Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Gujarat shows the way on long term solutions

News

AS THE race to supply initial emergency disaster relief gives way to more long term recovery it is clear that lessons from previous disasters were not fully applied in tsunami-affected countries.

In particular there is evidence that effective disaster management systems had not been established before the event - a move that recent disasters such as the Gujarat and Bam earthquakes have shown to be vital.

'When something like this happens we tend to rely on systems in place prior to the disaster, ' said RedR chief Bobby Lambert, reflecting on the scale of the challenge still faced around the Indian Ocean.

'Trying to invent systems immediately afterwards does not work.' Alan Stewart of Jacobs Babtie and a member of the Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team agreed that a locally based disaster management agency is vital to boost the relief effort in the first days after the event.

He pointed to the Gujarat State Disaster Management Agency (GSDMA) in northern India, formed to deal with extreme events after the earthquake in January 2001 that killed 20,000 people and made 300,000 homeless.

The GSDMA, set up with advice from Babtie, has started to put in place five emergency response centres throughout the state, to ensure international aid gets to where it is most needed.

Such an agency does not exist in the tsunami areas. A network of control centres on high ground up and out of the danger areas could have been the eyes on the ground to show international aid agencies exactly what relief is required.

An effective local agency would also ensure that the common mistake of inappropriate reconstruction is not repeated. For example, evaluations of previous disasters have shown that resources were wasted on inappropriate temporary shelters that people are unwilling to live in.

'Solutions have got to be found that recognise that, ' said Stewart.

Previous disasters show that successful rebuilding hinges on training locally based engineers in specific techniques to strengthen homes.

In Gujarat, the GSDMA rapidly trained up 3,000 local engineers in basic engineering techniques to help local people rebuild their homes.

This is crucial because notwithstanding the huge amount of cash fl owing into the tsunami region, it would not be sufficient to fund long term rebuilding, predicted Stewart.

'Realistically that type of long term funding tends to dry up, especially when pledged money fails to turn up.' The result was that in Gujarat, people ended up with responsibility for rebuilding their own homes. The most effective initiatives were those that engaged local people on simple and cheap techniques to ensure their new or repaired homes were structurally robust.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.