The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of build back better (BBB) in contexts affected by depopulation and shrinking economies discussing how and if its principles are able to drive the recovery pattern toward a sustainability re-development path.
BBB principles’ usefulness in driving toward a sustainable post-disaster recovery has been tested in L’Aquila’s area (Italy) – severely affected by an earthquake in 2009 – through interviews and analyses of reconstruction plans and policies.
Although most of the BBB principles can be recognized within the intentions of plans and policies, the recovery process highlights a major fallacy in addressing the pre-disaster socio-economic stresses inducing to shrinkage and depopulation development lock-ins.
Although most of the principles can be recognized in the intentions of plans and policies, the recovery process highlights a main fallacy of the “BBB paradigm”: the need of addressing pre-disaster socio-economic stresses while recovering from the shocks was not explicitly nor implicitly addressed.
Shrinkage as a process of territorial transformation has been little explored in relation to natural hazards and post-disaster contexts. Indeed, while from one side BBB concept and principles drive toward a potential mitigation of the main risks while re-building, it results challenging to overcome the built environment re-building priorities to question whether, what and how to re-build while investing in socio-economic recovery. Reverting, or accepting, shrinkage could indeed implies to not build back part of the urban fabric, while investing in skills and capacity building, which, in turn, would be difficult to justify through the reconstruction budget. The tension between re-building (better, the built environment) and re-development (skills and networks, at the expense of re-building) is critical when BBB faces disasters happening in shrinking territories.
Di Giovanni, G. and Chelleri, L. (2019), "Why and how to build back better in shrinking territories?", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 460-473. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-12-2017-0322Download as .RIS
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited
Any disaster is considered as a divide, a discrete phenomenon separating time and places within a “before it” and “after”: a four-stage disaster cycle – preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation – is commonly recognized in literature exemplifying pre-disaster and post-disaster activities (Lettieri et al., 2009). However, these two facets of our reality are mutually inclusive and interconnected, since each “reconstruction should dovetail into the next round of mitigation and preparedness works” (Pelling, 2003, p. 13) because systems should learn from past events. Berke et al. (1993) stated that post-disaster recovery is the least investigated and most poorly understood among the phases of a disaster and recent studies confirm this statement (Mannakkara and Wilkinson, 2014; Olshansky et al., 2012). As explored by Olshansky and Chang (2009), a key tension in post-disaster contexts is the time compression between “speed and deliberation,” namely between re-building as quickly as possible the “pre-existing city” and transforming the affected area into an improved territory.
The notion of build back better (Clinton, 2006) (BBB henceforth) emerges as a concept bridging the aforementioned two plans, of the past and for the future, introducing the necessity of improving recovery practices in line with longer-term sustainability objectives. In Table I, on the left, we listed the ten propositions for operationalizing BBB, enhancing long-term disaster risk. As can be noticed, BBB principles interpret post-disaster reconstruction not as a mere re-building activity, but as a process for rethinking the social and built environment in longer-term scenarios by ambitiously connecting: humanitarian relief, reduction of vulnerabilities and involvement of local communities (Kennedy et al., 2008a, b). Because of this integrated perspective, BBB has been openly recalled in several guidelines (Mannakkara and Wilkinson, 2014) and in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, 2015).
This paper challenges the normative positive concept of BBB by questioning its principles capacity for driving toward a sustainable post-disaster reconstruction also places affected by the phenomena of social and economic marginalization and depopulation. In these contexts, post-disaster paths ought to frame “better than before,” affordable and realistic long-term scenarios addressing previous vulnerability and long-term stresses, so that places will not remain “ageing and shrinking” (Matanle, 2013). The above mentioned theoretical and practical tensions between “restoration and transformation” seem to be very deep in these contexts, highlighting the necessity of redefining priorities, questioning the fragilities of the “pre-existing” status and the truthful chances of a more solid future. In this paper, we tested the efficiency of BBB and its principles in driving and balancing the pressures for acting quickly and rebuild back (better, reducing risks for the next earthquake to damage the city) with effective long-term socio-economic strategic transformations toward a sustainable (not shrinking) future, seizing the so-called post-disaster window of opportunity (Platt and So, 2016; Olshansky et al., 2012). The case study to explore this hypothesis is the complex still ongoing post-earthquake reconstruction process of L’Aquila city, in Abruzzo region (Italy). In 2009, a ruinous earthquake damaged the Region’s capital city of L’Aquila (70,000 inhabitants), and other 56 surrounding municipalities (74,000 inhabitants). The population affected by the earthquake was indeed declining and ageing with a quite low income, and living scattered in a wide hilly-mountain territory classified by the Italian Government as “inner areas” needing (and aiming to achieve through the reconstruction opportunity) economic and social recovery (Barca et al., 2014).
The BBB original principles (Clinton, 2006) shown in Table I (left column) have been clustered by the authors (right column), following advises of the recent literature which discussed and redefined them (Kennedy et al., 2008a; Mannakkara and Wilkinson, 2013, 2014; Leon et al., 2009; Mannakkara et al., 2014). Principles 1 and 4 have been clustered addressing the necessary empowerment of local institutions and communities that emerges as a key element of this reconstruction. Principle 2 is kept in its original formulation, targeting the transversal topic of equity of the reconstruction. Principles 3, 5 and 10 share a common focus on long-term risk reduction and enhancement of disaster resilience through the re-building process. Principles 6 and 7 highlight the weight of forms of cooperation with NGOs and specialized agencies in post-disaster activities. Finally, principles 8 and 9 stress the promotion of just social and economic relaunch.
In order to assess L’Aquila reconstruction respect to the re-framed BBB principles, authors reviewed in depth the legislative frameworks and selected 18 post-quake Reconstruction Plans of small municipalities from “homogeneous areas” (HAs, Figure 1) 4, 5 and 9 – representing a weak shrinking part of the territory in social and economic terms. This qualitative analysis was reinforced by daily live interaction and fieldwork of the authors, who lived and worked in the city of L’Aquila between 2014 and 2017. Indeed, for three years, opinions, newspapers, public civic debates occurring in the area and a dense local network gained through the daily living within the case study drove authors’ observation and final discussions about the reconstruction process, its challenges and alignment with the BBB framework. In 2016, ten semi-structured interviews with civil servants of L’Aquila Municipality, the Regional and Provincial Government, the Special Offices for the Reconstruction of the Seismic Crater (USRC) and L’Aquila’s Reconstruction Special Office (USRA) provided data and viewpoints about funding mechanisms, administrative procedures and barriers at local and territorial levels to enable more transformative socio-economic re-development paths. The results of these interviews, providing the institutionalist perspective, have been complemented with the results of 15 informal meetings (happened between 2016 and 2017) with inhabitants, local stakeholders and municipalities’ practitioners in order to get the viewpoint of who lived in the affected (shrinking) villages. Data on the state of the art of the reconstruction were retrieved from the online open database for the reconstruction realized by the Gran Sasso Science Institute with the University of L’Aquila and local authorities.
3. L’Aquila earthquake: impacts on a shrinking territory
Although geographically Abruzzo region is located in central Italy, it is conventionally considered part of Southern Italy macro-region, having the fiscal advantages and support of the “economic under-performance regions” (OECD, 2013). Data from the 2011 National Census show that Abruzzo is one of the least populated Italian regions, having a low population density (121 inhabitants/sq.km compared to the average national value of 197) and a high ageing index (Abruzzo 167 percent, Italy 149 percent). Data retrieved from Istat (Italian National Institute of Statistics) Regional Regional Accounts in 2016 show the regional GDP per capita (EURO 24,000) and the disposable income of households per capita (16,200 euros) is lower than Italian average (GDP EURO 27,700; income EURO 18,200).
Among many other reasons for suffering ageing and shrinkage, Abruzzo records a frequent and intense seismic activity. The last major earthquake happened in 2009 (5.8 Ml Magnitude Richter, 6.3 Mw: Chiarabba et al., 2009) and strongly damaged L’Aquila and other 56 municipalities counting with 309 deaths and 1,600 wounded of the 140,000 inhabitants. The whole impacted area was defined (henceforth mentioned as) the Seismic Crater and organized in nine HAs (Figure 1) established for better framing the reconstruction process through the Seismic Crater. Funding priorities for reconstruction have been focusing on L’Aquila city first. However, Table II highlights some main differences between the city and the small municipalities when it comes to habitability and residence status of the damaged built environment.
These data highlight how holidays dwellings, rent houses or constructions for non-primary residential purposes represent a significant part of the most damaged building stock within small municipalities. Data from the 2011 National Census support that in Abruzzo region only 67 percent of dwellings are residents’ houses (Italy 77 percent) and in L’Aquila province only 86 percent of the building stock is used (Italy 95 percent), and only 56 percent are residents’ dwellings (the sixth lowest percentage among all Italian provinces). According to 2011 Census, only 14 out of 57 municipalities did not lose population between 1991 and 2011 (the increases are mostly registered after the earthquake in small municipalities because of displacements due to the damages, and as consequence of the arrival of new working forces involved in the working sites). In 40 municipalities more than 25 percent of inhabitants are older than 65, symptom of a high ageing index in countries with very low birth rates; the average income of the municipalities (L’Aquila excluded) is around € 16,400 (the income of 38 towns is even inferior), lower than Italy’s and Abruzzo’s average. Data in Table III testify the fragility of this area within an already fragile region.
4. Results and discussion
4.1 The legislative recovery framework: toward a sustainable long-term post-disaster reconstruction?
The “emergency phase” was declared immediately after the earthquake, to speed up administrative procedures allowing non-ordinary administrative mechanisms. During this phase, while people were hosted in shelter camps and hotels, two different temporary housing solutions were implemented: the MAP project (Moduli Abitativi Provvisori – Temporary Housing Modules), about 4,500 small wooden modular shelters grouped near the towns within all the territory, and the CASE project (Complessi Antisismici Sostenibili ed Eco-compatibili – Sustainable and Eco-friendly Anti-seismic Complexes), 185 three-floors buildings with anti-seismic basements placed on 19 sites across L’Aquila municipality. They were conceived as longer-term accommodations to be used also after the re-settlement of inhabitants (functions to be discussed in future) (data from National Civil Protection).
The Law 77/2009 (2009) and the Decree of the Commissioner for the Reconstruction (2010) were the pillars of the first normative framework, guiding the response phase and reconstruction process. As mentioned above, the 56 municipalities were invited to cluster within eight HAs (Figure 1) which, on the one hand, were proposed as optimal territorial and administrative entities in order to better address inter-municipalities reconstruction challenges, and, on the other hand, they allowed to foster (compulsory) inter-institutional collaborations. As illustrated in Figure 2, while a “Technical Mission Structure” coordinated the emergency phase (April 2009/September 2012) at the central level, two new “Special Offices for the reconstruction” (one dedicated to L’Aquila city only, USRA, and another dedicated to all the other municipalities, USRC) had the aim of bridging the national and local authorities in order to support the technical and administrative (neither political nor strategical) needs of the reconstruction. The framing of this partially decentralized governance system was supported by the creation of a dedicated Technical Office for the Reconstruction (UTRs) for each HA.
According to the majority of the interviewees, the coordination model applied since 2012 represented a significant improvement and innovation in speeding up the reconstruction-related administrative processes. However, interviews with public servants working at the Special Offices highlighted the limit of this framework when it comes to step down from theory to practices. Indeed, the HAs had no normative authority as institutional bodies, and the relationships among UTRs, municipalities leaders and the Special Offices have been challenging because highly political (meaning, for instance, that municipalities were not always responsive to the requests of sharing data or advances about the reconstruction projects and communication could be challenging). However, the main identified fallacy (agreed among most of the interviewed people from municipalities and USRC) stood in the Reconstruction Plans’ lack of consistency respect to the normative framework. Indeed, from one side Law 77 and Decree 3 stated ambitious objectives: to ensure social and economic recovery, promote urban re-development and facilitate the return of inhabitants into their houses (confirmed by interviews at USRC, 2017). In order to fulfill these objectives, the regulatory framework envisioned the reconstruction as a complex multi-scalar process reinforcing the linkages among municipalities toward a desired integrated territorial system. From another side, once this theoretical framework met the practices, interviews highlighted the practical limitations of the Reconstruction Plans. They could only address the historical and most damaged part of each town (an area called perimetrazione, defined on the bases of the suffered damage and mostly coincident with the historical centers). Out of this area, the reconstruction followed different regulation, not integrated within the Reconstruction Plans philosophy, but based on single-buildings simplified technical approvals, relaying on the ordinary urban planning rules, quite outdated in all the Seismic Crater area (confirmed by interviews with public servants and practitioners, 2017). Furthermore, the strategies in the Reconstruction Plans involving a larger territory (beyond the perimetrazioni) did not have an overarching normative value on pre-existing town and regional plans (interviews with public servants, 2016). Therefore, the fallacy of addressing a strategic, integrated and territorial re-development path was embedded within the gap of the law lack of implementation normative tools and local planning practices resistance to cooperation as recently proved some scholars (Di Lodovico and Iagnemma, 2012; Di Lodovico, 2013).
The speed of Plans’ framing and implementation reflected such a coordination and motivation gap. Four years after the earthquake, only 21 plans out of 56 had been approved by the city councils, and only HAs 4, 5 and 9 (among the 8) commissioned the design of the Plans to the same university departments or freelance consultant for the entire HA in order to guarantee an integrated approach during the design of the recovery strategy. The rest of the municipalities commissioned a different designer for each Plan, and such fragmentation reduced the possibilities of a comprehensive and across-scales holistic thinking in shaping long-term recovery strategies (open data, confirmed by interviews at USRC, 2016).
4.2 Could BBB principles guide a sustainable post-disaster recovery, in shrinking territories?
As illustrated within the method section, BBB principles have been clustered in five main recommendations (Table I), in order to test whether (if and how) the reconstruction processes within the 56 small municipalities responded to those principles. The following subsections relate to the five clusters.
4.2.1 Involvement and empowerment of local institutions and communities (BBB principles 1 and 4)
The post-disaster normative framework gave local governments (mainly municipalities) an active role in the reconstruction process, even if definitely minor when compared to supra-local bodies which coordinated most of the emergency phase. As confirmed during the interviews, all municipalities could handle some forms of autonomy already during the emergency phase (e.g. organizing in HAs, or in assigning the Reconstruction Plans; also, a delegation of towns’ mayors was involved since an early stage of the whole recovery process). However, local institutions with limited skills struggled in handling the process of reconstruction; even if the relationship with central institutions was sometimes controversial, the Special Offices seem to have contributed to speeding up the administrative processes supporting small municipalities (also through the UTRs: Figure 2, local level): a crucial raising question is if this governance framework was able to foster a substantial empowerment of local governments and offices, in L’Aquila city as well.
Looking at the role and empowerment of local communities, the “L’Aquila’s inhabitants diaspora” (Calandra, 2012b, p. 298) has weakened the actual possibilities of people’s participation in the public debate and in decision-making process of the reconstruction itself. The pre-existing social vulnerabilities of these areas – such as the ongoing depopulation and the ageing communities – have been worsened by the shock induced by the quake and the policies that followed (Ciancone and Polvani, 2012). Nevertheless, the third sector survived, and progressively several grassroots projects grew both in the city and surrounding area (Farinosi and Micalizzi, 2012; Punziano et al., 2018): the number of informal networks, associations, cooperatives expanded after 2009, showing a certain capacity of self-organization. Reconstruction, solidarity and “protest against the lack of democracy” were the main drivers of civic engagement but progressively the goals of “community-building” and active participation gained a more central role, intending “participation as tool of management (and hopefully resolution) of complex problems, and not as tool of representativeness of social groups” (Calandra, 2012a, p. 16).
4.2.2 Recovery must promote fairness and equity (BBB principle 2)
At first glance, the reconstruction process seems to have addressed at least a fair “distribution” of emergency and temporary housing, and we did not found any regulation discriminating gender or groups. All the population has been assisted through temporary shelters or economic compensations for finding autonomously a new accommodation. The refunding criteria were mainly based on the level of damage of assets, not only prioritizing residents’ houses, but also giving some forms of refund for the owners of damaged holidays/second houses (a consistent part of the building stock, see Table II), considered strategic for not harming the local touristic economy. However, if from one side nobody has been left behind, from the other we cannot really state that post-disaster reconstruction process followed equity-driven principles in allocating priorities or resources. Indeed, equity should imply to provide more funding or resources to the most vulnerable groups, but in L’Aquila temporary shelters have been provided with any consideration about the income or economic vulnerability of the people, but mainly in relation to the damages suffered. Another issue which is somehow related to the spatial dimension of equity has been the disparity between the L’Aquila city center, its surrounding peripheries and hamlets, and all the small municipalities. Both media and funding priorities were focused on L’Aquila “urban area” because of the role and symbolism of the city, and the scale of the destruction, while almost ignoring its hamlets and the other already shrinking municipalities in the Seismic Crater. For technical, normative and political choices, less damaged buildings – especially in the peripheries surrounding the historical core – were rebuilt rather quickly, while the processes inside the historical centers regulated by the Reconstruction Plans (both in L’Aquila and in its hamlets) were slower. An in-depth investigation would be necessary to evaluate the fairness and priority given to the individual allocation of each reconstruction grant (which is not the aim of this paper), mainly in the light of 2016 scandals about false documents (cases of residence papers falsification for obtaining the grants for re-building, among other scandals) in order to access subsidies.
4.2.3 Enhancement of long-term risk reduction and disaster resilience (BBB principles 3, 5 and 10)
Principles about long-term risk reduction and sustainability were stated by Law 77 and Decree 3 (see above) and recalled by the Plans of the HAs 4, 5 and 9. Most of these Plans refused to interpret the reconstruction as a return to pre-existing conditions, and envisioned recovery as a multifarious process of risk reduction aimed at promoting general urban renewal by merging the conservation of local distinctiveness with introducing technological and ecological upgrading. However, this motivation toward improvement was implemented primarily as re-building a safer urban fabric. A new stricter national building code – already drafted in 2009 – was approved after the earthquake and the building heritage was recovered following the most adequate anti-seismic standards, experimenting forms of technological upgrade while reinterpreting local constructing traditions (interview with USRC representative, 2016). Reconstruction Plans also proposed safety measures dedicated to the entire settlements, such as systems of lifelines to improve the urban performance in case of emergency or “smart solutions” for infrastructures, as smart tunnels for increasing the modularity of underground networks (confirmed by interviews at USRA and URSC, 2016). However, the innovations were limited by the principle of the “causality nexus” to earthquake-related damages, meaning that funds were allocated for the reconstruction of the built environment according to the degree of post-quake damages, with few (or not) space for improvements related to already underdeveloped infrastructures or services. This strict causality nexus acted as a necessary control mechanism on public expenditure, but at the same time made harder to seize the reconstruction to promote a re-design of villages suffering shrinkage, lacking services and infrastructures (interviews with USRC public servant and municipalities’ representatives, 2016).
Finally, beyond the enhanced structural safety of the built environment, knowledge and preparedness for future events, enhancing local communities’ and institutions’ awareness of risks has been highly neglected. The recent quakes that struck northern Abruzzo in January 2017 were strongly perceived also in L’Aquila and served as the testbed for disaster resilience capacities, highlighting the still fragile capabilities of managing the event and opened large debates on media about the unpreparedness of institution, insufficient and un-effective organizational skills, lack of communication, and issues related to safety of public buildings, especially schools.
4.2.4 Cooperation with NGOs, specialized bodies and agencies in emergency and recovery phases (BBB principles 6 and 7)
In Abruzzo’s post-earthquake first emergency, the role of Civil Protection has been determinant in responding and coordinating actions, managing the rescues and the organization of camps. The hyper-centralized, almost “military” management of L’Aquila post-earthquake response as framed by the Italian Government, has been widely examined (Alexander, 2010; Forino, 2015) especially for the Civil Protection major participation in the physical reconstruction of the city, in CASE temporary housing project and in the so-called “Big Events” management (the Italian Presidency of the G8 Summit held in L’Aquila, in 2009 just after the earthquake) at the center of harsh lawsuits about irregularities in tenders for large public works. The militarization of the city center, scandals and polemics – also about the structural and architectonic quality of CASE buildings – has spread a sense of betrayal regarding the central organizations (Alexander, 2010). National and international organizations were also present in the city, as the OECD which worked together with the Department for Development and Economic Cohesion of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development providing guidelines on how to approach and frame L’Aquila reconstruction (OECD, 2013). In the meantime, a growing role and number of non-profit organizations have acted as important independent subjects. The 2011 Census about non-profit institutions registered 525 active associations only in L’Aquila municipality, half of which in the sector “culture, sport and recreational activities,” and 420 in the other 56 municipalities. Local organizations have been present in the city life, organizing collective activities, debates and events as explained in previous sections. Nevertheless, the important presence of these realities, the general scenario about their cooperation with public entities seems to take the form of ad hoc projects and partnerships, or generic dialogue.
4.2.5 Promotion of a “just” social and economic relaunch (BBB principles 8 and 9)
The first principle of Law 77 clearly reflected this assumption, stating the goal of “ensuring social and economic recovery.” In the Plans for L’Aquila and HAs 4, 5 and 9, this principle has been translated mainly in relation to strategic guidelines, such as the promotion of naturalistic four-season tourism, strengthening the relations among settlements and rural surroundings, as encouraging forms of high-quality agriculture in the villages. However, when looking at the implementation and initiatives labeled as “interventions supporting socio-economic recovery,” these vary widely from actions to support advanced research to the introduction of broadband optical networks. The underestimated necessity of ampler and longer-term policies to reach such a broad goal arose mainly with the passing of time after the disaster: once the reconstruction of the built environment was perceived as finally set in motion, issues related to (lack of) job opportunities, population shrinkage, (lack of) quality of local services, (lack of) economic attractiveness and lifetime perspectives emerged as key longer-term challenge for the political and civic arenas (reported in local media, confirmed by interviews with USRC public servants and municipalities representatives, 2016–2017). The urgency of re-building private housing stocks dominated both the emergency and post-emergency phases, putting aside community empowerment and structural policies. These priorities reported from interviews are testified by the official data about the expenditure for the reconstruction (see Figure 3): indeed, since April 2009 the Italian Government allocated more than EURO 8.5bn for the reconstruction, of which 74 percent for the reconstruction of private housing stocks and 12 percent for public buildings. The remaining 14 percent has been allocated among school building, streets, infrastructures, support to industry and research.
Long-term development strategies still appear fragile, above all about the reinforcement of local welfare addressing the necessity of super-aged communities or about the combination of reconstruction funds with other grants or public-private partnerships. According to the authors, the narrow binding boundaries of the Reconstruction Plans, the non-normative role of HAs, together with the strength of the “causality nexus” (see Section 4.2 point C) between damages and compensations have weakened the potential of fully exploit the reconstruction as genesis of new local debates about long-term socio-economic re-development paths.
5. Conclusions: overcoming previous stresses means to BBB
BBB and its related principles should help in not bouncing back to pre-disaster states (and embedded vulnerabilities) but in guiding socio-economic and spatial transformations in order to address the root causes of vulnerability while enhancing resilience. Especially in conditions of spread social and economic fragility, the meaning of the “better” should refer to avoiding institutional inertia and overcoming development lock-ins of the pre-disaster trajectories (Khasalamwa, 2009; Mannakkara and Wilkinson, 2014). This paper has been framed around a specific case study characterized by socio-economic pre-disaster stresses, analyzed through the lens of BBB approach and principles. There are different critical reflections useful for the international audience that this paper would like to pose, related to the tensions and linkages between shock and stresses, recovery and development. The political discourses around “build back as it was, and as fast as possible,” which described the first years after L’Aquila earthquake, were in contradiction with the national laws regulating the reconstruction (Section 4) and with the aims of the Plans, which stated that a reconstruction should avoid to build back as it was, while introducing risk mitigation and socio-economic long-term recovery within the re-building aims. This is a common tension also reported by the scientific literature as the “speed vs deliberation” challenge (Kim and Olshansky, 2014; Olshansky et al., 2012). Digging into this tension, the paper demonstrated the paradoxes of fund assignments (Section 4.2) and how the reconstruction budget was mainly focused on the built environment recovery, also in areas where population is ageing and the housing stock is largely devoted to secondary homes (as reported in Table II). As already suggested within the literature by Yi and Yang (2014), budgets for infrastructures and buildings should be integrated in order to frame integrated and strategic projects for build more resilient communities (Mannakkara and Wilkinson, 2014). The reconstruction within the Seismic Crater highlighted how the “structural mitigation” – defined by Bosher as achieved through strengthening buildings and infrastructures via engineering design – prevailed on the “non-structural mitigation” mechanisms (community capacities strengthening, planning for flexibility, relocation in safer areas, etc.) (Bosher, 2014; Bosher et al., 2007). As explored through Section 4.2 point A, the reconstruction involved many different social groups and actors, even if we could argue about how much or in which way participation has been framed.
A critical reflection on the linkages between BBB principles and their effectiveness in driving post-disaster recovery toward a sustainable future, even in cases of pre-disaster socio-economic vulnerability, stands in the paradox that only one of the ten BBB principles focuses on socio-economic recovery. At the same time, socio-economic dynamics are the ones driving (re)development, urban fabric, infrastructures and services quality and people well-being, or exposure to threats. In our case study, the goals of socio-economic recovery have been stated by laws and Plans, but only partially implemented, since translated through built environment innovations and supporting pre-existing economic activities. In L’Aquila and within the Seismic Crater, the reconstruction process missed a necessary critical reflection about how to transform previously ineffective economic engines and how to support a declining and ageing population in order to flourish again. If not addressing these critical issues embedded within pre-disaster stresses, the concept of “BBB” would fail to answer the question of “why to build back”?
In a shrinking territory, characterized by ageing society, economic depression, common lack of sufficient human resources, skills and competencies within the institutions, and most of the BBB principles would probably fail to meet their target, as shown through this case study. Indeed, because of the shrinkage context, the involvement of the civil society or local institutions, per se, would not imply to meet a long-term risk mitigation or sustainable re-development. Within these environments, the causality nexus was serving as a rationale mechanism for controlling public expenditure, linking damages with the budget for the reconstruction. At the same time, this impeded to fund re-development projects beyond the restoring damages within the built environment. Therefore, the challenges for operationalizing BBB within a shrinking context would be, among other questions, how to relaunch weak economies when usually the reconstruction budget is strictly framed around the disaster damages? How to tackle communities and long-term socio-economic territories stresses, when the regulations for recovery are focused on after-shock quick reconstruction? It seems that there is an urgent need of further enriching the BBB framework by better linking the processes embedded within the reconstruction to strategic socio-economic transformation mechanisms, disrupting pre-disasters patterns of development. In particular for shrinking contexts, such a re-framed view of BBB could imply to discuss whether it makes sense, or not, to “build back” some specific, and highly depressed, parts of the region, but investing in mechanisms to enhance socio-economic transformation were strategically more convenient.
A final remark, however, is that socio-economic strategic transformations could be hard to frame, in depressed regions even having a budget, because of the local lack of skills, vision and therefore socio-political behaves. The capacities of envisioning transformative patterns of change in L’Aquila’s case study have been often scarce. While from one side, a new international doctoral school (the Gran Sasso Science Institute) has been created within the city center with the purpose of bringing talents and contributing to boosting local socio-economic recovery, other examples of innovations out of the city have been scarce. The political discourses and choices have emphasized the slogan of “build back as it was, where it was”: the majority of the so-called “strategic projects” embedded in L’Aquila Reconstruction Plan were not able to push innovative spatial transformations, much less alternative social or economic alternative scenarios. Indeed, many political promises and discourses still were anchored to projects like enhancing the quality of mountain winter sports tourism (among other proposals, all definitely not in line with a strategic envisioning of socio-economic sustainable and resilient future scenario building); within the Reconstruction Plans for small municipalities, the concepts of “sustainable agriculture” and “tourism” arose as a kind of panacea in the debate about local development, while agricultural and touristic activities were already present in the area and they have been addressed as very generic realms of intervention in the Plans. This confirms the tension between re-building (better) or re-planning and envisioning the future city – through skills and networks developments, sometimes at the expense of re-building – embedded within the BBB framework, when disasters happen in shrinking territories.
The ten BBB proposition as stated by Clinton (2006) on the left; the clusters proposed by the authors on the right
|BBB principles (Clinton, 2006)||Clusters used in the research on L’Aquila|
|1. Governments, donors, and aid agencies must recognize that families and communities drive their own recovery||(1 + 4)
4.2.1 Involvement and empowerment of local institutions and communities
|2. Recovery must promote fairness and equity||(2)
4.2.2 Recovery must promote fairness and equity
|3. Governments must enhance preparedness for future disasters||(3 + 5 + 10)
4.2.3 Enhancement of long-term risk reduction and disaster resilience
|4. Local governments must be empowered to manage recovery efforts, and donors must devote greater resources to strengthening government recovery institutions, especially at the local level||(6 + 7)
4.2.4 Cooperation with NGOs, specialized bodies and agencies in emergency and recovery phases
|5. Good recovery planning and effective coordination depend on good information||(8 + 9)
4.2.5 Promotion of just social and economic relaunch
|6. The UN, World Bank, and other multilateral agencies must clarify their roles and relationships, especially in addressing the early stage of a recovery process|
|7. The expanding role of NGOs and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement carries greater responsibilities for quality in recovery efforts|
|8. From the start of recovery operations, governments and aid agencies must create the conditions for entrepreneurs to flourish|
|9. Beneficiaries deserve the kind of agency partnerships that move beyond rivalry and unhealthy competition|
|10. Good recovery must leave communities safer by reducing risks and building resilience|
Buildings habitability status referred to procedures for granting reconstruction contributions, updated October 2017
|Habitability||Small municipalities (%)||% of residents’ homes for each habitability status||L’Aquila (%)||% of residents’ homes for each habitability status|
|A – habitable buildings||63||74||25||82|
|B – temporarily inhabitable buildings||19||38||30||66|
|C – partially inhabitable buildings||3||44||4||60|
|E – inhabitable buildings for geotechnical or structural risks||15||21||36||66|
Notes: Small municipalities: ≈15,600 procedures; L’Aquila: ≈29,600 and ≈1,700 lack habitability data. Elaboration of the authors from official open data sets www.opendataricostruzione.gssi.it. 5 percent of L’Aquila’s cases do not provide habitability data
Census of inhabitants and ageing index of the damaged area
|HA||Inhabit. 1991 Census||Inhabit. 2011 Census||Ageing index 2011 (over 65/under 15) %||Average income 2016a (rounded to hundreds)|
|≈ € 11,700.00|
Notes: Elaboration of the authors from www.ottomilacensus.istat.it. aElaboration of the authors from Ministry of Economics and Finance Open Data: www1.finanze.gov.it/finanze3/analisi_stat/index.php?search_class=cCOMUNE&opendata=yes
A very disruptive seismic activity struck Central Italy in August 2016, November 2016 and January 2017, involving Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Abruzzo regions.
Alexander, D.E. (2010), “Civil protection amid disasters and scandals”, Italian Politics, Vol. 26, pp. 180-197.
Barca, F., Casavola, P. and Lucatelli, S. (2014), A Strategy for Inner Areas in Italy: Definition, Objectives, Tools and Governance, UVAL.
Berke, P.R., Kartez, J. and Wenger, D. (1993), “Recovery after disaster: achieving sustainable development, mitigation and equity”, Disasters, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 93-109.
Bosher, L. (2014), “Built-in resilience through disaster risk reduction: operational issues”, Building Research & Information, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 240-254.
Bosher, L., Dainty, A., Carrillo, P., Glass, J. and Price, A. (2007), “Integrating disaster risk management into construction: a UK perspective”, Building Research & Information, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 163-177.
Calandra, L.M. (2012a), “Laboratorio città: una proposta di comunicazione e partecipazione tra scienza, politica e società”, in Calandra, L.M. (Ed.), Territorio e democrazia. Un laboratorio di geografia sociale nel dopo sisma aquilano, L’UNA edizioni, L’Aquila, pp. 13-60.
Calandra, L.M. (2012b), “Per una geografia sociale dell’Aquila post-sisma. Comunicazione visuale e nuove forme di democrazia”, in Cerreti, C., Dumont, I. and Tabusi, M. (Eds), Geografia Sociale e Democrazia, La sfida della comunicazione, Aracne, Roma, pp. 287-311.
Chiarabba, C., Amato, A., Anselmi, M. et al. (2009), “The 2009 L’Aquila (central Italy) Mw6.3 earthquake: main shock and aftershocks”, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 36.
Ciancone, S. and Polvani, M. (2012), “Un percorso deliberativo per ricostruire. Il progetto Borghi Attivi a Fontecchio”, in Calandra, L.M. (Ed.), Territorio e Democrazia. Un laboratorio di geografia sociale nel dopo sisma aquilano, L’UNA edizioni, L’Aquila, pp. 279-286.
Clinton, W.J. (2006), Lessons Learned from Tsunami Recovery: Key Propositions for Building Back Better, Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, New York, NY.
Decree of the Commissioner for the Reconstruction (2010), “Linee guida per la ricostruzione”, March 9, 2009.
Di Giovanni, G. (2016), “Post-earthquake recovery in peripheral areas: the paradox of small municipalities’ reconstruction process in Abruzzo (Italy)”, Italian Journal of Planning Practice, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 110-139.
Di Giovanni, G. and Chelleri, L. (2017), “Sustainable disaster resilience? Tensions between socio-economic recovery and built environment post-disaster reconstruction in Abruzzo (Italy)”, in Deppisch, S. (Ed.), Urban Regions Now & Tomorrow: Between Vulnerability, Resilience and Transformation, Springer, Wiesbaden, pp. 121-144.
Di Lodovico, L. (2013), “Una legge per i disastri naturali. Creare un nuovo modello di gestione dell’emergenza, di prevenzione e di sviluppo”, Proceedings of the XVI Conferenza Nazionale Società Italiana degli Urbanisti. Urbanistica per una diversa crescita, Planum, Naples.
Di Lodovico, L. and Iagnemma, L. (2012), “Rischio e pianificazione. Tutela, prevenzione e sicurezza nella programmazione urbanistica”, proceedings of the XV Conferenza Nazionale Società Italiana degli Urbanisti. L’Urbanistica che cambia: rischi e valori, Planum, Pescara.
Farinosi, M. and Micalizzi, A. (2012), “L’Aquila 2.0: partecipazione dal basso nel primo disastro italiano dell’era digitale”, in Minardi, E. and Salvatore, R. (Eds), O.R.eS.Te. Osservare, comprendere e progettare per ricostruire a partire dal terremoto dell’Aquila, Homeless Book, Faenza, pp. 155-174.
Forino, G. (2015), “Disaster recovery: narrating the resilience process in the reconstruction of L’Aquila (Italy)”, Geografisk Tidsskrift-Danish Journal of Geography, Vol. 115 No. 1, pp. 1-13.
Kennedy, J., Ashmore, J., Babister, E. and Kelman, I. (2008a), “The meaning of ‘build back better’: evidence from post-tsunami Aceh and Sri Lanka”, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 24-36.
Kennedy, J., Ashmore, J., Babister, E., Kelman, I. and Zarins, J. (2008b), “Disaster mitigation lessons from ‘build back better’ following the 26 December 2004 Tsunamis”, in Feyen, J., Shannon, K. and Neville, M. (Eds), Water and Urban Development Paradigms: Towards an Integration of Engineering, Design and Management Approaches, Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 297-302.
Khasalamwa, S. (2009), “Is ‘build back better’ a response to vulnerability? Analysis of the post-tsunami humanitarian interventions in Sri Lanka”, Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift – Norwegian Journal of Geography, Vol. 63 No. 1, pp. 73-88.
Kim, K. and Olshansky, R.B. (2014), “The theory and practice of building back better”, Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 80 No. 4, pp. 289-292.
Law 77 (2009), “Conversione in legge, con modificazioni, del decreto-legge 28 aprile 2009, n. 39, recante interventi urgenti in favore delle popolazioni colpite dagli eventi sismici nella regione Abruzzo nel mese di aprile 2009 e ulteriori interventi urgenti di protezione civile”, Law 77, June 24.
Leon, E., Kelman, I., Kennedy, J. and Ashmore, J. (2009), “Capacity building lessons from a decade of transitional settlement and shelter”, International Journal of Strategic Property Management, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 247-265.
Lettieri, E., Masella, C. and Radaelli, G. (2009), “Disaster management: findings from a systematic review”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 117-136.
Mannakkara, S. and Wilkinson, S. (2013), “Post-disaster legislation for building back better”, Construction Law Journal, Vol. 29 No. 8, pp. 495-506.
Mannakkara, S. and Wilkinson, S. (2014), “Re-conceptualising ‘building back better’ to improve post-disaster recovery”, International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 327-341.
Mannakkara, S., Wilkinson, S. and Potangaroa, R. (2014), “Build back better: implementation in Victorian bushfire reconstruction”, Disasters, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 267-290.
Matanle, P. (2013), “Post-disaster recovery in ageing and declining communities: the great East Japan disaster of 11 March 2011”, Geography, Vol. 98 No. 2, pp. 68-76.
OECD (2013), Policy Making After Disasters: Helping Regions Become Resilient. The Case of Post-Earthquake Abruzzo, OECD Publishing.
Olshansky, R. and Chang, S. (2009), “Planning for disaster recovery: emerging research needs and challenges”, Progress in Planning, Vol. 72 No. 4, pp. 200-209.
Olshansky, R.B., Hopkins, L.D. and Johnson, L.A. (2012), “Disaster and recovery: processes compressed in time”, Natural Hazards Review, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 173-178.
Pelling, M. (2003), The Vulnerability of Cities: Natural Disasters and Social Resilience, Earthscan, London.
Platt, S. and So, E. (2016), “Speed or deliberation: a comparison of post-disaster recovery in Japan, Turkey, and Chile”, Disasters, Vol. 41 No. 4, pp. 696-727.
Punziano, G., Coppola, A., Del Fabbro, M., Proietti, P. and Vitrano, C. (2018), “Shifting involvements. NGOs in the post-quake society”, in Coppola, A., Fontana, C. and Gingardi, V. (Eds), Envisaging L’Aquila. Strategies, Spatialities and Sociabilities of a Post-disaster City, ProfessionalDreamers, Trento, pp. 143-164.
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (2015), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, United Nations, Geneva.
Yi, H. and Yang, J. (2014), “Research trends of post disaster reconstruction: the past and the future”, Habitat International, Vol. 42, pp. 21-29.