the area of Jiashi, Xinjiang Province, China. Residents in Kashgar City, Jiashi County, were shaken.

ESTAPE Score: 92.5%

ESTAPE = Evaluation of Short-term and Annual Prediction of Earthquakes. An approach to assess the practical results of prediction research, developed by the UNGP-IPASD and introduced to the global community through the UNDP & FRIEND funded Beijing workshop on the forecasting of natural disasters in February 1998.

Project Significance

The strengthening of the mitigation capacity of local public administrators to see ahead regarding natural disasters is a breakthrough in both the social and technical sciences. The United Nations plays a pivotal role in this breakthrough.

With the 17 March 1999 earthquake, the international community has been able for the first time ever to follow, from start to actual event, the work of forecasting research. This capacity-strengthening project has been completely successful in watching for an earthquake.