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Protecting Bhutan’s cultural heritage

Dechen Tshering's picture
Cultural heritage is an extremely important aspect of Bhutan and is one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness, the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s development


Culture defines the sovereignty and identity of Bhutan and its people.

And the intricate beauty and uniqueness of its traditional architecture are known around the world.

As such, cultural heritage preservation is one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness, the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s development, and is embedded in all its national development policies.

In this context, the Royal Government of Bhutan has made it a priority to sustain both tangible and intangible aspects of its culture with dedicated offices under the Department of Culture of Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MOHCA), which work closely with local governments.

This work is critical as Bhutan’s monuments are vulnerable.

The 2009 and 2011 earthquakes damaged hundreds of historic monasteries and fortresses known as dzongs, including the Lhuntse and Trashigang Dzongs (2009) and the Paro Tadzong (2011).

Also, fires triggered some of the worst disasters in Bhutan’s cultural history.

The famous Paro Taktshang, nicknamed the Tiger’s Nest and the Wangduephodrang Dzong were burnt down in 2008 and 2012 respectively.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Dzongs of Bhutan is their strategic location.

How can Sri Lanka better protect its people against disasters?

Thomas Walker's picture
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050

Sri Lanka has a long history of coping with weather impacts.  

About two thousand years ago, the country built one of the world’s first irrigation system to control its water supply.

This feat of engineering, which boasted hundreds of kilometers of channels, tanks, and innovative valve pits, helped the great kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa flourish into sophisticated societies and protect their people against hunger.

Not unlike these early civilizations, modern social protection programs have sheltered those affected by disaster through financial assistance and other forms of support.

Today, building resilience to natural disasters and other shocks is more critical than ever.

Since 1980, the frequency of natural disasters worldwide has increased by 250 percent, and the number of affected people has more than doubled.

Sri Lanka is no exception. The country ranked fourth most vulnerable to climate change in 2016.

Further to that, a recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050.

The losses caused by significant shocks like natural disasters have long-lasting consequences.

Children, especially, can suffer permanent damages if they are not educated or fed correctly in their critical early years.  

And the loss of assets, livestock, and crops can severely hurt small business owners and farmers and further discourage them from investing.

Sadly, natural disasters hit the poor the hardest as they tend to live in disaster-prone areas, work in agriculture, and usually don’t have savings or access to credit.

When a shock hits, wellbeing declines as people cut back on food and other essentials due to their loss of income or the high cost of rebuilding their homes.

And while some people gradually restore their standards of living, some never fully recover and get stuck in poverty.

But the poor aren’t the only ones who need to worry about shocks.

Today, a third of Sri Lankans are just a shock away from falling into poverty.

Our analysis of the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey reveals that a 20 percent sudden decrease in household welfare—or consumption shock—would more than double the poverty rate: almost 1 in 10 Sri Lankans would be poor.

If the shock triggered a 50 percent decrease in consumption, one in three Sri Lankan families would fall into poverty.

How can Bangladesh increase its resilience to disasters through data sharing?

Debashish Paul Shuvra's picture
 
How can Bangladesh increase its resilience to disasters?

Schools across Bangladesh are highly vulnerable to floods, cyclones, and earthquakes. How can the country mitigate and respond to the risks of these natural hazards?

By using the GeoDASH platform - a geospatial data sharing platform - the Directorate of Primary Education of Bangladesh has assessed 35,000 schools with respect to the type of infrastructure, water and sanitation facilities, access to roads, and overall capacity during natural disasters.

The GeoDASH platform is a reliable and extensive geographic and information (geospatial) data network.

These data are Geographic Information System (GIS) and other geolocation services-based information to represent objects or locations on a globally referenceable platform to enable mapping.

For example, locations of road network data can be merged with the flood risk map to get a single map for identifying vulnerable road communication in flood-prone areas.

This type of data will allow the Government of Bangladesh, communities, and the private sector to create, share and use disaster risk and climate change information to inform risk-sensitive decision making.

Why cultural heritage matters for urban resilience

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture

Across the disaster risk management community, there is growing recognition that protecting cultural heritage is fundamental to urban resilience. Traditional knowledge embedded in cultural heritage, such as historical evacuation routes or shelters, can help societies cope with natural hazards. Moreover, when these hazards disrupt cultural heritage sites, such as museums, monuments and places of worship, they often cause irreparable damage to people’s cultures, identities and livelihoods.

A case in point is last year’s devastating earthquake in central Mexico, which damaged over 1,500 historic buildings, including the 250-year-old Church of Santa Prisca, one of the country’s grandest and most beloved churches. Mexico is one of a number of countries that have undertaken major efforts to protect cultural heritage sites, including through its Plan Verde, which works to reduce seismic and other disaster risks in Mexico City’s historic center.

On the sidelines of the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, which was aptly held in Mexico City, Giovanni Boccardi, Chief of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit for the Culture Sector of UNESCO, made the case that much more needs to be done to put cultural heritage front and center in the disaster risk management agenda.

Five actions for disability-inclusive disaster risk management

Margaret Arnold's picture
Photo Credit: Guilhem Alandry doculab Malteser International / Flickr CC

While disasters threaten the well-being of people from all walks of life, few are as disproportionately affected as the over one billion people around the world who live with disabilities. Following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, for example, the fatality rate for persons with disabilities was up to four times higher than that of the general population.
 
Persons with disabilities are especially vulnerable when disaster strikes not only due to aspects of their disabilities, but also because they are more likely, on average, to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, including higher poverty rates. Disasters and poorly planned disaster response and recovery efforts can exacerbate these disparities, leaving persons with disabilities struggling to cope even more both during and after the emergency.
 
In advance of the Global Disability Summit, and drawing on a recent report titled “Disability Inclusion in Disaster Risk Management” from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and the Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank, here are five actions that development institutions, governments, and other key stakeholders can take to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in the aftermath of a disaster. 

The disaster risk management funding gap in fragile, conflict and violence-affected countries

Thomas Lennartz's picture

Saddled with weak political systems and ravaged by strife, fragile, conflict and violence-affected countries suffer some of the largest losses from natural disasters. According to the Overseas Development Institute, 58 percent of deaths from disasters between 2004 and 2014 occurred in countries with fragile contexts. Across the globe, rapid urbanization and climate change are further increasing the exposure and vulnerability of these communities to natural hazards.


Yet, even as people in fragile, conflict and violence-affected countries struggle to cope with the growing dangers from natural disasters, the international donor community has been slow to respond, explains Thomas Lennartz of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). Tellingly between 2005 and 2010, for every $100 spent on humanitarian assistance to these countries, only $1.30 was spent on disaster risk management (DRM).
 
So what can be done to help close this funding gap? In this video from the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, hosted by GFDRR and the World Bank, Lennartz offers his take – and shares a few insights on GFDRR’s emerging DRM portfolio in fragile, conflict and violence-affected countries.
 

From Japan to Bhutan: Improving the resilience of cultural heritage sites

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
This page in: 日本語
 Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018
When it comes to their heritage buildings, both Bhutan and Japan have one common enemy: Fire. A view of Wangduephodrang Dzong in Bhutan which was destroyed by fire in 2012. Credit: Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018

About 2,749 miles, three countries, and a sea separate Kyoto, Japan, and Thimphu, Bhutan. The countries’ languages are different, and so are their histories.

But when it comes to their heritage buildings, both nations have one common enemy: Fire.

And to help prevent fire hazards, there’s a lot Bhutan can learn from Japan’s experience.

To that end, a Bhutanese delegation visited Tokyo and Kyoto last year to attend the Resilient Cultural Heritage and Tourism Technical Deep Dive to learn best practices on risk preparedness and mitigation, and apply them to Bhutan’s context.

Such knowledge is critical as Bhutan’s communities live in and around great heritage sites.

After disasters hit, how countries and communities can build back better

Sameh Wahba's picture
This page in: Français
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Disaster losses disproportionately affect poor people, according to the 2017 “Unbreakable” report. The Caribbean Hurricane season of 2017 was a tragic illustration of this.

Not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes wreaked destruction on numerous small islands, causing severe damages on islands like Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Martin. The human cost of these disasters was immense, and the impact of this devastation was felt most strongly by poorer communities in the path of the storms.
 
And yet, amidst the destruction, it is essential to look forward and to build back better.
 
A new report, “Building Back Better: Achieving Resilience through Strong, Faster, and More Inclusive Post-Disaster Reconstruction,” explores how countries can strengthen their resilience to natural shocks through a better reconstruction process. It shows that reconstruction needs to be: 

 

Making the built environment more resilient: lessons learned from Japan

Keiko Sakoda's picture
Photo: Balint Földesi / Flickr CC

[Also available in Japanese]

Globally, up to 1.4 million people are moving into urban areas per week, and estimates show that nearly 1 billion new dwelling units will be built by 2050 to support this growing population. The way we build our cities today directly impacts the safety of future generations.

So how do we ensure that we are building healthy, safe, and resilient cities?

Empowering Indian women after a natural disaster hits

Hyunjee Oh's picture
In June 2013, a heavy deluge caused devastating floods and landslides in the state of Uttarakhand in India’s Himalayan foothills. Damyanti Devi, the mother of a young daughter, lost her home and livelihood. Her old house in Rudraprayag was completely washed away by the landslide.
In June 2013, a heavy deluge caused devastating floods and landslides in the state of Uttarakhand in India’s Himalayan foothills. Damyanti Devi, the mother of a young daughter, lost her home and livelihood. Her old house in Rudraprayag was completely washed away by the landslide.


This blog is part of a series exploring housing reconstruction progress in Uttarakhand, India.
  
In June 2013, a heavy deluge caused devastating floods and landslides in the state of Uttarakhand in India’s Himalayan foothills.
 
The disaster – the worst in the country since the 2003 tsunami—hit more than 4,200 villages, damaged 2,500 houses, and killed 4,000 people.
 
Damyanti Devi, the mother of a young daughter, lost her home and livelihood. Her old house in Rudraprayag was completely washed away by the landslide.
 
“The river was fast swelling up,” she said. “It had crossed the danger mark and reached close to our house. We just took our daughter and left with an umbrella and a lantern.”
 
She now owns a new house abuzz with music and her daughter’s laughs.
 
Like thousands of other people in Uttarakhand, Damyanti received support through the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) to rebuild her home.
 
This support channeled through the Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project (UDRP) also helped build better roads and mitigate future disaster risks in local communities.
 
A key component of the project was to rebuild 2,382 more resilient houses based on the owner-driven housing reconstruction model,  which allows families to rebuild according to their specific needs.
 
This community-driven approach is important as women are typically at greater risk from natural hazards than men, particularly those who are poor and live in low-income countries.
 
There is indeed strong evidence that disasters impact women differently and amplify gender inequalities.
 
Women and men have different perceptions of their surroundings and coping abilities, roles, responsibilities, and resources before or in the aftermath of a disaster.
 
Gender-sensitive approaches to disaster prevention, mitigation, adaptation, relief, recovery, and reconstruction can save more lives and promote more gender-inclusive development.  

With that in mind, the  housing reconstruction component of UDRP helped empower women like Damyanti in the aftermath of a disaster in 4 different ways:


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