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



From Relief to Reconstruction and Rehabilitation



By Asrar Ayub

Director Linkages, KMC

It was 8th October 2005, when at 8:50 AM a massive 7.6-scale earthquake struck northern Pakistan causing grave destruction in KP and AJK. The affected area covering 32,000 square kilometers lies in a rough mountainous Himalayan terrain. It affected over 4,000 villages and killed more than 73,000 people. Around 600,000 houses were smashed and 3.3 million people rendered homeless.

Trauma-ridden survivors were exposed to a number of plights such as homelessness, the ruthless winter, scarcity of food, physical and mental injuries, and above all paralyzed state machinery.

Quick media coverage of the disaster led to an exceptional response from every nook and corner of the world. The Government of Pakistan with the help of international partners and civil society started relief work and announced the creation of a Federal Relief Commission. The mandate of the Commission was to coordinate relief activities with national and international players comprising of not less than 85 bilateral and multilateral donors.

Humanitarian Clusters
The earthquake brought unprecedented destruction and the Government of Pakistan found itself incapacitated to handle it. As a result a state of emergency was imposed to allow the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team to come and play its part. The UNDAC team arrived on 9th October and started negotiating the institutional design of a coordinated humanitarian response with the Government of Pakistan.

After purposeful discussions the cluster approach was agreed upon and the Government of Pakistan nominated its officials as co-chairs of various humanitarian clusters, drawn from the cadre deployed to the Federal Relief Commission.

The humanitarian clusters, generally attended by UN agency and NGO representatives at the Federal level, worked like open forums at the local level where the affected population could also come and take part in deliberations. This approach gave birth to a culture of stakeholder consultation and contribution which later on became the foundation of reconstruction and rehabilitation strategies.

Transitional Shelter Strategy
One of the instant challenges was the provision of shelter to affected people so as to save them from cold-induced diseases ready to take them on for another round of deaths. The response to the shelter challenge was immense even then 80 per cent of the tents could not offer right kind of safety from the deadly cold. The arrangement and distribution of insulation material on such a large scale that too within a very short span of time was not less than a wild goose chase. Heating solutions were out of the question as they posed a serious risk of fire.

Therefore a transitional shelter strategy was geared up based on two elements: distribution of corrugated galvanized iron sheets along with construction tools and mobilization of the affected people to recover construction materials from the wreckage of their shattered houses. This in fact was the point from where an owner-driven recovery strategy originated whereby households under the technical guidance of shelter cluster members, were to construct their shelters on their own. This strategy was also endorsed by the Federal Relief Commission, which activated army troops, particularly the Corps of Engineers, to distribute sheets and instruct people. One reason for adoption of this strategy at policy level was that the same galvanized sheets would later be used in permanent reconstruction.

In addition to the shelter materials, the Government also provided Rs 25, 000 to each household as a cash grant to meet the terms of their immediate shelter requirements.

The exact number of transitional shelters built remains unidentified because of the involvement of countless individuals and organizations. However the fact that people neither died of cold nor shifted to warmer areas, reveals that shelter coverage was up to the mark.

The success of this strategy convinced policy makers that the earthquake affected people could play a key role in the reconstruction process by virtue of both their ingenuity and productivity. By constructing safe and sound transitional shelters from galvanized sheets and the rubble of houses with minimal guidance, the earthquake victims also invalidated the attitude that construction technology is ‘highly technical’. NGOs too displayed their capability in providing technical support to people in making their houses earthquake resistant. All these findings were instrumental in boosting the confidence of stakeholders and motivating them to go for an owner-driven approach in housing reconstruction.

Estimated Extent of Damage
On the basis of an exercise on “Damages and Needs Assessment”, the World Bank and Asian Development Bank reported at the Donors’ Conference held on 19th November 2005, that $5.2 billion were required for earthquake relief, early recovery and reconstruction in KP and AJK. An additional amount of $30 million was anticipated as the requirement for technical assistance and capacity building.

Institutional Arrangement for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation
In November 2005, the Government of Pakistan established the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) at the federal level with counterparts; the Provincial Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (PERRA) and the State Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (SERRA) in KP and AJK, respectively. District Reconstruction Units (DRUs) were created at district level.

ERRA’s main role is macro planning, developing selected strategies, financing, project approval and monitoring and evaluation. Additionally, it ensures the required coordination and provides facilitation to implementing partners, whereas physical implementation of the projects is the responsibility of respective governments.

ERRA started compiling a number of sector strategies. To provide technical support to these strategies technical working groups were formed. Most of the humanitarian clusters included themselves into these groups and the process of consultation started.

Initial deliberations reflected that ERRA would implement and regulate reconstruction directly, through District Reconstruction Units (DRUs) which involved political and legal sensitivities. This led to the creation of a compound governance structure in which the ERRA Council was created at the federal level, headed by the Prime Minister and comprising senior representatives from the legislature and executive branch of the federal and regional governments, as well as some members from civil society. Similarly, SERRA and PERRA councils were created at state and provincial levels, for AJK and KP, respectively. These bodies were meant to provide strategic guidance and to hold ERRA and its regional counterparts accountable through periodic meetings.

At the district level District Reconstruction Advisory Committees (DRAC) with the power to approve projects, were created to act as governing bodies of the DRUs. The DRAC was headed by the district Nazim (mayor) or Deputy Commissioner as the case may be. Representatives from district government departments and some NGOs formed the DRAC members.

The housing strategy
ERRA prepared sixteen strategies: thirteen sectoral and three thematic. Of these, the housing strategy was the most important as $220 million out of $870 million committed to the Government of Pakistan by World Bank, were allocated for housing recovery only. Besides World Bank, UN-Habitat, the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) from Nepal and the National Engineering Services of Pakistan (NESPAK), were the significant partners.
Owner-driven approach for housing was unanimously agreed upon by all but so far as the choice of technology, implementation mechanisms, and prescribed designs are concerned there were serious preliminary differences. The World Bank insisted on certain designs based on reinforced concrete elements. Whereas UN-Habitat and NSET argued that it will be very difficult to train local masons in correct practice of modern technology and incorrectly constructed concrete buildings could turn out to be more deadly in case of an earthquake.

After a series of deliberations, it was decided to incorporate risk reduction elements into customary construction techniques, rather than adhering to specific designs.

The policy decision to separate the rural and urban housing strategies was also taken: ‘rural housing’ as an independent strategy, while urban housing as a part of urban development strategy that covered town planning, restoration of municipal services, hazard zoning etc. The underlying principle for this division was the intricate and interconnected challenges of town planning, provision of urban services and infrastructure, and repositioning of people from the risky areas.

Rural housing reconstruction
The two documents: damages and needs assessment report (Asian Development Bank and World Bank, 2005) and UN early recovery framework (United Nations, 2005) that were presented at a donors’ 2005, prescribed guiding principles for rural housing. Salient among them were: building on existing local knowledge and capacities, and restoring the livelihoods of affected people.

The rural housing strategy was adopted and published by ERRA in April 2006, which assured consistency of support to the households without considering their pre-earthquake condition. Two broad based categories were defined on the basis of the nature of damage. These were structurally damaged houses beyond repair and structurally damaged houses within repair.

An amount of Rs175, 000 (including initial grant in advance of Rs25, 000) were sanctioned for every destroyed house sanctioned per house with a condition that it would be paid in installments upon completion of various stages of construction.

In case of partially destroyed houses, a sum of Rs50, 000 (in addition to initially disbursed Rs25,000) was approved.

Assessment and inspection
A large number of technical extension and inspection workers were utilized for house-to-house visits to assess the damage, provide technical advice, inspect the progress and quality of reconstruction and approve disbursement of financial installments. Earthquake resistant construction standards were formulated and communicated to the general public. Construction workers were trained accordingly and a system to redress grievances was worked out. Inflationary pressure on construction materials was also taken into account besides reassuring its smooth and affordable supply chain.

Geographical distribution of rural housing reconstruction
World Bank being the major donor was pivotal in demarcation of the standard of construction and the assessment and inspection model. However after a number of discussions, the rural housing by and large was divided among Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) – a national NGO involved in mostly World Bank funded community development projects. The work of both organizations was managed by ERRA’s rural housing strategy.

The Pakistan Army was joined Swiss Agency for Development Corporation (SDC) and UN-Habitat as the principal technical advisors. Under this arrangement, ERRA called for the expressions of interest from various organizations to work as partners for provision of technical assistance to the affected households and a number of national and international NGOs joined hands. A Union Council, with a population of 100 to 500 households was the smallest entity to be taken care of by one partner. The Union Councils without a partner were to be looked after by the army teams.

On similar lines, the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) engaged its long-standing partner NGOs. The criteria for selection of partner organizations was the established technical capability, experience in social mobilization, ability to manage sizable financial resources and preferably, prior presence in the area.
Moderated by the experts of two international partners, Emergency Architects (France) and the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET, Nepal), and a national NGO, Strengthening Participatory Organizations (SPO), wide-ranging training of trainers workshops were organized for the personnel of partner organizations. Later on another national NGO, the Rural Support Program Network (RSPN) was also made available to provide training in social mobilization. More than 700,000 sessions of training had been observed by the last quarter of 2008.

The rural housing has been has almost come to an end and has won United Nations Sasakawa Award for outstanding achievements.

Urban housing reconstruction
After the earthquake, a geotechnical investigation sponsored by the Government of Japan was undertaken particularly in urban areas to earmark the suitable sites for permanent reconstruction on basis of the strength of the soil and geological patterns beneath. To make this zoning more comprehensive through subsequent mapping, ERRA contracted a Pakistani engineering firm as well. Soon after this, ERRA concluded and published its urban housing strategy on 30th July 2007. The three main priorities were; a better forward-looking town planning, linking social services to housing, and owner-driven reconstruction. The level and mechanism of housing reconstruction subsidy was same as it was for rural housing, with an exception that the whole grant was transferred at once.

Unlike rural housing the urban housing could not become the land mark of the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation mainly because of following reasons:
1. The task of ensuring earthquake resistant construction was left to the municipal authorities who were neither capable nor strong to enforce the earthquake construction codes. Moreover no training or information program was launched to fulfill the divergent needs of urban housing reconstruction.

2. Relocation problem was a real testing one. For instance Balakot town of District Mansehra (KP) was declared unfit for reconstruction as it is situated at convergence of three fault lines. So a “New Balakot”, some 20 Kilometers away from “Old Balakot” was selected to be the new home town. This decision was not acceptable to the poor inhabitants of area who were apprehensive of the fact that by shifting from transit point of scenic valleys to a off the rout place might ruin their tourism based economy. Same problem was faced in urban centers of Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawalakot.

3. The issues of tenure were far more complicated in urban areas as compared to the rural one. Many affected people had rented house and many lived in multi-story with different owners on different floors.

4. Unlike rural areas the heaps of rubble were so overwhelming that their removal was outside the physical or financial reach of inhabitants.

5. Unlike rural areas people could not find fields, mountains, forests, wasteland etc in urban areas for erecting shelters because of a very limited available space.

6. Distribution of prefabricated two-room shelters received from Government of Saudia Arabia in 2006, which negated the owner-driven approach the Key factor of user participation in design or construction was missing.

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