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At COP26, India to launch drive to safeguard infra in small island states against natural disasters

IRIS, or Infrastructure for Resilient Island States, will be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the presence of heads of states from eight other countries and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Edinburgh (scotland) |
Updated: October 31, 2021 8:45:52 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the leaders of many countries, including French President Emmanuel Macron during the G20 summit in Rome. He will be heading to Glasgow on Monday to attend the COP26 summit. (Photo: AP)

An Indian event to launch a new initiative to make critical infrastructure in small island states resilient against natural disasters is expected to be one of the biggest sideshows at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow.

IRIS, or Infrastructure for Resilient Island States, will be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the presence of heads of states from eight other countries and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday. The new programme for the small island states is part of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), an Indian initiative announced by Modi at the UN General Assembly session in 2019.

With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the world within a few months of its launch, very little work could happen at the CDRI in the last two years. The launch of IRIS is expected to change that.

“Small island states are the most vulnerable to climate change. They face the worst impacts. At the same time, each of their infrastructure is extremely critical to them. A larger country, for example, can have five or ten airports. So, if one or two are damaged in climate disasters, the country can still manage its affairs by diverting its operations elsewhere. But many of the small island states have a single airstrip. If this gets damaged, the country loses its connectivity with the rest of the world,” Kamal Kishore, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority, said. Kishore co-chairs the executive council of New Delhi-based CDRI.

He added, “It is therefore vital that these infrastructure in such countries are protected against the vagaries of nature. They have to be climate proofed. It is great that the work of CDRI is starting with small island states.”

He further stated: “It is not that CDRI was sitting idle during the pandemic. In fact, we have been working closely with the Odisha government to safeguard its infrastructure, mainly the power plants and transmission lines, against cyclones. It is partly because of this work that power restoration after the recent cyclone was much faster.”

The event to launch IRIS is scheduled on the second day of Modi’s visit to COP26. On the first day, Modi is expected to make an address in the afternoon.

CDRI was launched as a global partnership to promote resilience in all critical infrastructure anywhere in the world. So far, 25 other countries, including Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia and the United States have joined this coalition. It is the second international collaboration set up by India in the climate change sphere, the other being the International Solar Alliance that has now evolved to a status of “treaty-based” intergovernmental organization.

CDRI hopes to become a knowledge-network through which member countries can learn from each other and adopt best practices in the development of climate-resilient infrastructure. CDRI does not aim to create infrastructure itself, or play the role of a funding agency.

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