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close this bookThe Long Road to Recovery: Community Responses to Industrial Disaster (UNU, 1996, 307 pages)
close this folder6 Iranian recovery from industrial devastation during war with Iraq
close this folderConceptual framework for a model of post-war reconstruction and industrial hazard recovery
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentA reconstruction strategy
View the documentThe reconstruction process

The reconstruction process

To some degree, the reconstruction process exhibits predictable characteristics. These include the tendency for damaged cities and industries to be rebuilt on the same sites, continuation of pre-war trends in population growth and urban expansion, continuation of predominance of certain industries, and continuation of previous social stratification patterns (Haas, Kates, and Bowden 1977). The tendency for a society to return to the status quo ante after war can be explained by two powerful forces - fear of change (particularly in a society that has already seen so much negative transformation) and the desire of those who control existing institutions to hold onto power. If market mechanisms are relied upon too heavily during post-war reconstruction, class cleavages may become even more pronounced than before the war. Underprivileged members of society are the most vulnerable in a disaster: they are the least likely to live in well-constructed shelters that may survive attacks, and the least likely to have savings to fall back on for the replacement of destroyed possessions. Some owners and merchants, on the other hand, are able to benefit from the business booms generated by the flood of resources into the reconstruction effort. These circumstances must be borne in mind at every stage of the planning process.

An acceptable reconstruction process - much like an appropriate reconstruction strategy - will, of course, vary from case to case. Further research into the critically important properties of post-war reconstruction will provide societies with better information for decision-making. The following set of hypotheses is based on existing literature and the author's experience with disaster planning and post-war reconstruction, and is offered as a framework for further analysis.

1. Reconstruction tends to become politicized and factionalism tends to delay the reconstruction of war-damaged areas. War simultaneously places demands on a country's resources and increases public expectations of post-war economic improvements. The shortages that occur generate societal tension and intensify pressure on the state to implement immediate corrective measures. Factions struggle over reconstruction strategy (planned versus market approach) and there is reduced political will for reconstruction of war-damaged areas. Although there is general agreement about the need to resolve economic crises, political factionalism may prevent specific measures from being implemented. Environmental disasters - including those that are connected with industries - are, however, a more serious matter that cannot long be ignored. As a result, they tend to require expenditure of national resources in the post-war period.

2. Reconstruction is essential therapy for a wounded society. Social therapy centres on people rebuilding their communities, both physically and emotionally, and this process can succeed only if there is a national commitment to healing. Long-term habitability must become a priority and the guiding goal of the reconstruction.

3. Enforcement of legal safety codes and provision of social insurance are essential to reconstruction. This is particularly true when industrial hazards are pervasive and environmental degradation has become threatening. The immediate post-war period generates high emotions and pressures for rapid response, and there is an understandable tendency toward quick fixes. However, quick fixes may ultimately be much more costly than more comprehensive repairs. Unsafe industrial sites and poorly reconstructed buildings pose dangerous hazards for reconstruction workers and residents, with both moral and material consequences.

4. Just as reconstruction after natural disaster must be used to prepare for or mitigate the effects of the next disaster, so must postwar reconstruction be used to reduce the risk of another war and its consequent industrial hazards by incorporating the causes of the war into the strategy itself. In addition to war-reduction strategies, a nation must also adopt preventive strategies that reduce industrial hazard. Therefore, national and industrial security schemes, and defensive and preventive measures, become major components of the post-war reconstruction. These measures are best achieved by emphasizing peace and by renouncing war as a means to settle dispute. Several strategies can be used to operationalize this goal. First, there must be wide recognition of the fact that a good defence policy must be based on diplomacy, as well as on the fact that maintaining an offensive force at the expense of economic development does little toward increasing a nation's share of the international balance of power. Second, people's attitudes toward the enemy as well as toward the war and environmental safety must be transformed. This may prove difficult, particularly after a defeat, but reconstructionists can play an important role as peace activists, as well as environmentalists, and education can be targeted toward reducing the country's zeal for war and increasing its appreciation of ecological safety. Realistic defensive measures that are designed to improve a nation's perception of security can be built into the reconstruction process, as can preventive measures that improve industrial security. Border areas must be repopulated and physically reconstructed with the explicit goal of security, while strategic economic activities and industrial plants can be relocated to safer places. Regional government and military installations must be reforged with an eye to territorial balance and cultural integration.

5. War damage, industrial hazards, and reconstruction needs must be carefully determined and assessed. An assessment of war damage and industrial hazards requires an interdisciplinary approach, for damage and hazard situations differ in terms of their physical and chemical nature, the social consequences they generate, and the economic feasibility of their repair and clean-ups. Skilled professionals in all disciplines, as well as the population at large, must join together to form a consensus on rebuilding priorities. Record keeping of damage and hazards is essential. Among other things, carefully kept records of damage avoid confusion over ownership and provide help in determining compensation for war victims, targeting priority reconstruction projects, and locating resources.

6. Existing and potential resources for reconstruction and cleanups must be quickly identified and mobilized. The mobilization of resources must begin with an identification of their type, quality, amount, distribution, costs, function, ease of use, and impact. Indigenous resources must be distinguished from external resources, and these resources must be weighed in terms of their potential to cause dependency, unwanted control over development, and uneven development. After resources are identified and analysed, they must be mobilized. Mobilization will depend largely on government action, but can effectively be augmented through the utilization of grass-roots organizations such as self-help projects, women's groups, and cooperatives designed to train people and provide materials for rebuilding. Military personnel can become clean-up crews and rebuilders. Public and private initiatives, such as the selling of war bonds and self-financing, will help the government tap personal wealth for mobilization. Material resources can be mobilized by expanding mineral exploration and by relying on local materials for building. Effective communication and transportation systems are vital for resource mobilization.

7. Successful reconstruction and hazard reduction depend on accurate timing. Speed is essential in harnessing political will and public enthusiasm before allocation of dwindling resources induces pessimism. The first step in post-disaster planning is an analysis to determine the cause and consequences of the disaster. The optimal time for reconstruction and clean-ups is after the war, when people are returning to war-damaged areas and can be involved in the process. The best time to plan, however, is during the war so that the nation is ready to rebuild as soon as the war is over. It is doubtful if the existing industrial disaster response plans (like a US Superfund-style programme) intended for peacetime use will work during or after a war.

8. Reconstruction should be defined, planned, and implemented in stages. According to existing literature about disaster planning, the main stages are emergency, restoration, replacement, and developmental reconstruction (Amirahmadi 1990b: 268). These stages are not necessarily chronological, nor are they mutually exclusive. The duration of each stage will vary according to the scale of the disaster, the level of commitment to clean-up and reconstruction, and the ability of a society to cope with the disaster and to formulate strategies. Other factors include availability of resources and the government's ability to mobilize them, quality of leadership, the speed at which decisions are made and implemented, existence of popular and humanitarian organizations, and international cooperation.

The goal of the emergency stage is to cope with the disaster and to help victims survive. The urgency of this stage precludes any real planning; in this case the planning must come before the disaster. It includes such activities as search, rescue, mass feeding, clearance of debris, paramedical help, and provision of shelter and other basic needs for the victim. The primary resources for the emergency stage are community emergency services and self-help, although international relief agencies often may provide assistance. The emergency stage overlaps with the restoration, or recovery, stage, in which the goal is to make the community at least partially functional. Damaged structures are patched up or retrofitted and made usable again. This stage obviously involves more comprehensive planning, as well as greater need for resources, particularly construction materials. Investments and expenditures during this stage are by nature temporary, and repairs generally require a second, more permanent investment.

The goal of the replacement stage is to return the community to its predisaster state through the creation of permanent housing, the return of displaced persons, resumption of public services, revival of industries, and the creation of jobs. This stage requires substantial comprehensive planning as well as massive resources. It should be followed - or even accompanied - by a fourth stage, developmental reconstruction, in which the goal is to develop the community beyond the pre-disaster level. Combining policy and resources for the replacement and development stages may mitigate the tendency to patch things quickly, which often leads to double investment and waste. The development reconstruction stage is very difficult in a war-torn society, for wars do not simply destroy part of what exists: they also prevent society from making new investments, from utilizing production capacity and resources, and from developing skills and technical capabilities.

9. Reconstruction and hazard removal must be properly and efficiently managed. The government must, of course, assume ultimate responsibility for management, yet certain local functions could be assumed by grass-roots organizations. A comprehensive management system can be embodied in one of three forms of government bureaucracy - establishment of a specialized new ministry for reconstruction and disaster planning, creation of reconstruction and disaster-management offices within the existing ministries, or formation of a headquarters within the executive office for the jobs.

10. Progress made toward reconstruction and clean-up must be documented and evaluated. Results should be periodically published in academic and professional, as well as popular, media. Evaluation of reconstruction and hazard-removal activities should be undertaken by independent agencies that have access to key governmental data and policies but remain outside the government's sphere of direct influence.