Recovery from Catastrophe and Building Back Better
Kuniyoshi Takeuchi*,† and Shigenobu Tanaka**
*International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management, Public Works Research Institute
Minamihara 1-6 Tsukuba 305-8516, Japan
**Water Resources Research Center, Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, Uji, Japan
Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Tohoku cities in Japan and Tacloban, Philippines were all completely destroyed and have recovered or are now recovering from the ocean of debris. Banda Aceh and Tacloban have recovered to a normal state rather quickly within two years or so after the disaster’s occurrence. The Tohoku cities are taking a much longer time and even now, more than 170,000 (March 10, 2016) people are in evacuation houses of various kinds. Such a difference comes from the basic selection of the recovery process, based on the basic policy of reconstruction.
Building resilient cities is one of the Sustainable Development Goals with disaster risk reduction targets. In order to build resilient cities, the strategy of building back better, a new focus priority in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, plays a key role. As disasters occur everywhere one after another, recovery processes also take place everywhere after each disaster. Building back better is therefore one of the most practical ways of building resilient cities.
Quick recovery has many advantages if it extends to building back better toward resilient cities but in almost all cases as experienced in Banda Aceh and Tacloban, once a city is recovered freely, it is extremely difficult to redesign and gradually install resilience into the city formation. On the other hand, slow recovery and waiting time, as experiencing in Tohoku cities, make people suffer, make local economies difficult to recover, and have high national costs. It is difficult to assess how and under what conditions the cost of such investment may be recovered by building resilient cities with long-term safety.
The justification for selecting a recovery trajectory depends on the state of the national economy as well as the safety culture of the nation. Yet more important and practical support for building back better is having a pre-disaster recovery plan prepared before a disaster occurs. In fact, regardless of the availability of official pre-disaster plans, the redevelopment and reform efforts to improve communities in normal times will help promote a swift and effective reconstruction when an unexpected disaster occurs. This was experienced in Tokyo after the Great Kanto Earthquake and after World War II, as well as in many cities in Japan.
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