|Severe Tropical Storms Preparation and Response - Case Study Text (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1991, 58 p.)|
|Part Three: Rehabilitation and Reconstruction|
Responsibility for drafting a list of reconstruction priorities was assigned to the Minister of Finance at a somewhat chaotic cabinet meeting on October 6th. This was challenged during the meeting by the Minister of Internal Affairs, whose department encompassed local urban and rural planning and development. However, the less than impressive performance of that Ministrys emergency preparedness departments had been obvious to all, and there was little support. The Cabinets discussions touched upon a number of important issues concerning reconstruction, but the pressing needs of the relief action, and its likely political aftermath, meant that several key topics were omitted. Those that were covered included:
1. The need for early decisions on organizing detailed damage surveys, and the opportunities for collaboration with the local offices of the World Bank and UNDP
2. The need for an overall policy for restoring regional systems and encouraging the recovery of regional economic activity
3. The possibilities for allocating of responsibilities for recovery planning and management among various ministries
4. Questions on the need for new building codes and how to enforce them in practice.
5. The need for early decisions on reconstruction standards for critical facilities.
6. A short discussion on the need to implement new mitigation measures for housing, schools, hospitals, and other public buildings
7. Questions on the need for price controls on building materials
8. A call for an early decision on how to assess housing damage for compensation.
Over the next two days, an ad hoc task force within the Ministry of Finance developed an outline plan specifying the overall priorities for the first stages of rehabilitation and recovery. These covered a range of sectoral areas, and focused in particular at restoring the governments apparatus for monitoring and control of administrative activity, and the basic lifeline systems in the damaged zone. Quickly a distinction was being drawn in discussions between replacement reconstruction and development reconstruction. Replacement reconstruction aimed primarily at rebuilding destroyed capital stocks. Development reconstruction aiming at improving existing organizations, structures, and activities. Elements of both these were present in the first listings of priorities:
1. Restore power, and basic switching equipment at main telephone exchanges in urban centres to reconnect undamaged local government communications links.
2. Restore damaged or destroyed local telephone links between surviving government offices, police stations, public utilities, and medical centres.
3. Restore regional telecommunications and transport, starting with the main telephone trunk network links and the roads to Province centres, and the main international route leading through the damaged area. The need for a bus service out of the area (to allow those with relatives elsewhere to leave temporarily) was acute. There was also much concern amongst businessmen in the capital about the disruption of the major road and rail links with the neighbouring country - a strategic trading route. Two of the key bridges on this route had been either weakened or destroyed. There was an urgent need for pontoons, and for transhipment facilities for some loads.
4. To quickly improve mobility of people and flows of goods within the affected area. A key requirement was to open routes throughout the area to enable marketing of produce and goods. Priorities included removal of large trees blocking roads, clearing of landslips, and provision of pontoon ferries on washed-out trunk routes.
5. To begin to restore power generation and distribution. The need to restore power to urban water supplies, telephone exchanges, and hospitals was acute, the problem was complicated by the fact that much of the power for the area was transmitted on new long-distance power lines from hydroelectric dams to the North. Most of these lines were down, particularly at points where they crossed deep valleys in the foothills. A local natural gas-powered generating station was operative near the Freeport, and remained connected to the surviving elements of the regional grid. Its transmission lines to the industrial area were damaged, and several circuit breakers had failed. The oil company which ran the refinery was making urgent requests to the Prime Minister for the priority recovery of power transmission to their plant.
6. To remove bottlenecks in the availability of critical building materials. There was already a serious shortage of cement and steel reinforcing rods in the country as a whole, and prices were rising rapidly by the third day of the disaster.
7. To increase food production in affected area. There were five strands to this policy. First, to increase the acreage under cultivation, and to increase the availability of seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides. Second, to make tools, water pumps and insecticide sprayers available as widely as possible. Third, to improve access to loans where necessary. Fourth, to reconstruct damaged irrigation systems. Fifth, to increase availability of inputs for the fishing industry. And sixth, to rehabilitate veterinary services as quickly as possible.
8. To accelerate reconstruction in the health sector. This would include reconstructing clinics, health centres, and hospitals to cyclone-resistant standards, replacing damaged equipment, and attempting to ensure that local staffing constraints (as a result of housing damage, and movement of families) could be overcome.
9. To reconstruct damaged schools to a higher standard of wind resistance, and to incorporate simple extra provision for water storage and emergency sanitation.
10. To reinforce the facilities for vocational training, focusing on bottlenecks caused by shortages of skilled manpower, particularly in the construction sector. It was also recognised that there would be a need to provide income generation for groups who have been especially badly affected.
11. To establish a crash programme to support and educate reconstruction planners at both national and local level, including a request to a number of international donors for technical support.
Over the next week, the Cabinet attempted to agree on a structure for co-ordinating rehabilitation activity. They recognised a number of choices:
A specialised new independent commission for rehabilitation
Creation of an office for rehabilitation within an existing ministry
Formation of a co-ordinating office for rehabilitation within the Prime-Ministers department.
Eventually, a Cabinet-level rehabilitation committee was formed. After much discussion, its was decided to assign the co-ordination role to a new office within the Executive Office of the Prime-Minister. The functions of this office were presented in outline:
1. Overall planning: develop policy framework and disbursement procedures; develop work programmes and budgets
2. Co-ordination with other ministries
3. Monitoring and supervision of registration arrangements
4. Donor relations: liaison and reimbursement claims
5. NGO co-ordination
6. Finance and cash flow monitoring
7. Accounting (including accounting to donors)
8. Comprehensive programme monitoring
9. Co-ordination of grants and subsidies
10. Development of overall criteria for support and prioritization
The choice of criteria was significant. The initial listing contained nine general topics (see Box)
Criteria for Priority Rehabilitation
1. Direct and indirect contribution to restoring essential services
2. Total cost
3. Percentage of district and regional reconstruction budget
4. Likely timing to completion
5. Number of people served
6. Contribution to longer term development
7. Jobs created
8. Administrative manpower requirements
9. Debt implications
After strong pressure from the Ministry of Finance, it was agreed to establish an Office for Economic Preparedness within the Finance Ministry. In addition, the task of preparing a draft regional economic recovery plan was assigned to the members of the ad hoc task force within that Ministry.
Decisions on Compensation Policies
During this period, one of the most pressing problems was the need to decide on the policy for compensation for those who had lost relatives or property in the disaster. It was decided quickly that those who had lost relatives (or at least those who could prove their loss) would be eligible for a small grant, mainly to cover funeral expenses. The more difficult question was whether to make grants or loans to those who had lost property.
Those favouring loans argued that much less government funding would be needed to support reconstruction; money that was repaid can be assigned again for lending, and a much larger population could be supported than if grants were provided. They also suggested that there would be far more problems of switching from grants to loans that vice versa, because of the likely inequities. It would be much easier and more politically acceptable to change from loans to grants. Those favouring grants argued that many people would need to take on a major debt burden for reconstruction not only of housing, but also of productive facilities - businesses, agricultural production, and so on. This would probably also be in addition to arrears for previous loans for items destroyed in the disaster. They also suggested that many poorer people affected by the disaster would never be able to pay back loans anyway, and that those groups would in most cases be the worst affected. They also pointed out the problems likely to be encountered in setting interest rates for government backed loans, especially in relation to commercial interest rates.
It was commonly recognised that larger loans for housing reconstruction tend to provide extra employment in the construction sector, and that reconstruction of larger housing would generally be ineligible for grants anyway. Some also suggested that easily available loans might encourage producers to purchase more expensive, but more efficient tools and equipment.
Eventually, some elements of a compromise were reached when it was agreed that activities that were income-generating should receive loans at higher interests that those that are not (Eg. house rebuilding), and that people with very low incomes who could prove the loss of a home would, wherever possible, be given a cash grant equivalent to a small basic house.
Whatever the government policy, it was quickly clear that people were seeking credit. Subsequent investigation showed that in the rural areas affected by the Cyclone, the formal credit sector only provided about 40 percent of the total credit. Many members of the rural community obtained financing from relatives, traders, or small moneylenders. Rates were high (ranging from 20 to 100 percent per year), but this type of credit was quickly and easily available.
People who expected to get some kind of housing reconstruction grant from government (after an unguarded remark by a Government Minister on national radio) started to borrow early on from local money lenders at interest rates of 40% to 60%. Many also made informal arrangements with contractors to reconstruct housing on the expectation that the eventual government grant would be used to pay them back. Within the next two months, there was an outcry when government officials started to suggest that those who had already rebuilt a house would not be eligible for grants.
From the start, the commercial banks resisted calls to refinance or write-off loans on destroyed goods. Issue of new loans was delayed by damage to some bank records and problems in reconstructing communications. Postage delays, and damage to the embryonic data transmission networks lead to further delays in loan processing.
In retrospect, it was agreed that a number of crucial mistakes were made during the first month after the disaster - mistakes which had a direct and significant impact on development outcomes for several years, and which also had important implications in a subsequent cyclone in the same area six years later.
Initial damage assessment of lifeline systems was delayed, and technically flawed. The technical specialists doing surveys of critical systems, were operating under a number of constraints. Several had to make provision for their own families as well. The teams lacked sufficient transport. They lacked information services and secretarial support. And there was inadequate communications between the teams and external consultants and donor agency specialists. Data produced in these assessments was not collated centrally for weeks. There was an urgent need for a co-ordinating cell within the national emergency operations centre which could keep track of:
- The status of lifeline systems in the damaged area.
- The status of repair operations
- The national availability of repair resources
- The relationship between repair activities and changing local economic and social priorities, including shifts in population
- Opportunities for donor support for building new mitigation measures into the reconstruction programme.
Assessments in several areas failed to take account of the governments budget cycle. Departmental budgets in central government were established in a round of consultation in early December. Provisional funding for reconstruction activity was also allocated to each Ministry and Department during this round. In some cases, assessments of damage did not reach the ministry concerned until after the budget round was complete.
Methods for selecting new investment projects in the face of future potential disasters were not adequately examined by government agencies and banking institutions. Staff were unaware of methods for dealing with risk and uncertainty of future hazard events in relation to financial investment.
There was an insufficiently comprehensive assessment of the patterns of damage to domestic housing. There was little initial assessment of the patterns of failure of common building types (in relation to design, materials used, and quality of construction). The main levers for change - government grants and loans, and building codes - could not be used when they were needed.
There was inadequate assessment of overall construction material needs early on: no efforts were made quickly to boost production from indigenous industry. This placed an extra burden on the balance of payments as imports of roofing materials and cement were drawn in. In addition, the lack of availability of appropriate building materials led to increased vulnerability in some areas. For example, to reduce the problem of roof damage and flying debris in windstorms, roof sheets and metal cladding needed to be not less than 0.5 mm for galvanised steel and 0.9 mm for aluminium, to prevent shear, bending and buckling in high winds. A lot of the material provided was less than this, and many new or repaired houses were more vulnerable than before.
During the first month, while spontaneous reconstruction was already starting, little analysis was made of the urban design features which contributed to damage (Eg. grid patterns, and effect of proximity between buildings on wind loading). The reconstruction simply replicated the previous pattern of vulnerability.
The sensitivity of economic sectors to the loss of critical industrial facilities and important material and energy inputs was not examined closely before the disaster. It took several months before planners began a detailed review of the impact of different future damage patterns and resulting bottlenecks on inter-industry flows of materials and national output.
Insufficient attention was given to the informal sector early on. In fact, much of the domestic reconstruction was accomplished by individual craftsmen and family enterprises. There were various opportunities for providing training and information, and subsidies for key housing materials likely to contribute to safer reconstruction. Almost all these opportunities were missed. Even rather obvious opportunities were missed. For example, the local authorities missed the opportunity to support the rapid recovery of local sawmill capacity to cope with locally available timber from trees felled by the storm.
Some specific administrative problems at the local level were not anticipated. It proved especially difficult to integrate different sectors when planning at the local level; for example, housing and business reconstruction at the same time. It proved very difficult to encourage planning staff to consider cross-sectoral issues.
The employment of village headmen to disburse grants proved to be less than ideal. In general, relatives of these people tended to receive preferential treatment.
Impact on Different Groups
The problems facing each socio-economic group during the rehabilitation phase were often markedly different.
The majority of fishermen had boats of less than 10 metres, and operated close to shore. But there was also a fleet of several hundred larger vessels. The boats that survived suffered substantial damage to hulls and fishing tackle. Almost 90 percent were affected. The owners suffered an almost complete loss of income while their boat being repaired. Employees were displaced. Wage labourers on boats were forced to try and seek land jobs. For boat owners, the main problems involved registration for assistance, and delays in grants administered by the Ministry of Agriculture. Most small-fishermen were migrants, and neither they nor their families were registered in the local districts. The families of those who died received no death grants. And those who lost housing were rarely able to prove residence. In the next few months, in some areas at least, arrangements for disbursing grants for rebuilding and purchase of equipment disintegrated into a maze of bureaucratic hold-ups, intimidation, and local frauds. A number of major opportunities for development in this sector, such as providing cold storage facilities to help fishermen preserve catches, fuel storage for fishermens co-operatives (to lower fuel costs by bulk purchase), and loans to co-operatives for larger and more efficient boats, were eventually recognised, and proved successful in the long term.
About one month after the disaster, a meeting of major donors established support for an emergency food crop programme for farmers in the affected area. They allocate funding of $300,000 for purchase, transport, and distribution of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs to registered vegetable and food crop producers. The government was requested to provide farmer registration lists, and to appoint Provincial co-ordinators for the programme. The Ministry of Agriculture was asked to provide plans setting out targets for acreages, crop types to be grown, planting dates, and input requirements. A number of participants at the meeting asked the obvious question about why plans for this kind of recovery activity had not been made before the disaster.
Tree crops, including coconut, rubber, oil palm, coffee, and fruit, suffered badly. There was widespread defoliation of trees and stripping of fruits, and some uprooting, particularly palms near the eye of the storm. Trees differed in their susceptibility to snapping of trunks and branches. Mangoes and citrus in particular escaped most damage. Avocados were very badly affected. Tree crop cultivators estimated that it would take two to four years for damaged trees to resume normal patterns of fruit production.
Tree crops suffered badly
UNDRO NEWS 7/8.89
There was also a knock-on effect involving unemployment among workers in food processing and packing plants.
Support for tree crop cultivators varied according to the crop type and the size of the producer. Farmers needed short term cash reserves to repair housing damage and to buy food, and many sought credit from commercial or informal sources. The overall government rehabilitation policy involved using grants to encourage the clearance of land and provision of planting materials for short-term crops. This was intended to generate some income while trees recovered. There was also to be a programme of distribution of seedlings for fruit trees and other tree crops for recovery in the medium and long-term. The rehabilitation programme experienced problems in the supply of planting material. There were also some irregularities in the registration arrangements, with an up-front payment sometimes being demanded. For larger producers, supplying major processing companies, there was credit and supplies of planting materials. These arrangements generally favoured only the more wealthy farmers.
Field crop farmers received little assistance, although it was never very clear why this was so. The main source of damage was the beating effect of heavy rain (which particularly damaged vegetable crops) and the effects of waterlogging which persisted for several days.
Most livestock farmers kept small livestock. Support was patchy. The Agriculture department attempted to provide replacement animals either free, or at subsidised prices. Again this programme involved a number of local irregularities. There were also delays of up to three months before assessments were carried out. Only about 20% of this group received any help.
Smaller merchants and traders suffered badly. Most lost almost all of their stock, and few had insurance cover. The majority needed loans, to restore stocks. The import of free relief goods into the area hit sales badly from the start. And later on, sales continued to decline because of the widespread reduction in income. Larger employers found that requests for credit from their employees was a drain on cash reserves, and were forced to seek additional commercial bank loans.
Wage labourers received virtually no assistance of any kind. There was a general shift from agriculture to construction labour. But most government and donor-funded reconstruction projects gave no preference for local people affected by the disaster. Many migrant wage-labourers were not registered in their districts, and found it hard to prove residence to obtain housing grants. Many families moved to the major cities within about three months.
The disaster had major impacts on development activity:
The disaster resulted in massive losses for the region and the country as a whole. These losses took a number of forms. First, there was great destruction of productive capital facilities and infrastructure, and their loss as development resources: these included factories, telecommunications, bridges, roads, ports, power systems and telecommunications, boats, and agricultural equipment. A feature of the disaster was the high level of damage to the contents of industrial structures, by flooding, wind, or debris. Another feature was the extent of damage to network systems such as telecommunications, and electric power transmission.
There was also widespread damage to agricultural resources, particularly tree crops, and productive land (from salt-water).
Second there were indirect, or knock-on effects and associated costs, stemming from loss of infrastructure, disruption of inputs, loss of production time, disorganization, and the need to clean up. Transport problems accounted for high costs here, with circuitous routings and the need for intermode transfers. A particular feature of this region also was the dependence of some areas on large-scale tourism. The disaster occurred outside the main tourist season, but the subsequent loss of bookings, and decline in tourist revenue brought a reduction or cessation of income to thousands of local people. The Tourism Ministry calculated that for every six month delay in return to operation, involving facilities capable of handling 1000 tourists a week, 20 million dollars in income would be lost by the operators. In the last year, the affected region had hosted 260,000 foreign tourists.
Third, there were losses that were harder to assign specific costs to, including at least three thousand deaths (many amongst family heads and breadwinners), perhaps ten thousand injuries (mostly relatively minor), and damage to the countrys heritage (churches, temples, a museum, and an archeological site).
Fourth, there was widespread disruption of everyday life, including education (many schools were closed for weeks), normal social activity (travel was disrupted for several weeks), and a high level of general stress as the population struggled to adapt. The costs of all these were undoubtedly high, but hard to quantify with confidence.
Fifth, there were macro effects for the country as a whole: inflation, balance of payment problems, fiscal expenditure increases, and a decrease in monetary reserves. The long-term outcome was an increase in the debt burden, less investment, lowering of economic growth, and delays to new development programmes. In the latter case again, a decline in tourist investment was a high cost element.
Another major developmental impact was the interruption of normal development programmes. There was a shift in manpower resources away from development activity to more visible short-term recovery tasks (mainly for political reasons).
The investment climate was not helped by the disaster. The perception by institutional investors was that government had not organized a particularly speedy or effective response, and the lack of prior planning was obvious to all. A number of critical articles in leading investment journals covering the region added to this intangible sense of discomfort over large-scale investment.
The non-formal sector - a potential engine of recovery - benefited little from the organized response. Loss of shelter and tools affected large numbers of skilled and rather energetic artisans. The commercial credit sector had no effective mechanism for providing assistance. Most were forced to take credit from local money lenders at high rates of interest, at a time when income was reduced and the prices of raw materials was increasing. Those who were able to work, reconstructing domestic housing for example, received little technical support or additional training in low-cost mitigation methods (which some NGO staff had proposed linking to low interest credit schemes). Generally, in this sector, opportunities for improving protection at low cost were mostly missed.
In the recovery period, one of the prime challenges faced by the Government was the need to plan reconstruction projects with close consideration of the likely developmental status of the affected area over the next five to ten years. It had to ensure that reconstruction meshed with the regional development strategy as a whole. At the same time, it needed to reassess development priorities in relation to the hazard environment and reconstruction potential.
The Government also faced the challenge of shifting the focus for prioritizing and planning of rehabilitation to the provincial and district level. Simultaneously, however, it needed to maintain the financial approval and controls, overall budgeting, evaluation, and co-ordination at the national level.
Thirdly, it faced the challenge of encouraging government departments and NGOs to participate in community-sponsored mitigation programmes. The main instrument for this was NGO participatory programmes. One feature of the later stages of recovery was the way local NGOs and citizen groups in some areas started to collaborate to lobby for a more comprehensive approach by the provincial government to mitigation measures. The governments needed to respond positively to this with a range of supporting actions.
Fourth there was a parallel challenge to international organizations such as UNDP and UNDRO to find ways of relating to these local efforts. Possibilities included locally focused research initiatives, such as hazard mapping, technical advice, and organization development and support for professionals working within local NGOs. An additional, more difficult option was support for programme evaluation and network building.
A subsequent comprehensive review of the performance of the emergency response system highlighted a wide range of lessons, only some of which have been included in this case study analysis. Overall, prior emergency preparedness had been weak, and during the warning period itself only a small proportion of the required actions were actually taken. However, this generally dismal overall picture disguised a number of pre-disaster measures (including in particular, a number of attempts to ensure that critical sets of data would be available when needed) that did contribute substantially to later effective actions, either during the early relief period, or later on during the rehabilitation and recovery. Among the more successful programmes were:
1. An UNDRO sponsored project for mapping of high risk communities. This focused particularly on:
a) urban low-income neighbourhoods;
b) coastal villages;
c) villages on flood plains;
d) villages on steep hillsides susceptible to landslides
e) villages on low-lying river deltas
f) villages on barrier islands
2. A prototype Red Cross project in two districts, based partly on the UNDRO study. This involved the identification and selection of buildings providing good protection in cyclones. A detailed survey was carried out by an architect, working in conjunction with representatives of a wide range of different community organizations. Selected buildings were marked, and information on their location was provided regularly to local populations by local Red Cross workers engaged in first aid and primary health care projects. Efforts were made to upgrade water tanks and sanitation facilities at these buildings. Shelter managers (usually head teachers or local government officials) were appointed and given a small fee. Local Red Cross branches were given the responsibility to provide back-up power generators for lighting, and to deliver clean water. Despite some earlier criticism, this project largely succeeded, in part because of the leadership provided by its organiser, and in part because of the extensive consultations with community groups which were made before it started.
3. A prototype agricultural preparedness project and disaster recovery studies at the regional disaster management centre, supported by several donors including UNDP and USAID. This maintained a database of agricultural associations and growers co-operatives, lists of NGOs working with farmers, information on agricultural produce processing facilities (Eg. grain mills etc), and a database of background information on farming practice in several areas of the country. One study area was in the disaster zone, and had been in progress for two years, focusing mainly on flood risks in the south of the region. It provided development staff from donors and NGOs with many informal contacts with local officials, and lists of key people in the local agricultural community. It was an invaluable source for recovery planning.
4. Recent investment in a medical communications network, linking local clinics and main hospitals. Special attention had been given to provision of battery powered equipment, aerials which could be dismantled and erected quickly and easily, and ways of providing waterproof protection for the sets themselves. Equally, more attention than usual was given to training staff in maintenance and operation of the equipment. In the event, this network allowed rapid inventory of damage to medical facilities, and a review of the capacity of the surviving system. Also, it permitted rapid reporting of injuries. A feature of this network was the extent to which it was combined with local support for a radio amateur emergency network (to which a number of doctors and medical administrators belonged) for which the health ministry gave useful informal support, training, and small grants for incidental expenses.
5. A special project for emergency protection of disease control programmes, including human and animal vector-borne disease control activities. Included in the budget for this project was a line item making provision for emergency grants to personnel who had lost housing or basic possessions, and for support to family members to allow the worker to return quickly to his or her job. Other measures included equipment and procedures for the protection of records against storm damage, strengthening of project buildings (including equipment stores), and measures to ensure that vehicles remained undamaged.
6. A UNDP sponsored study of critical industry in cyclone-prone regions of the country. This included collaboration with the department of economics at the national university on a model of regional inter-industry flows. It concentrated, amongst other issues, on the extent to which large producers were concentrated in high risk locations; their dependence on inputs of electric power or oil products; their dependence on local industries for critical inputs; the extent to which essential local transport links were susceptible to disruption; and, the opportunities for input substitution.
7. A review of damage compilation systems, carried out in conjunction with the UN Economic Commission for the region. This reviewed data collection requirements for national and provincial planning in the aftermath of a major disaster, particularly for economic recovery planning. It helped focus attention on the need for standardised formats for data collection and reporting, and the need for developing procedures and training for data collection and handling in an actual emergency. After a training programme at a regional centre, six staff members of the Ministry of Finance were able to develop a prototype reporting system, which formed the basis of the system used later in the recovery from the disaster. A consortium of international agencies later joined with the Ministry and the national insurance association in sponsoring the development of a training course for assessment personnel in a number of specialist areas, including public works facilities, crops, livestock, rail systems, telecommunications, water supply, and electric power, and harbours and ports. The Department of Trade and Industry was preparing a separate course focusing on assessing damage to industrial plant. The first of these had just begun as the disaster developed.
8. A basic course for Provincial Governors at the administrative staff college. This focused on emergency decision making, and on the need for identifying crucial decisions about rehabilitation which needed to be made during the first two weeks of an emergency.
9. The formation and training of the UN-Disaster Management Team.
10. The formation and training of joint damage assessment teams made up of personnel from the Police, Armed Forces, UN and national Red Cross Society. Arrangements were made to ensure that helicopter transport and communications equipment would be available for these teams at short notice.
11. Prior planning within the Ministry of Health for a detailed sample survey of cyclone-affected areas (see later).
12. A programme of disaster epidemiology courses, within the Ministry of Health, but open to personnel from the national Red Cross Society, and other NGOs. An active attempt to reach out to the heads of some of the national NGOs was instrumental in helping to focus some of their responses during the disaster on activities which were actually likely to achieve some degree of practical benefit.
A range of mitigation projects were begun directly as a result of the experience of the Cyclone, including infrastructure protection, new building programmes, and special training initiatives.
A special focus of mitigation activity was on infrastructure protection and lifeline engineering. A change in policy within the Ministry of Telecommunications resulted in a directive to ensure that new towers and masts for microwave and other radio communications were designed to give higher resistance to strong winds. Some attempts were also made to strengthen existing communications towers, with extra stays, and better maintenance and repairs. Telecommunications providers were also required to build in higher levels of protection for ancillary equipment. A programme to upgrade and maintain over-ground telephone poles was started. The storm reinforced an existing trend to move away from microwave communications to fibre-optic and satellite links. New telephone exchanges were also required to have higher levels of protection against wind, debris, and flooding.
The Electricity Corporation made a few improvements, notably a new design of transmission pylon, and an upgrading of circuit-breaker equipment. Computerised control equipment in power stations and switching centres were given some extra protection, mainly by shifting them to inner rooms in the buildings. The standard for new buildings housing this equipment was improved.
Government buildings were not substantially improved. However, those Provincial Offices housing Emergency Operations Centres were given strengthened roofs and window frames, and the locations of the centres moved to upper floors.
During repairs to existing hospitals, some attempt was made to strengthen a core of inner rooms as a refuge. Roofing was strengthened (with additional nails, ties, and beam connections). Buildings housing generators, fuel, and water tanks were reinforced or reconstructed.
The design standard for new hospitals and clinics was improved somewhat, to incorporate wind resistance and a stronger complement of fittings.
The opportunity to reconstruct or reinforce wind-resistant schools was not followed through. The shape of these buildings - narrow, with long spans - presented special problems, and upgrading was (erroneously) perceived to be too expensive. An attempt was made in the national budget to add provision to upgrade the level of regular maintenance (itself a useful measure to sustain effective levels of mitigation). However, this was later quickly cut back.
Changes in Planning Laws
Within three months, the countrys legislature had approved a change in planning laws to allow planning department to set conditions for design and construction when issuing building permits. The National Homebuilding Code focused on five elements: plan shape; construction materials; roof construction (shape, materials, and fixing); walls; and windows and doors. This attempt to strengthen building codes proved to be somewhat late, and was in any case hard to enforce. Many structures were repaired or reconstructed within weeks. There was a corresponding code for industrial buildings. The impact of the legislative change was, in fact, greater on industrial plant than on domestic or public buildings. Nonetheless, it was a useful starting point, and its application was gradually extended over the next few years. A spin-off from this effort was the training programme in cyclone-resistant construction incorporated into training colleges for engineers, builders, and architects.
At the national level, the government and UNDP/UNDRO jointly sponsored a Risk Assessment and Mitigation Project, which aimed to train national and provincial planners in risk assessment and mitigation techniques. These courses paid special attention to lifeline network analysis and vulnerability assessment, within an overall economic context. Planners were taught how to assess the economic implications of disruptions to regional network systems, and how to plan large scale capital investments in ways which minimised the likelihood of such disruption. They were also shown how to monitor mitigation activities.