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Sustainable Communities

Emergency response in the Whatsapp era!

Deepak Malik's picture
Cyclone Hudhud.  Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
On October 12, 2014, Cyclone Hudhud, a category 4 cyclone with wind speeds exceeding 220 km/hour bore down on to the city of Vishakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh on the eastern coast of India. The city, with a population of over 1.8 million people and neighboring districts suffered massive devastation. The World Bank’s South Asia Disaster Risk Management team jointly undertook a post-disaster damage and needs assessment with a team from the Asian Development Bank and with the Government of Andhra Pradesh with the support of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

 
Whatsapp Messages
Whatsapp to help restore connectivity. 
During field visits, the assessment team interacted extensively with the community and local government officials.  The one story that seemed to resonate consistently was the efficiency in clearing roads blocked by fallen trees and debris to make sure connectivity was restored at the earliest. Following any major disaster, such as cyclone Hudhud, restoring connectivity is amongst the most challenging and critical activities. Restoring connectivity allows for more efficient flow of much-needed emergency relief, medical supplies and helps foster early recovery. We decided to dig deeper to find out what had been done differently here.
 
One evening, while returning from a field visit to Srikakulam district, we posed this question to Mr. V. Ramachandra, Superintendent Engineer of Public Works Department (PWD), what had been done differently. Mr. V. Ramachandra’s face lit up and he pulled out his smart phone. He showed us a “closed group” that the PWD engineers had created on Whatsapp.  For the first three days after cyclone Hudhud, there was no electricity and no mobile connectivity. As the connections were restored, the PWD closed group became functional and that acted as the main tool of communication for information sharing. For any breach of road, the Engineers shared information through the Whatsapp group with a clear location and a short explanation of the problem. The person responsible for the area responded with a message stating how long it would take to clear the block. Even requests for tools and JCBs were made on the group. This helped identify and access required resources. The action taken was narrated on the group discussion page once the problem was solved. An updated photo showing restored road connectivity was uploaded to the group.

No meetings and no discussions at the district headquarter level had to be organized. The District Magistrate joined the group and gave instruction to the department through the closed Whatsapp group. Most roads were functional within three to four days. The whole department worked to provide its services through a messaging system, without any meetings and formal orders.

Social media has become a part of our daily lives and is a very powerful tool for emergency management if used properly. Social media and pre-designed apps are effective when written reports and formal meetings are not required. It is important to learn from such experiences and institutionalize them for effective and efficient use during periods of early recovery and emergency response.

Call for Papers: Forced displacement and gender issues

Dilip Ratha's picture

Background

Forced displacement is a multifaceted phenomenon caused by persecution, conflict, repression, natural and human-made disasters, ecological degradation and other situations that directly endanger lives, freedom and livelihoods. Displacement may be triggered by such diverse actions as development projects, land and assets expropriation and human trafficking, among others. Since women and men traditionally have different socio-cultural-economic roles and positions they are also affected in different manners by forced displacement. Gender play an important role in the decision to flee, throughout the displacement process as well as in the decisions and experience related to finding solutions. The different dimensions of displacement have gender differentiated impacts, requiring a better understanding of how different parts of displaced and host communities are affected at each phase of the displacement cycle.

Investing in preparedness – the best protection against disaster

Laura Bailey's picture
If you are a parent in Armenia, what worries you more: getting a better education for your kids or ensuring their safety in school? For countries like Armenia – prone to disasters such as earthquakes, and with vulnerable housing and school building stock – this is not a rhetorical question! It’s a problem that parents seriously worry about and governments grapple with.
 
Armenia has always been vulnerable to earthquakes. The devastating Spitak tremor in 1988 took 25,000 lives, injured another 19,000 people, damaged half a million homes, and caused a US$15-20 billion loss to the country’s economy. More than two-thirds of that tragic human toll in 1988 was children – with most school-age children sitting in class when the quake struck.
 
While it is true that disasters generally occur unannounced, risks can nevertheless be managed in order to reduce the loss of lives, homes, infrastructure, and economic activity. But, governments have difficult choices to make: should they spend scarce investment resources on preparing for disasters, forgoing other top priorities, or should they hope for the best and deal with the consequences after disaster strikes?
 
In Armenia, we are now seeing a stronger recognition that natural hazards threaten the country’s development, and a shift to prioritizing disaster risk management. This move toward proactive disaster risk reduction has seen a wide range of stakeholders – communities, government agencies, donors – mobilize together. Disaster preparedness and risk management requires capacity, finance, knowledge, information and cooperation, and no government can succeed alone; it takes a strong partnership.

Chart: By 2030, Delhi’s Population Will Approach Tokyo’s

Tariq Khokhar's picture
According to the UN's World Urbanization Prospects, by 2030, the world is projected to have 41 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants each. Tokyo is expected to remain the world’s largest city in 2030, followed closely by Delhi. The fastest-growing cities will be in Asia and Africa.

But what exactly is a city?

Chandan Deuskar's blog explores exactly this question. There's currently no standard definition of an "urban area" or "urban population" - each country relies on its own definition and collects data accodringly. This is an important area of data to improve - the Sustainable Development Goals include many indicators and targets explicity concerning cities and new standards and approaches such as using satellite imagery may provide more accurate data and definitions. 
 

Want to build sustainable, resilient cities? Start with quality infrastructure

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Rapid urbanization has put considerable pressure on developing countries to deliver more infrastructure - and, preferably, to deliver it fast and in a cost-effective way. But this sense of urgency should not lead cities to compromise on quality, or to focus only on the upfront cost of building infrastructure rather than to consider the full cost of construction, operation and maintenance over the entire lifecycle of a project.
 
To discuss some of the key infrastructure challenges faced by its client countries, the World Bank recently hosted its first International Conference on "Sustainable Development through Quality Infrastructure” in Tokyo, Japan. But what exactly do we mean by "quality infrastructure", and what role can it play in creating resilient, sustainable cities?

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"Shaken, not stirred"

Joaquin Toro's picture

Since October 29, 2015, Central Asia experienced fifteen earthquakes of moment magnitude 5.0 or greater, which on average amounts to an earthquake every 6 days.  Among these events are two notable ones that occurred on December 7th and 25th of 2015. The first earthquake was a 7.2 magnitude event in Murghob district of Tajikistan.

This was the largest earthquake in the country since the 1949 Khait earthquake and it brought widespread damage throughout the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, Tajikistan's largest province located in the Pamir mountains. Losses consisted of 2 fatalities caused by landslides,  multiple injuries, complete or partial destruction of over 650 houses and 15 schools and kindergartens, damages to several health centers and a small hydroelectric power station, and loss of livestock. Estimates suggest that 4,000 people have been displaced and over 124,000 were affected by the earthquake, leaving many people homeless over the harsh winter period.

Effective city competitiveness: 10 lessons learned in the Philippines

Hans Shrader's picture



Maybe it's just easier to think that the keys to economic growth lie at the national level of governance – where monetary and fiscal policies, national law and development strategies are conceived and debated. Certainly national policy is important, but it is rarely where entrepreneurs have their first experience interacting with law and policy.

The city is where people’s ideas create business, where people work and where the bustle of the economy comes alive. The city is where an entrepreneur will first interact with systems that are ostensibly created to attract and support business investment and growth.

Cities can and do engage in reforms to help improve their economic competitiveness. Often this includes the identification of a business sector deemed competitive and some strategy on how to do it better. Improved competitiveness also can include investment in more efficient transportation systems, better access to utilities and services, improved tax policies, better zoning, infrastructure investment and investment in skilled labor. While working on these complex policy and investment opportunities is rational, it often takes time to do the analysis necessary to identify the best opportunities – and it takes much longer to actually see the rewards. 

Fortunately, there is a reform that cities can do almost immeduiately, and at low cost, to help support business development and improve the business environment: business entry simplification. 

The Philippine Experience & Lessons Learned

In decentralized economies like the Philippines, cities play an important role in business registration. In fact, almost of one-third of the country’s business registration steps fall under the responsibility of city-level leadership.

In working with Philippine cities to reform dated, cumbersome, and confusing business registration requirements, a World Bank Group team was able to help its clients reduce registration steps from an average of 41 to just three. Cities also saw an average spike in new business registration of around 20 percent in the first year after the implementation of reform.

Sao Paulo’s Innovative Proposal to Regulate Shared Mobility by Pricing Vehicle Use

Georges Darido's picture
Taxi drivers in Sao Paulo recently protesting the regularization of TNCs such as Uber.
Photo by: Diego Torres Silvestre / Flickr

How to regulate and manage the emerging services of shared and on-demand mobility? This was a topic of much debate during the most recent Transforming Transportation event, a major global conference of transport professionals organized by the World Bank and the World Resources Institute in Washington DC in January 2016. 

One recent development from Sao Paulo stands out as a worthwhile effort to balance the objectives of promoting innovation by Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, such as Uber, Lyft, EasyTaxi, 99Taxi, and others) and ridesharing services (such as BlablaCar, Caronetas, Tripda and others) with the interests of the city and its residents. 

The Municipal Government of Sao Paulo has published for public comments until January 27, 2016  a draft decree to charge TNCs an upfront fee based on an estimate of vehicle-kilometers, also referred to as “credits”, to be used by its fleet of passenger cars in a two month period, plus a surcharge if credits are exceeded.   The idea is that any registered TNC could bid in an online public auction to purchase credits periodically and with certain limitations to ensure competition.  This approach would create a market for these credits and be aligned with the principle commonly known in the vehicle insurance industry as “pay-as-you-drive”, and would allow the city to receive a fee from TNCs for the commercial use of its public road infrastructure, which can then be used to better manage and maintain it.   The decree would exempt free ridesharing services which the city believes would help reduce the total number of vehicle-kilometers on its congested road network.

The secret life of a World Bank actuary

Barry Maher's picture


As actuaries working in development, my colleagues and I in the Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program (DRFIP) are constantly looking for innovative ways to apply actuarial science in the fight against poverty. Because the DRFIP is a fairly new initiative — it was established in 2010 to improve the financial resilience of governments, businesses and households against natural disasters — a lot of questions are still to be asked, and lessons to be learned, about helping client countries better calculate financial risk and improve programs that change lives.

That said, exciting advancements are under way, as we learn through exchanging knowledge with experts across the World Bank and partners from other sectors. For example: Once, while on mission in Nairobi, I passed a local Social Protection colleague in the corridor and struck up a conversation that quickly turned to a challenge she was facing. The government of Kenya was aiming to develop a mechanism that would enable its Hunger Safety Net Program, a cash transfer program, to scale up financial assistance to poor families in the case of drought. However, in order to do this, they needed a better understanding of the financial costs of such a mechanism. As droughts are, by their very nature, unpredictable, trying to estimate this cost in advance was a challenge. 
 

How can actuaries best contribute to the development agenda?


My colleagues and I thrive on looking for answers to this type of question every day. While there are other actuaries, both in the Bank and across the sector, the role we are developing from a risk-financing perspective is to help client countries quantify the financial value of unknown risks and develop financial strategies to manage them.

How joint land titles help women’s economic empowerment: the case of Vietnam

Wael Zakout's picture
Photo credit: CIAT/Flickr
Vietnam is my first love working for the World Bank. It is the first country I worked in when I joined the Bank back in 1994.
 
At the time, the country was still opening up to the outside world, and the Bank had just set up a small office there. I recently returned to Vietnam after 15 years, this time as the Bank’s Global Lead for Land. I saw a completely different country: while the old city charm is still there, Hanoi has transformed to the point that it is really difficult to recognize… as if I had landed in Japan, China, or any other Southeast Asian country.
 
The airport used to be one gate; now, it is a modern airport not much different from any airport in Western Europe or the United States. I remember that, when I worked in Vietnam in the mid-90s, GDP per capita was averaging US$200, and around 50% of people lived in extreme poverty. Today, GDP per capita has soared to about US$2000, while extreme poverty has dropped to around 3% according to the US$1.9/day extreme poverty line... An impressive achievement in less than 20 years.
 
My trip to Vietnam had the goal of helping the government modernize and automate the land administration system. In the early 90s, the country launched an ambitious reform program to transform the land use model from communal farming to individual household ownership by breaking up the communal land structure and distributing land to individual households. This reform was then credited with changing Vietnam from a net importer of rice to one of the largest rice exporters in the world in only a few years.
 
In accordance with the Land Law of 1993, the first Land Use Certificates (LUCs) issued under the program were in the name of the “head of household”, i.e. in the name of men only. Later on, the Vietnamese government, with support from the World Bank, strove to change things around by issuing LUCs bearing both the wife’s and the husband’s names.

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