Making cities disaster resilient




With the projected increase in floods, hurricanes, heat waves and tornadoes worldwide, risk management is essential
As part of the Adeje Summer University, Abhilash Panda, from the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction – UNISDR, gave a fascinating two hour lecture on managing and controlling risks – natural and human – risk reduction, increasing resilience, and also made specific references to the position of and part heritage plays in this equation, in particular in the case of tourism-dependent zones.

As he explained, the mandate of the United Nations and UN bodies is to concentrate their resources in areas that are developing, so plans and strategies are not geared towards major developed cities, where financial and human resources already exist, but on those in need of some external guidance and assistance, and often in conjunction or by encouraging the assistance of private institutions – insurance bodies, etc.

The campaign to develop resilience programmes in cities began in 2010, sponsored by the Rockefeller foundation (100RC) but has already grown to include 3,200 cities today, potentially affecting 1 billion people. The body has now adopted a strategy, the Sendai Framework, “which is a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognises that the ‘State’ has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.” It works to achieve, “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.”

The speaker outlined four priorities for action, understanding risk, strengthening disaster risk governance, investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience (being resilient alone isn’t enough, you have to reduce the risk), and, ‘build back better’ – in other worlds learn from the past, and invest in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

He also made special reference to the relevance and role of heritage in tourist destinations and of including sites and monuments in risk management plans, given their importance to the cultural and economic life of the zone.

The use of credible reliable information regarding risks and how to deal with them is also hugely important and must be shared responsibly. He gave the example of Thailand after the 2004 tsunami. Today visitors to hotels are given a details sheet reminding them that there is a risk, but also telling them what to do in the event of an emergency, where to go, how to get there, etc. Everyone needs to be encouraged to be part of the risk reduction and resilience strategy, not just those in local government or the emergency services.