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PRISMH Workshop & Stakeholders Forum on Resilience of Schools to Multi-Hazard in the Philippines

RebekahYore4 June 2019

Last month, I was very fortunate to be able to participate in the delivery of a two-day workshop on Structural Mitigation and Increasing Resilience of Schools to Multi-Hazards in Manila, Philippines as part of the Philippines Resilience of Schools to Multi-Hazard (PRISMH) project. I joined the UCL EPICentre team in a visit to project collaborators De La Salle University (Manila) and Xavier University (Cagayan de Oro).

The workshop was based around methods, techniques and data used and collected as part of the actual PRISMH investigation, and introduced participants (attended came from academia, government, the private sector) to the most common deficiencies and failures observed in existing school infrastructure across the Philippines. As the Philippines is a multi-hazard environment, these weaknesses were examined in reference to exposed to various types of natural hazards including earthquake, flood and windstorm. Looking at the wide variety of the building typology and unpredictability of hazard intensity, different methods of data collection and exposure analysis were demonstrated in order to prioritise the most vulnerable structures, susceptible to life threatening damage and economic losses.

The physical integrity of buildings is only part of the story however, and the workshop also introduced knowledge and experience around challenges facing early warning systems, the identification, suitability and access to schools as emergency evacuation shelters and resource distribution hubs, as well as designing and implementing evacuation plans. I was there to represent the work and preliminary findings of Dr Joanna Faure Walker and Dr Alexandra Tsioulou, who emphasise the social importance of schools as centres of community, education institutions, and critically when a hazard risk arises, evacuation centres, emergency (and temporary) shelters, and aid distribution centres. My PhD work in the Philippines focusses on early warnings and temporary shelter in the Philippines, and so this was great way of exploring schools that function as shelters in more detail, as well as building relationships among key public, private and academic stakeholders.

The workshop was followed by a Stakeholders Forum first in Manila, and then in Xavier University in the city of Cagayan de Oro (CdeO), where the fieldwork campaign for PRISMH was conducted. This was my favourite part as it was a chance to report on the initial findings of the project and to engage the people at the heart of this research. It was a wonderful example of taking work back to where it originated, and of delivering real foundations on which people can adapt and build tools and resources that can help well beyond their original scope. The attendees included the Mayor of CdeO, officials from the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (RDRRMC) and the Philippines Department of Education.

See the Xavier University news article here

About the PRISMH Project

Start: 1st April 2017 / End: 30th Sepember 2019

The PRISMH project, led by Prof Dina D’Ayala, Dr Carmine Galasso and Dr Joanna Faure Walker aims to develop an advanced resilience assessment framework for school infrastructure subjected to multiple natural hazards in the Philippines. The project investigates the effectiveness of buildings retrofit measures and social preparedness measures as means of preventing casualties, reducing economic losses and maintaining functionality of the school infrastructure and its role within the community in the event of natural disasters. In particular the project addresses risks from seismic, wind and flood hazards. The resilience assessment protocol will be used by civil protection and school authorities to improve their preparedness and implementation.

Funding Bodies
British Council (Newton Fund Grant Agreement Institutional Links)
Philippines’s Commission on Higher Education (CHED)

 

Sustainable Development in the Himalaya: Turtuk, Ladakh, India. October 26-28, 2018

Saqar ' MAl Zaabi31 May 2019

Post written by Bindra Thusu

UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), UCL Humanitarian Institute and Institute of Energy Research and Training (IERT), Department of Geology, University of Jammu in India have been engaged since 2016 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals initiative showcasing collaborative research and outreach activities between the United Kingdom and India. Turtuk, a remote township in Ladakh, has been the focus of such engagement between IRDR-IERT research teams since July 2017.

Several workshops on flash floods in high altitude areas, safer schools and hospitals and a student outreach programme on Risk and Disaster reduction were conducted in Turtuk Town in July 2017. One of the flagship workshops focussed on developing a roadmap for safer and sustainable Turtuk Township, which would serve as a working model for sustainable development in a disaster prone part of Himalaya. The active participation of the local community residents with the IRDR-IERT research teams in the workshop was a landmark achievement resulting in the generation of a robust dataset which is now in the final stages of compilation at UCL for publication and dissemination to the workshop participants and residents in Turtuk.

The purpose of the October 2018 visit was twofold. Firstly, to appraise Turtuk workshop participants on the progress made in connection with the report on Turtuk Township model for safe and sustainable development and secondly, to donate medical supplies for patient care in the local hospital.

A formal meeting with the workshop delegates and local Namardars (local community leaders) took place on 27th October. A summary progress report was presented and discussed. The concern of the community representatives was that Turtuk is a remote and isolated township that received little attention from the state administration outside the Nubra Valley and that the onus lies on the community members to follow the guidelines recommended for project implementation. Isolation from Leh and the outside world for 4-5 months in a year adds to the challenges for the community for developing schemes for safe and sustainable development.

A collective suggestion was made to conduct a follow-up workshop in early July 2019 with the participation of workshop delegates from the 2017 session. The workshop would aim to present and discuss the proposed Turtuk Model and propose a workable road map for implementation and identify challenges for success. Namardars and the 2017 Turtuk workshop participants agreed to send a formal invitation letter to all stakeholders for participation in the workshop.

The much needed wheel chairs for patient mobility were presented to the hospital on behalf of IRDR/IERT and the Aash Foundation, an officially registered NGO in the Jammu and Kashmir State. The request for wheel chairs and the other medical items was made during 2017 visit.

It is pertinent to mention that in all isolated villages and towns in India, it is quite customary to receive requests for genuine medical needs or items related to medical and emergencies related to natural disasters. Many of these requests fall within the category of risk reduction in medical and other emergencies. In this regard the medical staff at Turtuk mentioned the lack of equipment for uric acid analysis, hydraulically controlled delivery table in the maternity ward and a dental chair with scaling and X-ray unit. Raised Uric Acid levels are common in Turtuk residents, especially in winter months when consumption of meat remains high due to non-availability of fresh produce. The nearest laboratory for blood analysis is in Diskit, which is about 120 Km from Turtuk and the road to Diskit is often blocked for travel due to frequent landslides in winter months.

Although attention on the above-mentioned issues are not directly related to our research mission or project purpose, it is difficult to separate the two. In an earlier workshop conducted by NERC on 4-5 September 2017 in London on Sustainable Development Goals Interactions, the role of NGOs was highlighted for the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Based on our engagement in Turtuk , the role of NGOs should be embedded with the high quality research that GCRF is expecting from academia. A charitable agency (NGO) from the UK with presence in India would be a desirable addition with the Turtuk project team from the very start of the current engagement. The NGO delegate would then have been better placed to handle assistance requests made to us for the patient care in the local hospital.

Namardars and workshop delegates expressed their appreciation and look forward to further interaction with the IRDR/IERT teams in 2019.

To address the aspirations of the Turtuk community for a follow-up workshop and outreach activities programme IRDR/IERT teams will be back in Turuk in July 2019.

Newly Published Paper on Microinsurance for Disaster Recovery

RebekahYore4 October 2018

Joanna Faure Walker and I have recently published our paper entitled “Microinsurance for disaster recovery: Business venture or humanitarian intervention? An analysis of potential success and failure factors of microinsurance case studies” in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

The paper is based around a review of a number of microinsurance case studies from the last 20 years and from around the world. Microinsurance as both a humanitarian and a development initiative has evolved significantly to incorporate new partners in the design, supply and delivery of more contextually appropriate and socially conscious financial products for lower-income markets. However, there is certainly no one-fix-all solution to the provision of financial services to low-income populations, particularly in relation to assisting with disaster relief, recovery and longer-term resilience building, and many either fail to deliver on their initial objectives to protect people or they simply fail to operate sustainably and cease their services.

In our paper, we begin exploring what factors may contribute towards the success and failure of global microinsurance products, and discuss whether microinsurance products can serve as effective humanitarian interventions in times of crisis, or better serve as viable business propositions, or serve their communities as a combination of the two, depending on the context. Our findings, along with our suggestions of minimum metrics for recording the performance of microinsurance programmes over time, are intended to help further the discussion on defining microinsurance, to inform microinsurance initiatives that may be set up to address the challenges of post-disaster transitions to recovery, and to aid in the tracking of longer-term community impact.

Visit here to read more and to download the paper.

 

Rebekah Yore

UCL Institue for Risk and Disaster Reduction

rebekah.yore.14@ucl.ac.uk (07732 174252)

Fault2SHA has successful session at ESC 2018 in Malta

Joanna PFaure Walker7 September 2018

The Fault2SHA ESC (European Seismological Commission) Working Group hosted a session on Wednesday 5th September at the ESC 2018 Meeting held in Valletta, Malta. Oona Scotti represented the group in her keynote on the opening day of the conference, in which she addressed “Modelling fault systems in PSHA: Challenges Ahead”. The Fault2SHA Working Group, for which I am on the Executive Committee, links different researchers working on faults and seismic hazard assessment (SHA) in Europe and beyond. This collaboration has brought together field geologists, fault-modellers and probabilistic seismic hazard modellers. The group provides a forum in which data, results, modelling capabilities, and improvements in scientific understanding can be shared. If you want more information, and to join, see Fault2SHA. The next Fault2SHA workshop will be in Kaust, Saudi Arabia, in November 2018 and the next meeting will run on 3rd-5th June 2019 in Barcelona, Spain.

I lead the Fault2SHA Central Apennines Laboratory. Our team comprises researchers from Italy (Paolo Boncio, Bruno Pace, Laura Peruzza, Francesco Visini), France (Lucilla Benedetti, Ooona Scotti) and the UK (Joanna Faure Walker, Gerald Roberts). At ESC in Malta, I introduced the central Apennines Laboratory and our current activities to the wider working group. The Central Apennines, as well as being a beautiful place to conduct fieldwork with the opportunity to obtain detailed datasets, suffers from large magnitude earthquakes. Indeed, earthquakes in the Central Apennines have featured widely in the UK press due hosting the two deadliest earthquakes in Europe of the last ten years: the 2009 L’Aquila sequence and the 2016 Amatrice-Norcia sequence.

 

The Fault2SHA Central Apennines Laboratory, which formed in January 2018, held an in-person meeting in July at the University of Chieti-Pescara, Italy. The photograph shows (from left to right) Oona Scotti, Francesco Visini, Joanna Faure Walker, Bruno Pace, Laura Peruzzi, Lucilla Benedetti, and Paolo Boncio.

During the Fault2SHA ESC session, I presented a second talk and a poster about my research investigating the importance of incorporating detailed fault geometry for understanding seismic hazard. The oral presentation demonstrated the importance of incorporating detailed fault geometry and loading on faults between earthquakes in Coulomb Stress Transfer modelling, a process that causes the stress on faults to change in response to an earthquake on a neighbouring fault. This was based on work carried out by Zoe Mildon (former IRDR PhD student, now a lecturer at the University of Plymouth) in collaboration with Gerald Roberts, Shinji Toda and myself (see Midon et al. 2016 and Mildon et al. submitted preprint). The poster displayed the importance of detailed fault geometry and slip-rate data for calculating earthquake probabilities and ground shaking intensities. I further represented Zoe for her poster within the session on earthquakes in regions of distributed deformation, that showed surface ruptures from the 1997 Colfiorito Earthquake in the central Apennines was due to primary earthquake slip (see Mildon et al., 2016 for details).

I thank all those at the conference with whom I had interesting discussions and I look forward to seeing all of our research progress.

Report of the 43rd Natural Hazards Workshop, Colorado

RebekahYore30 July 2018

Blog post by Justine Uyimleshi and Emmanuel Agbo

 

The natural hazard workshop is an annual event organised by the Natural Hazard Centre in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder around the field of disaster management and emergency response to trigger interactions and contributions from different experts in the field of disaster management and humanitarian responses. This year’s workshop, which was held in Omni Interlocken Hotel Boulder, Broomfield Colorado, from 8 – 11 July 2018 attracted over five hundred participants including disaster managers, emergency response personnel, practitioners and academia from around the world with different expertise in interactive sessions around pertinent issues that globally result in loss of lives, property damage, loss of economic values and human displacement. As a part of the IRDR strategy for promoting continuous research around disaster risk reduction (DRR) and expansion of networks in strengthening collaborations with other disaster management and emergency response entities across the world, the Institute through its research assistance funding provided support for two of its PhD researchers, Justine Uyimleshi and Emmanuel Agbo, to take part in this international event. Our participation in the workshop availed us the opportunity of interaction amid experts with different knowledge about disasters and present our research to the international communities.

Presenting our research

The workshop was full of several concurrent sessions that created opportunities for vast interaction around social media and disasters, data and partnership need for improved disaster response, cascading disasters, institutional settings, community impact and recovery from disasters, Health and wellbeing of disaster respondents, among others which enriched our understanding of the different thematic areas of disaster management. Most interestingly, the workshop further availed us the opportunity during the researcher’s meeting to moderate sessions of paper presentations as efforts in promoting the IRDR commitment in global events.  Also, of great attention from the workshop was our meeting with Jim Murphy, project director, Civil/Water Resource Engineering, DC Metro Area. Jim in admiration of our presence in the workshop and presentation during the workshop sessions demonstrated a benevolent act towards us and offered us a tour to the wild fire and flood devastating sites in Broomfield.

On this tour, we were able to see the available response facilities, and measures that are in place to quell the likely impact from future occurrence of these hazards. Finally, we extended the exploration of Colorado to the Gold hill town, where the coal exploit took place and the city mountains, which are part of the historical features of Colorado. Resulting from our experience of this workshop, we wish to express our profound appreciation to the IRDR for their continuous support. The workshop was greatly an event worth attending.

IRDR Masters student publishes Early Warning and Temporary Housing Research. This is part of the on-going collaboration between UCL-IRDR and IRIDeS-Tohoku University

Joanna PFaure Walker4 June 2018

Angus Naylor, an IRDR Masters student alumni and Masters Prize Winner, has published the research conducted for his Independent Research Project. The research was carried out as part of his MSc Risk, Disaster and Resilience with me, his project supervisor, and our collaborator at Tohoku University IRIDeS (International Research Institute of Disaster Science), Dr Anawat Suppasri.

Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, UCL-IRDR and Tohoku University IRIDeS wanted to join forces to learn more about both the fundamental science and impacts of disasters both in Japan and around the world. Naylor’s recently published paper adds to other collaborative outputs from the two institutes: Mildon et al., 2016, investigating Coulomb Stress Transfer within the area of earthquake hazard research; Suppasri et al., 2016 investigating fatality ratios following the 2011 Great East Japan Tsunami; and IRDR Special Report 2014-01 on the destruction from Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. The two institutions have met on a number of occasions, and have an upcoming symposium in October 2018.

In 2014, three and half years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami destroyed much of Tohoku’s coastline, I led and Dr Anawat Suppasri organised a joint UCL-IRDR and Tohoku University IRIDeS team, visiting residents of six temporary housing complexes in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. While there, we used written questionnaires and informal group interviews to investigate the suitability of early warning systems and the temporary housing among the elderly population affected by this event.

When analysing the results, we found overall that age was not the principal factor in affecting whether a warning was received, but did play a significant role regarding what was known before the warning was received, whether action was taken and how temporary and permanent housing was viewed. The results suggest that although the majority of respondents received some form of warning (81%), no one method of warning reached more than 45% of them, demonstrating the need for multiple forms of early warning system alerts. Furthermore, only half the respondents had prior knowledge of evacuation plans with few attending evacuation drills and there was a general lack of knowledge regarding shelter plans following a disaster. Regarding shelter, it seems that the “lessons learned” from the 1995 Kobe Earthquake were perhaps not so learnt, but rather many of the concerns raised among the elderly in temporary housing echoed the complaints from 16 years earlier: solitary living, too small, not enough heating or sound insulation and a lack of privacy.

An example of Temporary Housing following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami visited during the fieldwork for this study (Photograph: Dr Joanna Faure Walker)

The research supports previous assertions that disasters can increase the relative vulnerabilities of those already amongst the most vulnerable in society. This highlights that in order to increase resilience against future disasters, we need to consider the elderly and other vulnerable groups within the entire Early Warning System process from education to evacuation and for temporary housing in the transitional phase of recovery.

The paper, ‘Suitability of the early warning systems and temporary housing for the elderly population in the immediacy and transitional recovery phase of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami’ published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, can be accessed for free until 26th July here, after this date please click here for standard access.

The authors are grateful for the fieldwork funds which came from The Great British Sasakawa Foundation funding to UCL-IRDR and MEXT’s funding to IRIDeS. The joint UCL-IRDR1 and IRIDeS2 fieldwork team comprised Joanna Faure Walker1, Anawat Suppasri2, David Alexander1, Sebastian Penmellen Boret2, Peter Sammonds1, Rosanna Smith1, and Carine Yi2.

Angus Naylor is currently doing a PhD at Leeds University
Dr Joanna Faure Walker is a Senior Lecturer at UCL IRDR
Dr Anawat Suppasri is an Associate Professor at IRIDeS-Tohoku University

Research Update: Localising Emergency Management in Nigeria

RebekahYore7 November 2017

Article by Emmanuel Agbo

The recent devastating effects of natural hazards globally, such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, erosion, tsunamis, and landslides, in spite of the many predictive, defensive and reduction measures, call for great concern. Though this situation is often largely attributable to climate change, population growth and urbanisation, its catastrophic effect to humans and the environment, shows to a greater extend the limitations of science and technology and the many disasters risk reduction measures in disaster management. It also highlights a potential need for more proactive measures towards disaster risk reduction.

6d28a69f5c648644e434b02cf9824450Nonetheless, government commitment and willingness to undertake disaster risk reduction measures proves to be a veritable tool for effectiveness in disaster management. While the viability of this tool is undoubtably clear, its implementation often becomes distorted in most developing nations. This is so, as the shared responsibility between the state, the federal and the local government, in a top-down disaster operational approach as practice by most developed economies and adopted by many developing nations, suffers lots of implementation flaws. This occurs frequently within federated nations, where each government level is viewed as a sovereign state. This approach of emergency management places the civil protection measures at the mercy of politicians, who often prefer the provision of relief material to disaster victims in a bid to secure cheap political points rather than engaging in activities that will better prepare the vulnerable towards disaster incidents.

Nigeria-1

In recognition of these challenges, and in the quest to better prepare for disasters, my research supposes that locally institutionalising an emergency management culture within developing nations, serves to quell inconsistencies in its emergency operational framework. As all disasters, regardless of scale, happen first in communities, the local people are always the first to address its occurrences. To achieve greater preparedness, the level of information and awareness of hazards, as well as the potential mitigation strategies at the local level, needs be enhanced. To this end my research, through the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction research fund assistance, recently involved undertaking a field assessment of community perceptions of flood hazards, preparedness, and response within a number of flood vulnerable communities in Nigeria. Its preliminary findings point to poor preparedness and weak knowledge of flood emergency response, weak mitigation measures and poor defense mechanism. Also of notable finding is the gap in communication between the civil protection agencies and the rural vulnerable communities during and after disaster incidents. While most of these factors exist, and continually require review in most developing nations, there is a need for demonstrating complete structures to improve on these challenges. This is the focus of my research. 

Investigating the Implementation of Disaster Education in Indonesia

NurmalahayatiNurdin15 May 2017

Schools can play an important role in reducing the impact of disasters, and students can be very vulnerable to the effects of disasters if they are not prepared with sufficient knowledge. My study therefore focuses on the integration of disaster risk reduction (DRR) concepts into the Secondary High School curriculum in Indonesia. As part of my research, I travelled to Indonesia from March to April this year.

Throughout my work in Indonesia, I was able to meet and interview several DRR education stakeholders, who play an important role in the development of disaster education in the country, including the National Curriculum Centre, the National Disaster Management Agency, the Indonesian Science Institute, and three NGOs: Plan International, Lingkar and Kerlip.

I also had the opportunity to discuss with a number of teachers, the integration of DRR concepts in their curricula at the Secondary High School in Banda Aceh. Many agreed that Indonesia is a highly disaster-prone nation and that students need to be adequately prepared. However, they also pointed out that limited knowledge, a lack of materials and insufficient support all hinder the implementation of these DRR processes in schools. The teachers believed that such problems can be minimised with greater support, especially from local government, and stated that if DRR concepts are fully integrated into school curricula, more children will have a better understanding of DRR and will work towards transforming their societies.

Meeting with Head of National curriculum centre

The study provided critical information and recommendations for governments, both local and central, regarding the importance of disaster education in schools. The insight might help in formulating policies and designing programmes on disaster management. It will benefit education-based stakeholders and strengthen DRR in school curricula through building knowledge of risk, increased skills, and improved awareness. It will also provide solutions from current disaster problems and assist in the prevention of further catastrophes.

During this trip, I presented my work at the 4th TWINSEA International Workshop on ‘Lessons Learnt and Outlook, Enhancing Resilience in Indonesia and South East Asia Cities through Low Regret Adaptation Measures’. As a part of the workshop, I also attended the book launch of Disaster Risk Reduction in Indonesia to which I contributed, adding my experience to the chapter titled ‘Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation into School Curriculum: From National Policy to Local Implementation’ (http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-54466-3_8).

Book DRR in Indonesia

The workshop attracted 140 attendees, including researchers, academics, practitioners, and government delegates from seven countries around the world, who presented on multi-disciplinary aspects of the development of DRR in Indonesia. It was organised by the Indonesian Institute of Science – International Centre for Interdisciplinary and Advanced Research (LIPI-ICIAR), Universitas Pendidikan National (UNDIKNAS), the Franzius Institute for Hydraulic, Waterways and Coastal Engineering at the University of Hannover, and the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

For more information on Nurmalahayati’s work, or to contact her at the IRDR: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/rdr/people/nurmalahayati-nurdin

Interview with Rebekah Yore, PhD Candidate at IRDR and Research Associate at Rescue Global

SerenaTagliacozzo23 August 2016

Rebekah Yore is a second year PhD Candidate in the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction. She is carrying out a PhD co-sponsored by Rescue Global, an international organisation specialised in disaster risk reduction and response. In her PhD, she explores how local and international intervention following the initiar-yorel aftermath and transitional period of disasters affects the continuing vulnerability of individuals, households and communities. 

We interviewed her to know more about the upcoming projects and fieldworks in Afghanistan and Tajikistan which she will be visiting in September along with the Rescue Global team.

-Rebekah, what does your job at Rescue Global involve?

As Rescue Global’s first co-sponsored PhD student, my broader academic work aims to contribute theoretical and practical knowledge to practitioner policy at operational, tactical and strategic levels. My focus is on the transitional phase to disaster recovery, and as Rescue Global work around the entire disaster cycle, I hope to be able to directly inform their evolving practice. On a day-to-day level, I have the chance to write online copy, critically appraise theory and practice in Disaster Risk Reduction and Response (DRR&R) trends, deliver analyses of academic and industry reports, and attend and present at national and international conferences.

  -You are going to Afghanistan and Tajikistan in September. How long will you stay there for? Which areas will you be visiting?

Yes. Rescue Global has partnered with the EU Border Management Northern Afghanistan Project (EU-BOMNAF), an EU-funded project administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to deliver Disaster Risk Management (DRM) training to border communities and border security forces along the northern border of Afghanistan. The project, known as “Operation Resilient Borders” at Rescue Global, will last for two weeks and is one of a series of missions. There is a gender diversity emphasis this time, and Tajik and Afghan women will also be involved from the areas of Khumrogi, Eshkashem and Ishkashim. For more details of the project so far, see: http://bit.ly/2awcgDM.

-What are the objectives that this field operation seeks to achieve?

11705260_10155821821120015_4791213970532712511_nThe border area between Tajikistan and Afghanistan is very vulnerable to both natural and manmade hazards. Weather conditions, the mountainous landscape and the proximity to a seismic fault all expose the area to regular geophysical and hydro-meteorological disasters. This mission seeks to support the continued development and delivery of the DRM training curriculum, this time including groups of local women as vital caregivers, first responders and conduits of life-saving knowledge.

– How DRR awareness is going to be developed and nurtured at long term?

The training sessions are delivered through both classroom instruction and interactive working groups so that the students then lead practical application exercises to reinforce their learning. Sessions are held in both Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and follow an ‘exchange’ method where border forces are trained together, and in their opposite colleagues’ location. By training all forces as colleagues through several sessions over a longer period of time, and by including local community leaders in the training events, reinforced DRM awareness is spread among men and women along the entire border community.

Resilient to Landslides: The Indigenous Tribal Communities of Bangladesh

BayesAhmed4 July 2016

Landslides are common socio-natural hazards in the Chittagong Hill Districts (CHD) of Bangladesh. Communities living in the hills of CHD can be categorized as urbanized and tribal, each community experiences a different level of risk to landslides. With this knowledge, I conducted fieldwork in the three tribal hill tracts districts (Bandarban, Khagrachari and Rangamati) in Bangladesh from November 2015 – January 2016. The primary objective of this fieldwork was to understand what makes the tribal communities resilient to landslides. The IRDR and Commonwealth Scholarship Commission funded the fieldwork. I conducted household level questionnaire surveying and community based focus-group discussions in four tribal communities in CHD. This blog is all about sharing my experience working with a remote tribal community named Sandak Para in Thanchi sub-district, Bandarban, Bangladesh.

Landslides causing human casualties and massive property destruction are mainly visible within the urbanized communities in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar. Indiscriminate hill cutting and development of unplanned settlements in the hills during the monsoon mainly cause the landslides. In contrast, the tribal people living in the remote and rural hill areas experience few or no similar landslide disasters.

Thanchi_BayesSandak Para Community in Bandarban.

The typical tribal houses are made of locally available materials – bamboo, wood, mud and corrugated iron sheets. The foundation is laid on bamboo/tree trunks on a raised plinth from the ground and the roof is typically thatched.

Thanchi_Bayes_2Typical tribal housing – Sandak Para, Bandarban.

Tribal people have lived here permanently for few generations and no Bengali (people not living in the hills are called as Bengali/ settlers by the tribes) were found in the community. The traditional shifting cultivation (or slash and burn agriculture) is the primary occupation. There is no formal electricity supply, but people use solar power for household activities. There is no drainage network. Water supply is a major problem as people are mostly dependent on water from the Sangu River or from the nearby falls. The average monthly income of a household ranges from US$12-20 that is low earning in Bangladesh.

The architecture of the houses is helping to make the community physically less vulnerable to landslides. The raised plinth allows the rainwater to flow naturally and freely below the houses. The construction materials of the houses are lightweight and therefore not life threatening, even if the houses collapse in earthquakes or landslides. The tribal people do not cut the hills like in the urbanized areas, instead they try to build houses horizontally in the same line of hill-slopes using bamboo or tree trunks in layers. This is the indigenous knowledge applied by the tribal people to protect themselves from landslides or slope collapses.

Vulnerable Houses in CHDHouses built by cutting hills vertically in urbanized hill communities.

From initial observation, I found that the tribal communities are also addressing the different thematic dimensions of vulnerability in relation to landslides:

Economic dimension: alternative livelihood options, less damage to physical assets, and not using the hills for commercial activities.

Social dimension: no massive damage to social systems ranging from individual to collective, accessibility to necessary infrastructure and services, and social cohesion.

Cultural dimension: by treating the hills as sacred place and using centuries-old rich indigenous and local knowledge to deal with the hill environment.

Environmental dimension: protecting the hills by not destroying the hill-forests and cutting the hills in an unstable manner.

Institutional dimension: there are no power politics and few external influences; instead there is a strong local and regional network with autonomous administration.

From my fieldwork, it is evident that the indigenous tribal communities in CHD are more resilient to landslides than the urbanized settlers. It would be highly recommended to address community vulnerability by incorporating indigenous knowledge in local planning to reduce the risks of landslide disasters in the highly urbanized hill areas of Bangladesh.

After several days of long and tiring work in the field, I took a boat ride with my field assistants; who are from the Marma tribe, in the Sangu River towards Remakri. The mesmerizing beauty of Sangu River, the surrounding green and untouched hills, the helpful tribal people, freedom from the chaotic and polluted city life and finally clean air and fresh food, all made me feel like I was in the most beautiful place on earth. I want to go back to this place again, just to enjoy the natural beauty and share some more moments with the indigenous tribal people of Bangladesh!

Bayes_4 Bayes_5Scenic beauty of Sangu River, Bandarban.

© Bayes Ahmed

Email: bayes.ahmed.13@ucl.ac.uk