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close this bookRehabilitation and Reconstruction - 1st Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1993, 47 p.)
close this folderPart 2 - Relationship to other stages of disaster management
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMitigation into reconstruction
View the documentReconstruction and development
View the documentReconstruction and preparedness plans
View the documentEmergency relief into rehabilitation
View the documentSummary

Mitigation into reconstruction

Ideally, reconstruction should aim to build to a better standard than existed before. Any actions to improve the pre-disaster conditions can help to reduce disaster risk and mitigate the damage of future events. There are several structural and non-structural mitigation measures that are discussed in the module Disaster Mitigation. Those that are likely to be implemented or improved in reconstruction are explained below.

Construction codes to protect buildings and infrastructure are almost always introduced after major disasters. While post-disaster reconstruction may be a good period in which to establish codes, problems may arise in relation to their enforcement and the time taken to develop them. Full investigation of structural damage (and in the case of earthquakes, micro-zonation studies), can take a very long time and slow down reconstruction. Many people start rebuilding and repairing within weeks of the event. An interim emergency code and standard for repair can speed up the process and protect reconstruction and repair of damaged buildings until codes are revised for future construction. However, in some situations emergency codes may in the long-term become the norm. Supervision and enforcement of codes in the long run can also be difficult In most developing countries the system can easily be corrupted due to the loopholes in the legislation, lack of trained inspectors, the extra cost involved in protective measures and decline in public awareness of risk as the disaster fades from memory. Rural areas and unauthorized buildings such as squatter settlements often escape code enforcement since they may not come under the control of any jurisdiction. Codes alone will be of little use to ensure higher standards, unless they are supported by increased public awareness for self-control, incentives to implement them and the economic means to pay for improvements. Mitigation planning should therefore recognize this fact and develop measures that are affordable and achievable by the groups who have the least knowledge and the means.

Land-use changes and zoning are easier to introduce where levels of damage are high. Reduction of densities and change of use during reconstruction in high risk areas can contribute to mitigation. In densely populated urban areas, clearance of damaged buildings for more open areas and parks, though expensive, can not only reduce future risks but provide areas for evacuation and erection of emergency shelters in a future disaster. Examples of such mitigation measures are; the building of schools on highest grounds as evacuation centers during floods in Anhui Province of China in 1991, increasing park areas in Skopje after the 1963 earthquake in the most dangerous part of the city subject to river flooding and maximum seismic ground movement due to alluvial soil.

The replanning of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake and Skopje in 1963 represent examples of major reconstruction efforts that incorporated many urban design principles for mitigation, including wide streets and increased open space. Obviously such grand changes are not always possible or successful. Lack of political will, pressure groups with interest in land and public resistance to change can counteract these measures. Where damage is limited, pre-disaster land use plans will be more difficult to alter, even though the future risk may be high. Property owners will fear that the value of their land or buildings will be reduced and that business will no longer be profitable. Authorities will also be more reluctant to divert resources into major alterations.

Groups who live on marginalized land will benefit very little from any of the above measures even when they are implemented. As these groups lead their lives in very vulnerable conditions they are at highest risk from disasters and the least able to benefit from any mitigation measures that might be introduced after an event. Sometimes disasters can provide opportunities that should be utilized to the benefit of these groups.

Land reforms, tenure or title-deeds for land and property, grants and credit schemes may become possible in the post-disaster situation. Disaster mitigation for the marginalized, therefore, should be addressed in a political, economic and social context, otherwise such groups who do not have a voice themselves may be left out of any provisions.

Disaster mitigation for the marginalized, therefore, should be addressed in a political, economic and social context, otherwise such groups who can not voice themselves may be left out of any provisions.

For example, following the earthquake in Mexico City, local authorities provided low interest loans and technical and legal assistance to the low income groups living in the damaged historical part of the city. Families who were tenants before the earthquake were able to organize themselves into groups and purchased the buildings at favorable rates from the owners. The following reconstruction and social upgrading Programme not only provided these families with safer housing but also with more economic and social security.

Decentralization of facilities such as administration, health, industry, infrastructure and communications is more likely to be implemented during reconstruction after a major disaster. While this measure safeguards survival of some parts of any system if facilities are concentrated in a high risk area, the management practicality and cost of dispersed services have to be carefully balanced with their level of risk. Maintaining a diversity of locations in agriculture and food crops can also minimize the damage to rural economies. This has been put into practice at the local level in Fiji where farmers work land in more than one location.

Diversification of economy during reconstruction of damaged industry and rehabilitation of agriculture can significantly mitigate losses and speed up recovery in future disasters. Reliance on one type of economy such as tourism, manufacturing, fishing or agriculture can create significant problems without alternatives to fall back on. Political will, public acceptance and international assistance will be more readily available to achieve diversification during reconstruction than pre-disaster conditions. Introduction of new seed types and plantation patterns can increase crop resistance and improve yields. In certain instances this may also help to alter plantation and harvest time to avoid damage from seasonal disaster, such as floods and hurricanes. Where applicable, activities such as stock breeding, poultry and beehive keeping, crafts etc., can provide an extra income if agriculture fails and cannot be restored rapidly. In this context rehabilitation has to be seen within a developmental framework.