Resilience Performance Scorecard Workshop in Yangon

Dr. Carlos Villacis and Dr. Christopher Burton of the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Foundation introduced the Resilience Performance Scorecard, a self-evaluation tool for cities based on the “Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient” promoted by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). The overall goals of the scorecard are to provide city managers and communities a participatory tool to evaluate and monitor resilience at both the community and city levels and to identify strengths and weaknesses in resilience and produce results which are comparable across communities and over time. The expected outcomes of the workshop were to provide a localized scorecard for Yangon amenable to benchmarking and long-term use, to identify gaps in key thematic areas of resilience, and to foster discussion and communication among decision-makers, planners, and disaster risk reduction specialists.

To complete the scorecard, 50 stakeholders from Yangon consisting of community members from Pazundaung and Tar Mwe townships, government officials, university professors and graduate students, and NGO representatives answered 39 multiple-choice questions along six thematic areas: (1) Legal and institutional arrangements; (2) Social capacity; (3) Critical services and public infrastructure resiliency; (4) Emergency preparedness, response, and recovery; (5) Planning, regulation, and mainstreaming risk mitigation; and (6) Awareness and advocacy. All 39 questions were translated from English to Myanmar language. U Saw Htwe Zaw of the Myanmar Engineering Society (MES) acted as the local facilitator and ensured that the questions were properly understood and that misinterpretations were avoided. Answers from 50 stakeholders were captured using an audience response system. Handheld input devices were provided to the stakeholders and their responses to the questions were transmitted to a computer.

On the second day of the workshop, an overview of the scorecard results was presented to the participants, showing how the participants in aggregate answered all 39 questions. An open forum was held to obtain feedback on the initial scorecard results. One participant asked how the data and results would be interpreted. The workshop facilitators explained that a report would be prepared by GEM and shared with the participants for their feedback and additional inputs. The report would include a comparison of the responses from city government officials versus those from township representatives, to highlight the gap, if there is any, between the disaster resilience knowledge, perception, and priorities of stakeholders at different administrative levels.

IMG_0051The participants also discussed the needs and gaps in earthquake risk and resilience in Yangon. An example of the gaps identified was low level of awareness and knowledge of disaster risk as most of the people specially in the townships only have limited understanding of risks and there are very limited disaster education programs. A participant who is an Associate Professor in Mandalay Technological University mentioned that the learning materials of their undergraduate Earthquake Engineering program, the only one of its kind in Myanmar, are mostly in English. He plans to launch a website with learning materials in Myanmar language to make these materials accessible to more people and easier to understand. Another gap identified by one of the participants was the weak implementation of existing laws and legal frameworks, such as the building code. Dr. Villacis explained that people often confuse getting a building permit as implementation of the building code.

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The experts from Nepal, Dr. Ramesh Guragain, Deputy Executive Director of the National Society for Earthquake Technology – Nepal (NSET) and Dr. Basanta Raj Adhikari, the Deputy Director of the Center for Disaster Studies (CDS) of the Institute of Engineering of Tribhuvan University, also shared their knowledge and experiences. For example, after the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, many international search and rescue teams went to Kathmandu and spent USD 20 million in one month and saved 19 people. But the national rescue force composed of the Nepali army, police, and Red Cross volunteers trained by NSET in the last 10 to 15 years for a total training cost less than USD 1 million were able to rescue more than 800 persons. Untrained community members rescued 18,000 persons. Wards with disaster risk reduction (DRR) committees with trained volunteers and some equipment performed better than those without. This illustrates the capacity of the community members to help themselves and others if they are provided education and training. It is more effective and efficient compared to sending external assistance after a disaster has happened.

At the end of the workshop, Dr. Villacis gave the participants some points to ponder on:

  • The workshop participants are not observers anymore but have to be actors who can suggest what should be done in their communities. The pilot project can help them by providing opportunities to become more and more participatory.
  • The community members have to understand the disaster risk of Yangon. One of the weakest points is bad construction. Experts involved in the pilot project can assist the participants in conducting risk assessment. The risk assessment might become a bit technical but the process and results have to be properly communicated to and understood by the community members.
  • An important goal of the pilot project is the creation of a permanent participatory local platform which can work continuously toward urban resilience enhancement. The participants of the workshop can be the initial members of the permanent platform.
  • There are five million other residents of Yangon not attending the workshop. They have to be informed about this initiative. There is a need to reach out to the rest of the community, such as the schools and hospitals, so that they can also be involved.
  • Yangon can benefit from a partnership with Kathmandu. This is an excellent opportunity to learn from a more experienced city. The people of Nepal will be very willing to share their experiences.
  • The real actors in enhancing disaster resilience are the individuals themselves. Ultimately, each community member is responsible for his or her own safety, not the country, not the city. Residents can start by checking their surroundings. They can think of their children’s school: is it safe? Their hospital: is it safe? With this mentality everybody can help the city. There is no need to wait for the government. Everyone can start contributing to the disaster resilience of Yangon by examining his or her own home and backyard.

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