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Southeast Asia

INCHEON, South Korea, Oct 29, 2010 (IPS) - Even as Asian ministers discussed ways to reduce disaster risks here, news broke of a twin tragedy in Indonesia – a tsunami triggered by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake, and the eruption of the country’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi, whose name means "mountain of fire".

Speaking to journalists at the Fourth Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held here on Oct. 25- 28, Sugeng Triutomo, deputy chief of Prevention and Preparedness at Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Management, remained optimistic that the country’s "spirit" will not be broken. 

"These disasters should not stop the development of our country," Triutomo said. "These disasters should make us strong… and more resilient to (future) disasters." 

But already, local reports are pointing to the failure of early warning systems installed on Indonesia’s remote western Mentawai islands, where 3-metre high waves have left close to 400 people dead and thousands more homeless or missing. 

Ironically, it is precisely these disaster risk management measures, such as early warning systems that are able to prevent higher death tolls, that the ministerial conference sought to implement in the region. 

Ministers at the meeting have approved a five-year regional roadmap to establish climate-resilient systems for disaster risk management by 2015 at the regional, national and community levels. 

Read more: ‘Vulnerable’ Asia Seeks To Reduce Disaster Risks

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Asia’s search for ways to feed over one billion new mouths in the next 40 years is prompting experts to call for renewed faith in its wide network of irrigation systems in order to ensure adequate food production.

This push by agriculture and water experts comes at a time when concern about the region’s irrigation systems have steadily entered discussions about the impact of climate change on food security. 

Rain-fed agriculture is more vulnerable to erratic weather patterns, so that the use of irrigation systems is viewed as being more dependable to farmers across the rice bowls of South Asia, South-east Asia and East Asia. 

Read more: Irrigation Systems Deserve a Second Look, Say Experts

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