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  • 1Safer Cities 15, AUDMP May 2005

    Community-based Earthquake Risk Management in Dhaka CityCommunity empowerment for earthquake preparedness


    C a s e s t u d i e s o n m i t i g a t i n g d i s a s t e r s i n A s i a a n d t h e P a c i f i c

    Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Program

    Community-baseddisaster management

    Sc 15a f e r

    i t i e s

    Asian Disaster Preparedness Center

    AbstractThis case study is about preparing theurban communities for earthquake hazardthrough organizing the communities andactivating the service providers(organizations responsible for respondingto earthquake hazard).

    Being a pilot initiative, the project wasintervened in 16 communities / wards ofDhaka City that were selected based ontheir receptivity and vulnerability throughcommunity participation.

    It features the various approaches ofempowering the communities throughlinking with service providers (SPs), raisingpeoples awareness, enhancingcommunities capacity and activating theservice providers. The success of thisinitiative was involving the WardCommissioners who played the lead rolefor organizing community activities andensuing peoples participation.

    The inside story

    Selecting communities Linking Communities and SPs

    Sensitizing on earthquake

    Conducting participatory vulnerabilityassessment

    Enhancing Capacity

    People of Bangladesh consider the occurrence of a massive earthquake inthe country as a far off disaster. According to Roger Bilham a big earthquakeis overdue in Himalayan region and Bangladesh is one of the countries thatlies in active seismic fault zones. The United Nations International Decadefor Natural Disaster RADIUS Initiative, identified Dhaka as high-risk zone,considering its high population density, poor physical structure, pooreconomic condition and least response and recovery capabilities. TheCommunity-based Earthquake Risk Management Project was a greatchallenge to generate public awareness about the country being highly atrisk to earthquake disaster.


    Earthquake is not a common disaster in Bangladesh as compared to flood, cyclone, tornado,draught etc. that cause huge damages of life and property. But the earthquake that struckGujrat, India, on January 2001 with a magnitude of 6.9 causing massive destruction andlife loss generated great concern among the policy makers of the neighboring countryBangladesh. Their concern resulted in a number of preparedness activities by thegovernment. The most significant one is the National Sensitization Seminar on Responseto Earthquake held in March 6 2002. Participated by all the departments under the Ministry

    of Disaster Management andFood (MDMF) and relevantministries, the seminar led to theneed for developing acoordinated action plan forservice providers (SPs) who willresponse in time of earthquakeemergencies. The following year,17 SPs drew out theircontingency plans to beincorporated in the StandingOrder of MDMF as earthquakecomponent. To review theeffectiveness of contingency plana National Mock Demonstrationwas held in which all the 17 SPstested their respective responseactions. However to reinforcepublic awareness it wasnecessary to get organized atcommunity level.

    The Community-basedEarthquake Risk ManagementProject initiated by BDPC andOxfam, GB is the first of its kindin Bangladesh that calls forpreparedness action atcommunity level.

  • 2

    Why receptive communities ?

    Considering the fact that people of Bangladeshdid not have any living memories of majorearthquake, it was a great challenge to motivatepeople with regard to preparedness for such adisaster. Therefore, with due respect tocommunities physical vulnerability, thecommunity peoples response to this initiativewas also given high importance. The target wasto identify 16 receptive communities and thenwork with 8 most vulnerable ones.

    Defining an urban community

    Since urban communities did not match thefeatures of conventionally understood ruralcommunities, it was important to set a relevantworking definition for the urban community asA group of people with common interestresiding within proximity. In line with thisdefinition residential areas, high rise apartments,supermarkets, student dormitories, schools,hospitals, garment factories, staff quarters andoffice buildings were considered as community.

    The selection process

    In keeping with the project need the selectionprocess required to go through a number ofstages to meet the selection criteria: 1)Communities physical vulnerability and 2)Community peoples interest in the project,Initially 30 communities were identified that reflected at leasttwo physical risk factors

    Step 1:

    Stimulating awareness through leaflets inserted in dailynewspapers in order to assess communities response. Theleaflets contained messages related to earthquake in the formof questions, e.g. Are you aware Dhaka City is at risk toearthquake? Do you know whether your building is earthquakeresistant? etc.

    Step 2:

    Making community inspection for verifying their response to step1 with regard to communitys risk associated to earthquake through

    Step 3:

    Analyzing findings and selecting 16 communities at primary stagethat met the selection criteria.

    Step 4:Conducting participatory vulnerability assessment (PVA) foridentifying 8 most receptive and vulnerable communities for

    capacity enhancement. Details on PVA are in Page 5.

    Highlight 1: SelectingCommunitiesSetting criteria for receptivecommunities

    Issues to consider when implementing community-based initiatives questions to ask ?

    What will be thecriteria for communityselection ?

    How shall we convincepeople that their communityis at risk to earthquakes ?

    How shall we create thedialogue between thecommunity and theservice providers ?

    How shall we prepare thecommunity and ensurecommunity participation ?

    observation and triangulation method (for cross checking) with thehelp of a checklist as a tool. This approach was also very effectivefor identifying receptive community by assessing peoples attitudetowards this project

  • 3Safer Cities 15, AUDMP

    Lessons Learned

    Defining Homestead

    Defining Flood Proofing

    Highlight 2: Linking Communities and Service Providers (SPs)Creating a Dialogue between the Communities and the Service Providers

    In order to achieve project objective,the project was implemented throughworking with the community and theservice providers and gradually creatingthe linkage between them in differentstages.

    The first stage:

    Changing the mindset through sensitizingthe service providers and the communitiesand bringing them together in a centrallevel workshop to start the dialogue. Thisworkshop, held in cooperation with DhakaCity Corporation resulted in getting theWard Commissioners of the targetedcommunities involved in the project.

    The second stage:

    Creating an ownership through involvingthe ward commissioners for organizingsensitization meetings in their respectivewards and conducting ParticipatoryVulnerability Assessment (PVA) in thecommunity with peoples participation

    The third stage:

    Enhancing the capacity of the community through formation of WardDisaster Preparedness Committees headed by the WardCommissioners of respective wards, training of the WDPCmembers and formulation of a contingency plan for WDPC, schoolorientation, blood grouping and development of a register.Integration of communities in service providers preparednessactivities and involving service providers in community meetingsfor ensuring the linkage created between the both parties.

    Integration of Ward 81 in theNational Mock Exercise is a very good example of

    strengthening the linkage between communities andservice providers making both the parties understand

    their responsibility towards each other.Observation made by a member of the WDPC

    The fourth stage:

    Raising awareness amongst a wider range of the public, whichincluded development and distribution of leaflets and posters. Toreinforce this awareness raising campaign a TV spot on earthquakepreparedness has been produced for telecasting through nationaland private channels at appropriate intervals.

    Initiating the Dialogue with the service providers (SPs)

    The aim of getting the SPs involved was to activate them to refinepreparedness based on their respective contingency plans torespond in time of an earthquake emergency through testing theirplans in National Simulation Exercise. In addition, the SPs role

    was very important at mobilizing the community people for takinginitiatives in earthquake preparedness activities. Therefore it wasvery important to have individual meetings with the SPs to briefthem about the project. Through these meetings the need for abig workshop at central level, to sensitize the public was identified.

    Highlight 3: Sensitizing on EarthquakeChanging Mindset and setting the scene

    Bringing the Communities and the Service Providerstogether:

    The day long workshop on Community Based Earthquake RiskManagement for Dhaka City held on 14 October 2004 was veryeffective for initiating a dialogue with the community people andthe service providers. About 150 people, mainly high officials fromthe service providing departments under the Ministry of Food andDisaster Management (MFDM), Ward Commissioners andrepresentatives from the community participated in the workshop.

    The presence of Dhaka City Mayor as the Chief Guest and highofficials from the service providing agencies including specialistsfrom the field of disaster management as key speakers sensitizedthe participants about the gravity of the situation.

    This workshop pr