It is Week 2 of the new academic year and our students have moved on to the three-week Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements course. It started off with Post-Disaster Planning from the Perspective of DRR and Resilience Building led by Ebru Gencer, who joined us from Columbia University. She is the founding Executive Director of the Center for Urban Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience (CUDRR+R), a non-profit research centre based in New York City, Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, and Co-Chair of the Urban Planning Advisory Group (UPAG) to the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Disaster Risk Reduction.

The course provides an overview of the topic of post-disaster planning in the context of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience building through policy and practices at the global stage. In this course, our students discuss global policy frameworks – in particular the Sendai Framework for DRR – that set the stage for nations and cities to undertake post-disaster planning and recovery as part of their DRR and resilience building activities. Furthermore, they explore the subject of post-disaster planning in the context of urban planning and urban development through readings, discussions and case studies, with a special focus on the Istanbul (Marmara) and Kobe earthquakes in the 1990s.

The case study of Istanbul is particularly topical as a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the province of Izmir in Turkey only last week. After the Marmara earthquake, the local government prepared a series of redevelopment and urban transformation strategies. While a high number of unfit buildings were demolished and rebuilt according to standards, planning and implementation efforts have not always been successful. Ebru Gencer points out that the strengthening of social resilience and inclusion of stakeholders is a key factor that is often overlooked.

Some of the risk-based urban planning strategies and policies discussed in the course include the redevelopment for existing risk-prone urban settlements, risk-sensitive zoning regulations, the consideration of critical infrastructure and its dependencies, the development of multi-use open and public spaces and an effective transportation network for recovery planning, the protection of urban cultural heritage and ecosystems, urban design strategies to increase climate resilience, and participatory and multi-stakeholder approaches. While relocation is part of the range of possible strategies, Ebru Gencer emphasises that “relocation has to be looked at with much care and should only be a last resort”.

Understanding the ways to undertake risk-informed planning and design is one of the skills that will give our students an advantage in the development field, where such practices are increasingly needed and required. The course furthermore reinforces that post-disaster planning should be equitable and sustainable and consider the issues of equitable development while reducing risk and increasing resilience.


Feature Image: Van Earthquake in Turkey 2011, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, Creative Commons Licensed

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