Academia joins hands with Government to fight climate disasters

UNDP and Switzerland help engage Georgian universities in collecting and processing climate data

Posted November 10, 2020

Photo: Daro Sulakauri/UNDP

As Georgia accelerates its efforts to adapt to climate change and prevent climate-driven disasters, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Swiss Government are helping the country educate qualified professionals in the field of disaster risk management.

Under an agreement signed today between the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Ilia State University, one of Georgia’s leading higher education institutions, undergraduate students majoring in earth science will take part in NEA’s ongoing work to map Georgia’s rivers and model hydrometeorological and geological hazards. This partnership will continue in 2021 and the aim is to expand it to involve other higher education institutions.

The agreement was signed on the World Science Day for Peace and Development to stress the critical importance of education and science in addressing global challenges like climate change and the pandemic.

“Governments that rely on science to shape policy will do better in the fight against climate change,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “UNDP is helping to build stronger bonds between universities and Government institutions by giving aspiring Georgian scientists a chance to gain an understanding of climate change while making a hands-on contribution to reducing the risk of climate disasters.”

“Switzerland is among the world’s top countries in promoting a scientific response to climate change and developing climate strategies and policies based on solid data provided by scientific research,” said Danielle Meuwly, Regional Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus. “We are proud to share this experience with Georgia and promote cooperation between decision-makers and universities.”

The NEA, which functions as part of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, is one of the partners engaged in a USD 74 million programme for climate change response, implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Georgian Government with funding from the Green Climate Fund, Georgia, Switzerland and Sweden.

As part of this comprehensive initiative, NEA is assessing the risk of climate-induced disasters, including floods, landslides, mudflows, hailstorms, windstorms, avalanches and droughts, and preparing multi-hazard maps and risk profiles for the 11 major river basins in Georgia: Enguri, Rioni, Chorokhi-Adjaristskali, Supsa, Natanebi, Khobistskali, Kintrishi, Khrami-Ktsia, Alazani, Iori and Mtkvari.

“Climate research provides critical data for hydrometeorological and geological hazard modelling and mapping,” said Nino Tandilashvili, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture.  “Cooperation with universities will help us expand our field activities, engaging students in data collection, processing and analysis.”

Students engaged in multi-hazard mapping will be guided by a team of international experts contracted by UNDP to advise on multi-hazard risk assessment, hazard mapping, hydraulic modelling, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and international forecasting and early warning.

In addition, Ilia University that was actively involved in establishing the Scientific Network for the Caucasus Mountain Region will continue working with the Network and its secretariat “Sustainable Caucasus” to create a model of university engagement in climate adaptation that will be applied to other higher educational institutions in Georgia.

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