Urban Risk Reduction: An Asian Perspective: Volume 1


Table of contents

(25 chapters)
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Rajib Shaw is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies of Kyoto University, Japan. He worked closely with the local communities, NGOs, governments and international organization, including United Nations, especially in the Asian countries. He is currently the Chair of the United Nations Asia Regional Task Force for Urban Risk Reduction. His research interests are: community-based disaster risk management, climate change adaptation, urban risk management, and disaster and environmental education.

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Pages xvii-xviii
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Urban risk is increasing and will increase for next several years. For the first time in the history, the urban population is more than the rural population in the world. The speed of urbanization is highest in Asia, and consequently unplanned development, migration from rural areas and increasing vulnerabilities are the characteristic features of urbanization in Asia. Urbanization is increasingly located in the developing countries: in 1970s, 50% of urban residents lived in developing countries, whereas it is increased to 66% in 1990s, and is projected to be 80% by 2020. The key issue of Asian urbanization is its variation. Each country has its characteristic context and the nature and issues of urbanization is different from the others.

Cities and urban areas are increasingly becoming the settlement of choice for a majority of humans.

Many of the global environmental problems that we are now facing have their precedence and causes in the cities and urban areas we live in.

Lessons in understanding urban risk are now emerging – urban hazards and risk are predominantly human-induced, and exacerbate natural events. Various economic, social, and economic aspects compound the risks that urban residents face.

Urban lifestyles and resource consumptions can be directly or indirectly attributed to the many environmental consequences that we are seeing – both within the city, as well as the entire hinterland or urban watershed that it is located in.

Risk assessments are the very basis on which planning and implementation are carried out. In the context of urban risk management, the assessment processes are complex to understand as they involve multi-sectoral parameters. Many of the issues involved are of technical nature, but this also requires focus on the principles behind the assessment process including participatory assessment tools.

Action planning is a participatory, short-term, visible, output-oriented process that enables urban community groups to plan the development of risk reduction actions in their locality and to lead the implementation of the action plans.

There are three kinds of actions that emerge from an action planning process: (i) those that can be implemented by the community groups themselves, (ii) those that need some external help for implementation, and (iii) those that can only be implemented by specialized agencies from outside the community. Implementation management processes thus need to look at how internal systems can be established to operationalize self-action, and to coordinate external interventions.

Decision-making is an important step in the risk management process. Decisions often need to be based on incomplete information, and have to carry an element of sound judgment with them. Decision-making is usually a prerogative of government agencies in change of development and disaster management. But it also needs to be included in participatory processes involving citizens – which is far more than mere consent of the public to decisions taken by others.

The most critical components of decision-making are participation and consensus building. In fact these two elements are often in conflict with each other. In the spirit of participation, a wider consultation is needed, and when participation widens, it becomes difficult to arrive at consensus. Simple tools can be very useful in evolving consensus within the planning groups, civil society actors and the government.

The content of this chapter focuses specifically on environmental risk and its potential to exacerbate the negative impacts of a disaster event. It also looks more closely on the built environment and the role that effective decision-making can play in not only mitigating urban risk, but also to preserve/conserve the local environment. They key message of the cyclical interrelationships between good environmental management and reducing disaster risk, lies at the core of this paper.

Risk management is one of the most important means of achieving sustainable development, while education is the most basic intervention required for addressing attitudes and changing community practice. Education for sustainable development is in this light a relatively passive yet extremely important intervention for ensuring long-term urban risk management, particularly if we want such risk management to be participatory and deeply engrained in community level practices. Information and communication management is the backbone of all the participatory processes involved in urban risk management. It is a cross cutting theme that touches each stage of the urban risk management process and is critical for ensuring that all the various stakeholders engaged in the activities operate in a coordinated, efficient, and effective manner. Education for sustainable development needs to identify and target such stakeholders who will, in the long run, make a sizeable difference by bringing about sustainability factors within urban field practice. Information and communication management is a means of smoothening the problems in the participatory processes, and for ensuring collectivity.

The pace of urbanization in the developing world is led by Asia. Over the next 25 years, Asia's urban population will grow by around 70% to more than 2.6 billion people. An additional billion people will have urban habitats (ADB, 2006).

The “Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and communities to disasters” (HFA) was adopted at the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction (January 2005, Kobe, Japan). The HFA specifies that disaster risk is compounded by increasing vulnerabilities related to various elements including unplanned urbanization. Across the HFA, important elements on urban risk reduction are mentioned as one of crucial areas of work to implement the HFA. In particular incorporating disaster risk reduction into urban planning is specified to reduce the underlying risk factors (Priority 4).

Urbanization is a complex dynamic process playing out over multiple scales of space and time. It is both a social phenomenon and a physical transformation of landscape that is now clearly at the forefront of defining current and future trends of development. The key challenge for effective urban risk reduction and mitigation will be to identify the points of intersection for urban vulnerability and risk reduction in order to localize and contextualize the components, so that it can be customized to the unique needs of each urban area. This requires a critical revisit to the way we look at cities and urban areas, and is a useful starting point to contextualize the urban risk management components presented earlier. Taken together these points of intersection put cities in a unique position to generate both the problem and the solution. The concentration of politico-economic decision-making processes in cities of Asia, particularly capital mega cities, provide greater opportunities to meet the urban vulnerability challenge. For effective urban risk reduction, there is a need to strike a balance between natural and built environments and between ecological and economic objectives.

Metro Manila, composed of 13 cities and 4 municipalities, is the home of more than 11 million people, and is vulnerable to different types of hazards, including earthquakes and flooding. This chapter focuses on the legal and institutional framework of Metro Manila, and analyzes the effectiveness of local governance in reducing the impacts of earthquake risk in the community level. Although most of the cities are faced with different barriers and challenges with regard to institutional and legal aspects, it is required to mobilize communities and utilize appropriate community leadership to enhance actions at the local level. In case of Manila, barangay or the lowest government body plays a key role in implementing risk reduction measures at community levels, and barangay captain (elected local representative) plays a crucial role in facilitating implementation. A combination of public help, mutual help, and self-help will be able to develop risk reduction strategies at local level.

Nepal's urban population is estimated to be around 15 percent. This is a tremendous increment considering that the urban population some 50 years back was just around 3 percent. The rapid increase in urban population in the last five decades has resulted in unplanned and haphazard urban growth. Urbanization causes a shift in employment, from the agricultural sector to the nonagricultural sector. However, in Nepal, despite the increase in the urban population, the economy is still largely dictated by the agricultural sector. Urbanization is creating and adding new risks to the existing risks from natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, and flooding. Building a culture of safety is the key to building resilience of communities to disasters and the involvement of the community in managing risks is instrumental in reducing the adverse impacts of these disasters. Public awareness in dealing with disasters and in responding to emergency situations can save a great number of lives.

Shimla is a teeming city, with a population of 140,000, in the north Indian Himalayas. It sits in an area of high seismicity that was rocked by a devastating earthquake about a hundred years ago, yet is oblivious of the ticking time bomb below its foundations. Initiating risk reduction in this fast growing urban economic hub is an enormous challenge. SEEDS, a national NGO, started working in the city just before the earthquake centenary in 2005, with an aim to identify ways of reducing earthquake risk through actions that could be carried out by the citizens and the local government, with school children playing a catalytic role.

Many small- and medium-sized Japanese cities are located along the coast and have become vulnerable to both coastal and mountain hazards. The vulnerability is increased by a rapidly growing aging population, low resources, and lack of capacity in the local governments. In this scenario, it is important that the community's potential should be fully utilized through proper awareness raising and capacity building. Town watching is considered as a useful tool to reduce urban risk in small- and medium-sized cities, where local students, teachers, parents, resident associations, and local government members collectively watch both good and bad (vulnerable) parts of their city. This collective watching and participatory mapping enhance the engagement of school children and communities in risk reduction activities. Town watching is considered as a process and it is important to continue the initiative for effective risk reduction at the community level.

Located at the center of the Red River Delta, Hanoi is the consequence of the unstable balance between soil and water and has witnessed the amicable and adverse relationship between the two elements over a long history. Established as a small town in A.D. 210, Hanoi grew from a harbor on the bank of the Red River to a thriving city and was chosen to be the capital of Vietnam in 1010 as the site had advantageous physical, landscape, and geomancy characteristics. However, the capital had also been confronted with difficulties due to the alluvial process, which raises the level of the watercourse above its normal elevation forcing the inhabitants to take measures such as building a dyke to prevent floods. This chapter analyzes the natural and social conditions as well as several problems that have been affecting urban flood risk management in Hanoi. The chapter ends with practical options and policy measures to address the problems.

On December 26, 2004, a strong earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on the richer scale, hit the Northwest of Sumatra island, Indonesia and caused the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The tsunami struck Aceh and North Sumatra (NAD), caused about 130,000 deaths, 500,000 left homeless, and extensive damage to life, property, and infrastructures. Sumatra is the western tip of island in the Indonesian archipelago. The population of Aceh province is estimated at 4.2 million (2000), or 3% of the Indonesian population and nearly a quarter of the population of Sumatra as a whole. One of the most heavily affected areas is Banda Aceh, which is located at the tip of Sumatra island had a population of 270,000 of which about 25% people lost their lives.

Nishinomiya City in Japan is one of the most successful cities in implementing eco-community and has served as a particularly influential model, especially through programs on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) which the Japanese Ministry of the Environment recognized as the nationwide environmental education program. Nishinomiya City has been implementing a project, “Environmental Learning City,” where community-based environmental management has been conducted through environmental education programs. And it established an NPO, “the Learning and Ecological Activities Foundation for Children (LEAF),” to facilitate the programs and build partnerships among citizens, businesses, and the local government. As a result, Nishinomiya's eco-community activities have been sustained, and not only environmental improvement but also social cohesion and mutual learning have been achieved.

Kampong Bahru is located at the heart of the “golden triangle” of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. The Settlement was established in 1899 as a result of the expressed desire of the Resident General and the British Resident of Selangor. Initially its objectives were: to educate the children of Malays, to take part in the administration, and to enable them to reap some of the advantages of the prosperity. The new settlement is known as Kampong Bahru (New Village). This chapter describes new innovative ways to revitalize community ties in the urban village context of Kampong Bahru. The concept of eco-communities is analyzed and specific suggested actions are presented.

The notion of social capital refers to social connections between people, such as networking, trust, norms, etc. Rich and good-condition social capital is supposed to enhance collective action in a society. This is why social capital has attracted more attention in the field of development studies and environmental management studies in recent years. However, the forms and conditions of social capital are different in each society and there is no ideal social capital. Therefore, it is important to know the advantages and disadvantages of the original social capital and how it can be supplemented. In the environmental learning project in Danang, Central Vietnam, social capital was fostered through the activities of the residents' group. New and strong networks of people have been created among broader neighborhoods. The residents' group created multidimensional networks (bridges) in the society and helped to foster social capital. Eventually, the residents' group is expected to bring success to the participatory urban environmental project by fostering social capital in the local society.

Dhaka is one of the most populated megacities in the world with a total population of over 12 million and an area of 276sqkm (DCC, 2004). The city is situated at the center of the country and is surrounded by a river system comprising Buriganga, Balu, Turag, and Shitalakhya. The city has a long history dating from the Pre-Mughal, to the Mughal, and, finally, to the Bangladesh period. The growth of Dhaka basically started from the current extreme south and along Buriganga River and then it expanded earlier to the West (Hazaribagh) and the East (Gandaria) and later to the North (Mirpur). However, in the last few decades, the city experienced huge population growth and rapid industrial, commercial, business, residential, and infrastructure development, which have significantly expanded the physical feature of Dhaka. Still many of the development activities are taking place in an informal way within the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) area, the main part of the megacity.

Risk reduction in cities of fast developing nations is both an opportunity and a big challenge. It is an opportunity because cities are considered efficient spatial forms of human habitation where smart interventions can be optimized. However, involvement and ownership of urban society is a big challenge. This paper illustrates these challenges and opportunities with an example of India's largest city – Mumbai. It discusses Mumbai's key drivers of risk, contributing factors to vulnerabilities and places it in the context of the 2005 flood – a disaster of a scale never experienced before. Citizen–government partnerships emanating from community-based small-scale initiatives for improving neighborhood's environment are analyzed. The paper concludes that there are enormous benefits in scaling up the participatory approaches, which result in reducing vulnerabilities and enhancing resilience of cities. Urban risk reduction will remain a daunting task if not built around these existing strengths of cities and their citizens.

On Wednesday October 20, 2004, Typhoon Tokage (called the “Typhoon no. 23 of 2004” in Japan), one of the deadliest storm in years, swept through most of the southern half of Japan. People were overcome by the massive waves and flash floods triggered by the typhoon's heavy rains and strong winds, which left at least 69 people dead, 20 missing, and some 342 injured, out of which 66 were serious injuries. The number of typhoon-related casualties was the highest in over a quarter of a century, and it further destroyed 50 homes, damaged 1,350 residences, and flooded 26,800 others. Typhoon Tokage was the tenth typhoon to make landfall in Japan in 2004. Storms and floods killed over 100 people in Japan that year, resulting in hundreds of millions of yen in damage, highlighting once again the importance of disaster management in both Japan and in East Asia.

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Community, Environment and Disaster Risk Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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