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close this bookSevere Tropical Storms Preparation and Response - Case Study Text (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1991, 58 p.)
close this folderPart Three: Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
View the documentK. Rehabilitation and reconstruction activities
View the documentL. Weaknesses in Early Rehabilitation
View the documentM. Implications for development
View the documentN. Lessons Learned: Programmes Contributing Positively to Preparedness
View the documentO. Subsequent mitigation projects initiated as a consequence of the disaster

L. Weaknesses in Early Rehabilitation

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 government’s 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 fishermen’s 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


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.