Wed, Feb 05, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Disasters give cities chance to come back better

By Charles Anderson, Daniel Breece, Tom Dart, Rashmee Roshan Lal  /  The Guardian

“It was clear [that] the rebuild following the 2011 earthquake provided a great opportunity to make Christchurch better than it ever was,” CERA executive Don Miskell said.

Yet some have questioned parts of that vision. While building codes have been changed to include height restrictions, there was no legislation to enforce building “greener.”

Mark Solomon, head of local Maori tribe Ngai Tahu, said that the rebuild has not put enough emphasis on sustainability.

“It was certainly one of my visions that we would adopt full green technology across the city,” he told a panel discussion. “But if you go through the subdivisions — including our own — it’s the same old.”


By Rashmee Roshan Lall

Four years after the earthquake that destroyed or damaged almost 300,000 buildings, Port-au-Prince is still an eyesore. The occasional buckled wall and cracked building stand limp and ghostly in most neighborhoods, serving as an untenanted reminder of the disaster. Up the steep mountainsides of the city stand hundreds of flimsy structures composed of USAid plastic sheeting and grain sacks, the letters and logo faded.

As of October last year, according to the International Organization for Migration, 171,974 people were living in these lean-to structures, down from 1.5 million.

“If you were here right after the quake, you would know the difference between the city then and as it is now,” said Harry Adam, the engineer-architect who heads the Unite de Construction de Logements et de Batiments Publics. “The change is incredible.”

Adam has a formidable three-pronged job: moving everyone out of the tents; formulating an institutional response to the lodging issue; and rebuilding public structures. He said that all the new construction is earthquake-proof, which adds 30 percent to the tab.

Adam ticks off projects under way, including a scheme to build eight ministries — 40 public buildings were destroyed — along the main Rue Champs de Mars downtown. Before the buildings can go up, the street will have to be widened to reflect its projected grandeur as the heart of government.

A resettlement scheme that offers a year’s free rent for people living in tents has been criticized as a short-term solution, given the problems that resettled people may face with paying the rent once the year has elapsed.

Part of the problem is that houses were scarce in Port-au-Prince even before the quake.

“The quake didn’t cause the slums and the squatters. It merely brought the problem to everyone’s attention,” said Maarten Boute, a Belgian businessman who has lived in Haiti for five years.


By Justin McCurry

Viewed from a nearby hilltop, the full extent of the destruction wrought by the March 2011 tsunami on Ishinomaki, in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture, becomes apparent. The city center is no more and all that is left is a swath of flat land, reduced to rubble.

More than 4 million tonnes of debris left in the tsunami’s wake have been removed. Reaching 20m in places, the waves destroyed or damaged more than 50,000 buildings. Rebuilding the city, the worst affected of the tsunami-hit communities, will take at least 10 years and cost more than ¥1 trillion (US$9.9 billion). The process will begin with repairs to the shattered port, sea walls, roads, bridges and other infrastructure. About ¥100 billion has been earmarked for public housing and another ¥120 billion to relocate 15,000 residents in temporary housing.

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