By Maryam Qarehgozlou

‘Build back better’, key to reduce disaster risk

December 20, 2017

TEHRAN — ‘Building back better’ would definitely help reduce disaster risk in the future, Ko Goto, director of disaster risk reduction group of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said on Tuesday.

As Goto has maintained the insufficiently strong buildings in Kermanshah [decimated by the strong magnitude 7.3 quake hit the province over a month ago] was the main reason as to why the province sustained great damages and highlighted the fact that ‘building back better’ would definitely help reduce disaster risk in the future.  

He made the remarks over a ceremony held in Tehran Disaster Mitigation and Management Organization (TDMMO). 

TDMMO and JICA have jointly conducted disaster risk reduction projects in Iran since 1998 by implementing 4 projects with regard to disaster risk reduction in the event of an earthquake in the capital. A memorandum of understanding to implement the fifth round of the joint programs to increase Tehran resiliency to earthquake was signed on Tuesday here in Tehran.

“JICA has already conducted four joint projects in Iran, so far we achieved many outcomes from previous projects such as formulation of disaster mitigation master plan, training people and making evacuation maps. Now we are in the process of formulating the fifth round of the project,” Yukiharu Kobayashi JICA chief representative in Iran said. 

In the process of the recognizing the necessities of the fifth project JICA group have travelled to Sarpol-e Zahab village which was hit the hardest by the recent magnitude 7.3 Kermanshah earthquake, Kobayashi explained.  

He further said that well-coordinated response activities, immediate search and rescue, emergency shelter provision, debris cleaning, assessment of building damages, and rebuilding process were almost in place, however, he regretted that the buildings were clearly not resilient to earthquake. 

“We have to learn from past experiences to prepare for future disasters, there is a Japanese expression that means hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he noted. 

Kobayashi finally expressed hope that the knowhow techniques to reduce disaster risks would be disseminated around the country. 

“We have two types of buildings, private and public,” he said, adding, “there are a great number of private buildings and it is very a difficult task to strengthen every single building in Tehran, instead we have to shift our focus to public buildings, if a disaster strikes and demolish public buildings they won’t be able to function properly anymore, so such important structures like schools and hospitals need to be strengthened by allocating budget.”

Meeting Sendai disaster risk reduction targets

Ryoji Takahashi, deputy general manager of Oriental Consultant Global, the lead company facilitating TDMMO and JICA’s cooperation in disaster risk reduction, told the Tehran Times that within the framework of the newly extended project for disaster risk reduction the company will device a master plan for disaster reduction for Tehran. The plan will be consisting short-term, mid-term and long-term measures to prepare the grounds to reach the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction targets by 2030. 

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted at the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held from March 14 to 18, 2015 in Sendai, Japan, which represented an opportunity for countries to adopt a concise, focused, forward-looking and action-oriented framework for disaster risk reduction.

So, Takahashi said, based on the Sendai document we will decide the priorities for Iran and oversee the shortcomings; it’s a never-ending effort. 

“The fifth project JICA and TDMMO are co-conducting is including every item that needs to be implemented including strengthening the buildings, but we don’t get involve in actual implementation of the projects,” he explained.

“We have two types of buildings, private and public,” he said, adding, “there are a great number of private buildings and it is very a difficult task to strengthen every single building in Tehran, instead we have to shift our focus to public buildings, if a disaster strikes and demolish public buildings they won’t be able to function properly anymore, so such important structures like schools and hospitals need to be strengthened by allocating budget.”

“About the residential buildings, what we need to do is to increase the citizens’ awareness about disaster risks and the need to construct stronger building,” Takahashi stated. A disaster will happen in Tehran sometimes in the future, so if people want to avoid losing their loved ones they have to pay today to prevent such tragic events, he restated. People need to change their mind, they have to be informed about disasters, they need to know that disaster management is not just the government’s business, it’s everybody’s business. 

So, we have started efforts to teach disaster risk reduction at schools and that way the students will change their parents mindset as well, he suggested. 

Iran, a disaster-prone region 

Earthquake is one of the natural disasters that is posing a great threat to many countries worldwide.  

Iran is one of the most seismically active countries in the world in that it is crossed by several major faults that cover at least 90 percent of the country. So learning how to confront the disaster is of utmost importance. 

The Iranian capital is located near three major fault lines namely the Mosha, the Tehran, and the Rey. Regarding the earthquake return period of 150 years Tehran has not been stricken with a major quake for some 180 years. On top of all that, the city has grown rapidly, and earthquake readiness was not a focus in building new homes. The city remains large, and the risk of an earthquake is high. There’s a 90 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake in the coming years. And, because of the city’s location and poor construction standards, even a quake of that size would be devastating.

MQ/MG

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