Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham Signs MoU with Esri India to Set up Center of Geospatial Excellence to Strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction & Community Resilience

Amrita and Esri India, the market leader in Geospatial Information Systems, inked a strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the International Symposium on Disaster Risk Reduction & Community Resilience held virtually on December 26, 2020. Under the MoU, Amrita and Esri India will collaborate to establish a Center of Geospatial Excellence on Spatial Analysis and Modeling with dedicated facilities for research, development, and testing. The Center’s mission would be to promote the development of specific skills and technical know-how among academicians, students, and industry around geospatial technologies and the latest toolkits like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Geospatial Big Data Analytics. This includes multiple initiatives such as conducting training programs, workshops, seminars, policy round tables, symposia events, certificate and diploma courses, and hackathons with a focus on geospatial technology application areas to strengthen multi-hazard risk reduction and community resilience. 

The symposium, jointly hosted by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (ESSO-INCOIS), Government of India; Esri India; Amrita’s prestigious UNESCO Chair on Experiential Learning for Sustainable Innovation and Development; UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment; School of Sustainable Development; and the Center for Wireless Networks & Applications, critically reflected on the imprints of December 26, 2004, Indian Ocean Tsunami and took stock of the improved preparedness, early warning systems, and efforts in strengthening community resilience in the past 16 years. 

Talking about the MoU, Dr. Maneesha V. Ramesh, Dean of International Programs at Amrita and UNESCO Chair on Experiential Learning for Sustainable Development and Innovation,  said, “This partnership aims to enhance research and capacity development in Geoinformatics, Spatial Analytics, and Modelling. The collaborative initiatives will work towards sustainable development to address Quality Education (SDG 4), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Sustainable Communities (SDG 11), and Climate Action (SDG 13) by engaging faculty, bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. students. They will help enhance the existing curriculum and educational material, as well as develop new educational approaches for effective teaching and learning of sustainability initiatives using spatial geoinformatics."

Added Mr. Agendra Kumar, President, Esri India, “Empowering the academic community with the necessary tools and technologies needed for future-ready students and capacity building is one of our key priorities. Geospatial infrastructure is the core foundation of disaster-risk reduction, sustainability and resilience initiatives. Our collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham will support various research initiatives and flagship programs such as Amrita Live-in-Labs for better sustainability and development.”

The symposium commemorated the 16th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and deliberated on the challenges faced, lessons learned and analyzed the current preparedness in community resilience, governance, and technological solutions to mitigate any future impacts of Tsunamis. It provided a platform for local, regional, and national government bodies, policymakers, international and national university researchers, NGOs, technological innovators, and scientists to share their knowledge and answer questions that will help develop resilient communities across the world. The symposium strived to revive scientific social responsibility to reduce risk and vulnerability factors by a) understanding the impact of Tsunamis on coastal communities; b) marking the advances in science and technology in monitoring and modeling of the Tsunami and its impacts; and c) coming up with a strategic framework to further advance our disaster preparedness, adaptation, and mitigation efforts to build sustainable and resilient communities.

The symposium served to provide a platform to integrate the last 16 years of research in science and technology to improve the rehabilitation and resilience of coastal communities. Through this symposium, international research organizations, government organizations, non-governmental organizations and community-led groups deliberated the needs and gaps in our readiness for the future to handle another Tsunami making it a multi-country, multi-level effort.

Dr. M. Rajeevan, Secretary, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences; Chairman, ESSO-INCOIS; and Chairman, Earth Commission, Government of India, said, “Even though we have advanced Tsunami warning systems there are many grey areas where we need to improve. We need to engage scientists and technology experts to improve decision support systems and last-mile connection with people.”

Dr. T. Srinivasa Kumar, Director, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India, said, "With the state-of-the-art Tsunami Early Warning Centre at MoES-INCOIS, India is much safer against the threat of tsunamis as compared to 2004. Challenges remain with respect to early warning and community response especially for tsunamis triggered by non-seismic and near-source events. Strengthening SOPs of all constituent agencies and end-to-end tsunami early warning chains is also an important task. We will continue to work towards building disaster resilient coastal communities by adopting the latest scientific advancements and promoting community preparedness initiatives under a multi-hazard framework. INCOIS is extremely happy to be associated with Amrita Viswa Vidyapeetham for organizing this excellent seminar, and look forward to working with their wonderful team in the future for strengthening the provision of ocean information services to coastal communities and on the “Tsunami Ready” community recognition initiatives.”

The symposium recommended all tsunami-prone countries to a) strengthen multi-hazard risk governance, b) create and build multi-stakeholder partnerships (SDG 17) and, c) generate information systems for coordination, communication and capacity building with disaster-prone communities to local, national, regional and international levels. It also recommended the design of holistic human-centered and humanistic approaches grounded in the participatory identification of felt needs of local communities and their involvement and ownership of local eco-friendly development solutions, including involvement of women as change agents and actors, inter-linkages with environmental issues and downstream awareness and preparedness education. Symposium speakers advocated the preparation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for all institutions engaged with tsunami warning and evacuation at all levels and the design of location-specific Geo-spatial Technology Infrastructure and capacity building at state, district and urban levels for effective disaster management throughout the entire disaster management life cycle. Investing in and strengthening psycho-social support and capacity building of local communities as first responders and preventing "default discrimination' and exclusion of weaker sections and Dalits during preparedness, response, and rehabilitation were also recommended.

Over 450 participants registered for the event and hundreds of others watched the deliberations streamed live on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. Prominent international and national figures in the field of disaster management addressed participants from over 20 countries including Prof. Ian Davis, Visiting Professor at Kyoto, Lund, and Oxford Brookes Universities, and Honorary Visiting Professor at RMIT (Europe), and recipient of the UN Sasakawa Award; Ms. Mami Mizutori, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Geneva, Switzerland; Dr. Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES); Chairman, ESSO-INCOIS and Chairman Earth Commission, Government of India; Prof. N. Vinod Chandra Menon, Founder Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Government of India; Shri. Kamal Kishore, Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA),Government of India; Dr. T. Srinivasa Kumar, Director, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Ministry of Earth Sciences, India; Ms. Madhavi Malalgoda Ariyabandu, Recipient of the Mary Fran Myers Award, Senior Expert in Disaster and Climate Risk Management, Sri Lanka; Dr. R. Venkatesan, Scientist G & Program Director, Ocean Observation Systems, National Institute of Ocean Technology, Ministry of Earth Sciences India, Chair of GOOS Regional Alliances Council of UNESCO IOC Paris International, Tsunameter Partnership of WMO & UNESCO; Dr. Maneesha V. Ramesh, Director & Professor, Amrita Center for Wireless Networks & Applications, UNESCO Chair on Experiential Learning for Sustainable Development & Innovation, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, India; Dr. Patrick Kilby, Senior Lecturer and Convener of the Master of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development Program, Australian National University; Sri. Hartini Richmad, Researcher BPS Statistics Indonesia (NSO) and Lecturer at Statistics Institute, Jakarta, Indonesia; Mr. N. Paul Divakar, Chairperson, Asia Dalit Rights Forum and Convenor, Global Forum on Discrimination on Work and Descent; Mr. Luis Aguilar, Assistant Programme Coordinator, Tsunami Department UNESCO, France, Dr. Antony Gnanmuthu, Operations Manager, Country Cluster Support Team (Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka), IFRC; Prof. Hari Srinivas, Professor of Global Environmental Policy, Gakuin University, Japan; and Dr. Sekhar L. Kuriakose, Member Secretary (Ex-Officio), Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA), Kerala, India; Dr. Shailesh Nayak, Director, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, Distinguished Scientist of Ministry of Earth Sciences, India.

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