(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

"Building back better" in quake zone

Some 611,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by Pakistan's 2005 earthquake. This family is happy with their new seismic-resistant home, which they built themselves
ERRA

What do you do when a 7.6 magnitude earthquake strikes in rugged mountainous terrain killing more than 73,000 people? How do you respond to the needs of the 3.5 million people made homeless? Who coordinates the emergency response, early recovery and reconstruction of an area the size of Belgium where some 600,000 homes, 6,000 schools and 574 health facilities were damaged or destroyed?



These were the questions the Pakistan government had to answer in the immediate aftermath of the 8 October 2005 earthquake when it faced what it described as the “most debilitating natural disaster in its history” - one which it conceded it was ill-prepared for. [See: Critiques of the 2005 quake reconstruction]



There was no government department dedicated to disaster relief, so the Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) was set up on 24 October 2005 with a mandate to handle early recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation in the worst-affected nine districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP - recently renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Pakistan administered Kashmir.



Four and a half years later, ERRA says the reconstruction of 436,486 destroyed rural homes would be completed at the end of April 2010. “One hundred percent of the affected people have now returned,” Altaf Muhammad Saleem, chairman of ERRA, told IRIN.



“Our programme is divided into two parts: the owner-driven housing programme, which was for 600,000 homes; we inspect, we finance, we monitor, we train, but people built the homes themselves. The other part of the programme consists of 13,000 projects,” Saleem said.



He said 80 percent of these projects - consisting of schools, hospitals and infrastructure - had been completed or were nearing completion, while the remainder have been designed, tendered and awarded to contractors. “They will go into construction phase on 1 July and will take another one and half years to build. Our original aim was to end by December 2011 but it might take a few months more.”


In the aftermath of Pakistan's 2005 earthquake, a soldier instructs villagers on how to rebuild their homes with seisimic resistance

ERRA
In the aftermath of Pakistan's 2005 earthquake, a soldier instructs villagers on how to rebuild their homes with seisimic resistance...
http://www.erra.pk/default.asp
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
"Building back better" in quake zone...
In the aftermath of Pakistan's 2005 earthquake, a soldier instructs villagers on how to rebuild their homes with seisimic resistance...


Photo: ERRA
A soldier instructs villagers on how to rebuild their homes with seisimic resistance

ERRA gathered together a number of stakeholders involved in the reconstruction effort at a conference in Islamabad on 19-21 April called Converting Adversity into Opportunity. Experiences in reconstruction and rehabilitation were shared in the hope that they could be put to good use in post-disaster scenarios in Pakistan and around the world.



Owner-driven reconstruction (ODR)



ERRA’s owner-driven rural housing programme was singled out as a first of its kind on that scale, and a model that could be replicated elsewhere.



Under the programme, partially funded by the World Bank, owners of completely destroyed homes were given 175,000 Pakistani rupees (US$2,083) in four tranches to build quake-resistant homes - with routine visits by inspection teams to ensure compliance to agreed seismic-resistant standards. Using their own labour or craftsmen of their choice, beneficiaries were also provided with technical advice for building to the standards needed for a high seismic-risk zone.



Before the earthquake, ERRA said 80 percent of the houses in the affected area were structurally unsafe mud houses. Houses used unreinforced stone masonry, had heavy flat timber and mud roofs or heavy reinforced concrete flat roofs without proper connection to walls and used bricks and blocks without proper reinforcement. Essentially, people were killed by their own homes collapsing on them when the earthquake struck, experts said.



“Houses had to be seismically safe and culturally and socially acceptable, which was very important,” Saleem said.



The new guidelines for seismic-resistant housing were based on traditional building methods employed in the area long ago, and also allowed for a variety of designs and styles. This is not the first time the ODR approach has been taken.



“ODR was introduced in the 1970s but in the development sphere. It was only after the tsunami [December 2004] that ODR was introduced in a post-disaster situation,” Jan Meeuwissen, senior human settlements officer for the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT), told IRIN.



“If you compare [the Pakistan experience] with the situation post-tsunami in Aceh or in Sri Lanka, Aceh built around 130,000 houses in a period of four years; Sri Lanka 120,000 in five years; and here 419,000 in under four years,” he said, adding that this was the biggest post-disaster reconstruction in history and that “the standards set by ERRA in seismic resistance are now being followed by others.”


Villagers rebuild their own seismic-resistant homes after receiving training in the aftermath of Pakistan's 2005 earthquake

Villagers rebuild their own seismic-resistant homes
ERRA
Villagers rebuild their own seismic-resistant homes after receiving training in the aftermath of Pakistan's 2005 earthquake...
http://www.erra.pk/default.asp
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
"Building back better" in quake zone...
Villagers rebuild their own seismic-resistant homes after receiving training in the aftermath of Pakistan's 2005 earthquake...


Photo: ERRA
Villagers rebuild their own seismic-resistant homes

Meeuwissen said he believed post-conflict areas could also benefit from ODR as they would require the same kind of financial and technical support to build back better, “but there are different agencies in the country dealing with it - and did they pick up the lessons learned from ERRA is the question? We are not too sure that has happened.”



Jennifer Duyne Barenstein, head of the World Habitat Research Centre at the University of Applied Sciences of Southern Switzerland, outlined in a presentation five different post-disaster reconstruction approaches: agency-driven reconstruction in a relocated site; agency-driven reconstruction in situ; community-driven reconstruction; a cash approach; and ODR.



Having undertaken a comparative analysis in 2004 of these different strategies after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, which saw each methodology employed in different areas, she concluded that the ODR approach was the most favoured by the affected population and was the most sustainable in the long-run. Agency-driven reconstruction in a relocated site was the least popular and most expensive, she found.



“The reconstruction experiences of Pakistan and other countries have shown that ODR is the reconstruction approach that leads to the highest levels of citizens’ satisfaction and that it is more cost-effective and time effective than other reconstruction approaches,” she said, adding that for a number of reasons many agencies and NGOs had been reluctant to adopt ODR.



Barenstein noted a number of determinants of successful ODR, such as the need for good oversight to ensure the quality of construction, access to affordable and good quality building materials and adequate training of local builders.



She said ODR had proven to be successful in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka and believed it could be replicated in most reconstruction situations although implementation strategies needed to be adapted to local context. Barenstein called for “a need to formulate ODR policies in ‘normal’ times as part of a country’s disaster preparedness programme” and said “efforts should be made to ensure that all agencies adopt this approach.”



Aiming for sustainable housing


The October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan struck 30,000 square kilometres of rugged mountainous terrain, making the aid delivery and reconstruction a logistics nighmare

ERRA
The October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan struck 30,000 square kilometres of rugged mountainous terrain, making the aid delivery and reconstruction a logistics nighmare
http://www.erra.pk/default.asp
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
"Building back better" in quake zone...
The October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan struck 30,000 square kilometres of rugged mountainous terrain, making the aid delivery and reconstruction a logistics nighmare


Photo: ERRA
The October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan struck 30,000 square kilometres of rugged mountainous terrain

Waqas Hanif, programme manager for rural housing at ERRA, said ERRA looked at the different reconstruction approaches and decided ODR would be the most efficient because of the sheer scale of the task at hand. “All [the various approaches] have their merits but we chose ODR because of the large number of houses, the diverse communities and also because we really wanted to ensure long-term disaster risk reduction.”



Hanif explained that as the area was at seismic risk, it was essential that residents there became familiar with how to use local materials to build houses themselves to withstand any future quakes and that this knowledge could be passed on to others and future generations.



“We are not only looking to reconstruct a destroyed house, we are also looking to modify a few things in it and add new features in it so that it can be sustainable,” he said, referring to “add ons” such as rainwater harvesting, better insulation and improved water and sanitation facilities to end the common practice of open defecation.



Maggie Stephenson, technical adviser at UN HABITAT, which was involved in designing ERRA’s housing programme from the outset, said ODR was introduced in post-tsunami countries and in Pakistan not just because of the scale of the disasters but also because of a change in thinking by some of the key stakeholders, such as the World Bank.



“There’s sometimes a risk of the professionalizing of the assistance sector, including NGOs - that the more resources they have, the more active they become and that prevents ODR happening,” she told IRIN, noting that this had happened in some areas after the Asian tsunami.



“Considering what we thought we were facing in 2006, we are overwhelmed with how successful it’s been, but I’m a little worried that ERRA takes something that is about 92 percent there and turns it into 97. It’s not 97. It’s a little less than the gloss but that doesn’t mean it’s not a massive success. It’s really a stunning rate of reconstruction and the quality of work is far higher than we ever thought it would be,” she said.



ed/cb

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