SZABIST - Diploma in Disaster Risk Management (In Collaboration with ERRA)



EIC 2010 Day One - Session IV Build Back Better - Housing Construction, Settlement and Protection Issues

Notwithstanding the limited time available to share lessons learnt in post disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation; the first day of the ERRA International Conference was dedicated solely to interventions in the housing sector. The rationale behind this decision was explained in preceding sessions where speakers emphasized the vulnerability of populations in poorly built houses, which has accounted for the staggering death tolls registered by earthquakes in many parts of the world. The third session devoted to housing reconstruction and complementary rehabilitation activities was chaired by Mr. Francis Ghuesqueer who had flown in all the way from Haiti. As in previous sessions the chairperson, Mr. Ghuesqueer introduced each speaker before allowing each one of them to deliver their presentations.
Ms Maggie Stephenson, an Irish national and an eloquent speaker, currently working with UN-HABITAT in the quake Ėaffected regions of AJ&K and NWFP, was the first of three speakers to address the audience. A senior technical advisor at UN-HABITAT, she started her presentation with a description of three types of housing construction prevalent in AJ&K and NWFP, namely; Block, Stone and Brick, and Dhajji. She went on to enumerate field issues including forced non-compliance due to topographical constraints (terraced landscapes), cultural preferences (spacious rooms) and traditional building conventions. Ms Stephenson is an avid advocate of developing engineering solutions rather than imposing building codes that cannot be enforced because of factors beyond the beneficiaryís control. Non-compliance has also been attributed to the slow progress of technical assistance initiatives which have not kept up with the disbursement of housing subsidies compelling locals to undertake construction without waiting for guidance. Acknowledging the importance of socio-cultural sensitivity, she underscored the impact of new construction techniques - one storied houses as opposed to multiple storied houses, which was the norm before the earthquake - on the lifestyle of people, land use and joint family systems. The light weight single storied houses have been widely accepted. Ms Stephenson adopted a very holistic approach in addressing the issue of housing reconstruction by taking into account environmental concerns such as increased timber consumption. Her discussion also touched upon the importance of sharing skills and knowledge by deploying teams to train locals in efficient and effective reconstruction methods. She broadened the scope of the discussion by directing development organizations to apply the housing principles discussed in this session to the construction of houses in cities across Pakistan and across the world even where disaster is not likely to strike.
The CEO of the Sarhad Rural Support Programme, Mr. Masood-ul-Mulk was the 2nd speaker of the session, who, after being introduced by the chair, undertook to share SRSPís involvement in the reconstruction of the quake-ravished areas. The gist of his presentation lay in the capacity-building of communities, creating an enabling local environment with a sustainable institutional framework to address the challenges faced by affected populations. Social mobilization , social activists and technical and economic assistance are necessary for the establishment of local institutions that can take up major reconstruction initiatives. This effort corresponds with the objective of decentralizing reconstruction and rehabilitation activities to avoid bureaucratic delays and ensure timely completion. SRSP envisioned a holistic intervention encompassing training initiatives, decentralized teams, technical standards, two-way communication and a social mobilization process. The salient features of SRSPís owner-driven housing intervention included, provision of technical assistance in a manner that accrues economies of scale, an in-built accountability mechanism, communication channels to facilitate information flow and a grievance redressal system. Some of the problems he identified in implementing the housing programme included, tenancy issues, legal complications, the opening of bank accounts to transfer funds and the difficulties posed by landslides and red zones in reconstruction. At the end he briefly summarized key lessons learnt by SRSP during its involvement in the housing programme.
After a very insightful presentation by CEO SRSP, Mr. Amod Mani Dixit, presently working with the National Society for Earthquake Technology in Nepal, was invited to take the floor and share his experiences in the context of the earthquake of 2005. He shared NSETís involvement in the earthquake affected areas during the early recovery phase and later during the reconstruction phase. NSETís interventions were targeted to build local capacities by deploying experts to train people in the quake affected areas. The trainings sought to impart lessons in seismically safe reconstruction methods. Camps were established to train masons, artisans and all those taking part in the restoration of damaged and destroyed facilities. NSET has published manuals and guides for locals in AJ&K and NWFP; road side demonstrations and prototypes have been put up to complement active training initiatives; and practical demonstrations have been given in makeshift training camps. NSETís focused knowledge disseminating interventions can go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of housing programmes in the quake-affected areas.
As is customary the session ended with a charged question and answer session in which the concerns raised by the audience were addressed adequately.

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