1st Expert Meeting on the GGS Project

To explain the objectives and goals of the project, the roles and responsibilities of the partner organizations, and the research interest of participating experts, a half-day meeting was held on 17 March 2016 in the Meeting Room of the Myanmar Engineering Society Building in the Hlaing University Campus. Opportunities for joint research between Japanese experts and Myanmar counterparts were presented and discussed. Researchers from Kyoto University provided a presentation on their field of research while the local partners from the Myanmar Engineering Society (MES), Yangon Technological University (YTU), and Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) briefed the researchers on the disaster risk situation in Yangon and expressed the kind of activities they might be interested in engaging in the future.

U Kyaw San Win, President of the Myanmar Earthquake Committee (MEC), welcomed the participants and gave a brief opening remark. He said that the joint research between Japanese experts and Myanmar professors, graduate students, and practitioners would be a good learning opportunity for everyone involved and hopefully would contribute to the disaster resilience of Yangon.

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Dr. Kenji Okazaki, Project Leader and Professor in the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies (GSGES) of Kyoto University, explained the background, objectives, goals, participants, and implementation methodology of the project. He also presented the activities of the project from September 2015 until March 2016 and the planned activities for the new fiscal year from April 2016 to March 2017. At the end of the project in February 2018, a universal model for urban resilience enhancement will be developed based on the experiences of the pilot cities of Kathmandu and Yangon. The universal model will be disseminated widely to share the lessons learned from the project to other cities in Nepal and Myanmar, as well as in other countries.

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Dr. Carlos Villacis, the Regional Program Manager and Strategy Coordinator of the Italy-based Global Earthquake Model Foundation (GEM), introduced GEM, its guiding principles, the public and private organizations supporting it, the countries where it has activities, and the typical components of a GEM project. Dr. Villacis also provided an overview of GEM’s activities in Myanmar and Nepal. He mentioned that local capacity development is an important component of GEM’s work.

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Dr. Basanta Raj Adhikari, the Deputy Director of the Center for Disaster Studies (CDS) of the Institute of Engineering of Tribhuvan University in Nepal, started his presentation with a ground motion video of the 7.8-magnitude 25 April 2015 Gorkha Earthquake. He then proceeded to introduce CDS and its activities related to the Gorkha Earthquake. He also shared the research topics being pursued by CDS students. Dr. Adhikari ended his presentation by stating the potential contribution of CDS to the GGS pilot project.

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Dr. Ramesh Guragain, Deputy Executive Director of the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET), introduced his organization. NSET started with only six employees in 1996 but now has 250 staff members, reflecting increasing demand for its services. Out of NSET’s numerous activities, Dr. Guragain presented their Safer Schools project and their contribution in building code implementation in Nepal. He highlighted two important lessons that NSET learned over the years that led to successful activities: (1) to work with local authorities such as city officials who are the ones doing the implementation on the ground and (2) to have long-term programs instead of short-term projects as continuous support is needed to achieve lasting results. Success stories and evidence can motivate authorities to perform better.

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Daw Aye Thin Thin Chaw, Executive Engineer in the Engineering Department of Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), provided a brief overview of the development of Yangon from its foundation in 1755 to its present role as the gateway of Myanmar with a population of 5.21 million and area of 595 square kilometers. She also explained the main responsibilities of YCDC as well as the major land-use issues confronting Yangon. She ended her presentation by expressing YCDC’s expectations from the GGS pilot project.

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Dr. Kyaw Kyaw, Associate Professor in the Civil Engineering Department of Yangon Technological University (YTU), presented on the need for Seismic Risk Assessment of critical urban infrastructure in Yangon. He showed some of the major earthquakes and significant disaster events in the history of Myanmar. The Yangon area has not experience any strong earthquake since 1930. A Seismic Risk Assessment will help in estimating building and infrastructure damage and economic losses.

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U Saw Htwe Zaw, Secretary of the Myanmar Earthquake Committee (MEC), provided a brief history as well as examples of the activities of the Myanmar Engineering Society and of MEC. He also gave an overview of the building stock in Myanmar. He expressed hope that the GGS pilot project would lead to sharing of knowledge and experiences and new opportunities for future partnerships. There is now a change in thinking in Myanmar and people are becoming more interested in starting and growing collaborations.

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Dr. Junji Kiyono, Professor in the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies of Kyoto University, introduced the research his team intends to conduct in Yangon. Prof. Kiyono’s team will attempt to estimate the vulnerability of local structures based on previous research on the 2012 Thabeikkyin Earthquake. The team will collect standard penetration test (SPT) data and construct a model of shallow ground in Yangon.

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Dr. Kazuyoshi Nishijima, Associate Professor in the Disaster Prevention Research Institute of Kyoto University, explained his research with Dr. Seitaro Tajiri, Associate Professor of the Department of Architecture of the Graduate School of Engineering of the University of Tokyo. Their team will endeavor to come up with methods for practical structural performance diagnosis that address the variation in construction quality of non-engineered construction. In their research, they will identify common failure modes of non-engineered construction and classify constructions according to materials and according to ways structural elements are connected.

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Dr. Makoto Usami, Professor in the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies of Kyoto University, provided insights on the social fairness concerning the process and products of the local participatory platform that will be established as part of the GGS pilot project in Kathmandu and Yangon. There is a need to address issues on the diversity and representativeness of the participants of the local platform, as well as on what distributive goals should be pursued and how various needs of different stakeholders would be measured. Prof. Usami will be providing advice on fairness issues related to the process of establishing and managing the local platform and to the urban resilience enhancement action plans that will be prepared through the platform.

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After listening to the presentations of the Japanese professors, the graduate students of YTU signified their interest and approached the Japanese professors they would like to work together with in joint research activities in the next two years.

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