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March 9, 2018

Earthquake-Resilient Housing for All: Promoting the Spread of Earthquake-Resistance Technology

photoAn elementary school that collapsed in the 2006 Java Earthquake in Indonesia. The furniture is still standing.

One of the main causes of damage from earthquakes in developing countries is that ordinary housing and small-scale buildings are built by local workers who have limited engineering knowledge and construction skills.

The structural vulnerability of those buildings often leads to collapse even in an earthquake not powerful enough to topple furniture.

To increase earthquake-resistant housing in developing countries, JICA continues to move forward with a number of initiatives. They include formulating standards on seismic designs, developing methods and technologies for earthquake-resistant housing using locally available materials, improving the knowledge and skills of construction workers, disseminating information to residents to encourage them to construct earthquake-resistant housing, and creating laws to enforce earthquake-resistance standards.

Supporting Owner-Driven Reconstruction of Housing Resistant to Earthquakes in Nepal

Nepal saw widespread damage, including the complete destruction of some 500,000 houses, when an earthquake hit the suburbs of Kathmandu, the capital, in 2015. Immediately after the quake, JICA carried out rehabilitation and reconstruction projects, and now one of them is supporting owner-driven reconstruction that satisfies earthquake-resistance standards.

photoTrained local masons work to rebuild a house in Nepal to be earthquake-resistant.

JICA supported the Government of Nepal to develop an earthquake-resistant construction guideline for the reconstruction of housing based on Nepal's existing earthquake-resistance standards, and has been extending training for homeowners and masons on earthquake resistant houses. Such consistency between newly created requirements and Nepal’s earthquake-resistance standards was important for the effective and responsible reconstruction of houses by the Government of Nepal.

In addition, to accelerate reconstruction of earthquake-resistant housing, JICA initiated the Community Mobilization Program in May 2017. The program promotes housing reconstruction projects village by village, led by local trained masons.

Depending on homeowners’ needs, the program may show them how to receive housing reconstruction subsidies or provide them detailed assistance with specific reconstruction plans. Through such support, the program raised the rate of commencement of reconstruction of seismic resistant houses in the 54,000 target households in 47 areas from less than 30 percent in April 2017 to 69.4 percent in January 2018.

Creating Bhutan's first large-scale facility to study earthquake resistance of traditional construction practices

JICA’s effort to enhance preparedness against earthquakes, reduce risk, and promote earthquake-resistant housing in disaster-prone countries has been spreading, especially after Nepal’s experience and the adoption of “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” in 2015.

photoBhutanese engineers and a Japanese expert measure structural damage in a building using a pull-down test.

Since 2017, JICA has been working in Bhutan in collaboration with the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. They are developing earthquake-resistance technology to protect traditional rammed earth and stone masonry buildings, and strengthening the earthquake monitoring network in Bhutan.

Bhutanese citizens’ attention to earthquake-resistance has been increasing, since many traditional homes were completely or partially destroyed in the earthquakes of eastern Bhutan in 2009 and of the India-Nepal border 2011. In 2018, JICA plans to complete the first large-scale testing facility to study earthquake resistance in traditional structures in Bhutan.

The importance of awareness of earthquake risks

photoParticipants in training in Japan visit the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution in Kobe city. JICA put on the training in earthquake-resistance technology and earthquake risk reduction for researchers and administrative officers in the field of earthquake disaster management in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

"Though strong vibrations were measured during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, there was limited damage to housing and buildings in the affected area. Other countries are recognizing this as proof Japan's earthquake-resistance technology is at a high level," said Senior Advisor Tatsuo Narafu, who specializes in earthquake disaster management.

Dr. Narafu added that a challenge in spreading earthquake-resistance technology in developing countries is getting people in leadership positions to be aware of the risk before a disaster occurs. If you are well-prepared for an earthquake, you can minimize the damage.

"I want to continue to disseminate the earthquake-resistance techniques Japan has developed over the course of many years," said Dr. Narafu.


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