The earthquake occurred in the Wenchuan area in China on May 12th 2008, was a catastrophic disaster that was the most destructive with the most difficult disaster relief since new China was founded. Although with joint efforts of the Chinese government, the army and people from all NGOs and civil society groups, the earthquake relief had achieved significant victory, we should see that effective disaster risk management has become the common challenges faced by all the countries in the world, especially the earthquake revealed some issues in China’s disaster risk management. This paper attempts to analyze the problems existing in China’s earthquake disaster management and discuss the lessons than can be learnt from the Wenchuan earthquake, combined with international experience in disaster risk management. By analyzing the mainstream risk management frameworks (IRGC, ERM, TDRM) and the case of Japan, the paper will point out that integrated disaster risk management is the most comprehensive and effective means to reduce disaster risk and loss.
An earthquake with the magnitude of 8.0 occurred in the Wenchuan County in Sichuan province of China on May 12, 2008. The earthquake is the most devastating since new China was founded. This earthquake affected several cities and areas in the vicinity, and its intensity surpassed the level of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake (Zhang Chunmei, 2009).The data from the State Council Information Office showed that by September 4th of 2008 there had been 69,226 dead and 374,643 injured. More than 17,923 people were missing. Houses that were collapsed and damaged were over 10 million, covering 10 provinces , 417 counties, 4,667 townships and 48,810 villages. Sichuan, Gansu, Shaanxi, Chongqing were the harder-hit areas. The total area affected by the earthquake was about 50 million square kilometers and more than 46.25 million people were affected. Expert Group for Earthquake Disaster Relief (2009) estimated that the industrial and agricultural production suffered significant losses, the ecological environment was severely damaged and secondary disasters like collapse, landslide, debris of oxide caused by the earthquake rarely happened in the history. According to the analysis of experts from the National Disaster Reduction Committee and the Ministry of Science, the Wenchuan Earthquake was estimated to bring direct economic loss of 896.43 billion to Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces (Wen Jiahong et al.2010). In face of the catastrophic disaster, the Chinese government started the crisis contingency plan promptly and set up a leading group responsible for the disaster risk response and management in time. The central and local governments invested about 67.2 billion yuan for the disaster relief. At the same time, the civil society took a positive action and supported the disaster areas in a variety of ways. The donated effects and money were nearly 600 million yuan. In addition, the international community extended a helping hand towards China and provided China with emergency tents, medical aid, search and rescue aid and emergency food aid. Their support eased the disaster risk to a certain extent and facilitated the work of the government. Since 2010, the world has repeatedly seen earthquake disaster. Haiti, Chile, China, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and the Dominican Republic were all hit by violent earthquake this year, which has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. An earthquake of magnitude 7.1 happened in Yushu County, Qinghai Province on April 14, 2010. 2220 people were killed and 12,135 wounded, 70 missing, 15,000 houses collapsed and 10 million people need rehousing. Thus, effective earthquake disaster risk management has become a common challenge faced by all the countries in the world, particularly that China is a country always hit by serious earthquakes. We need to review the actions taken by the Chinese government and non-governmental organizations in the Wenchuan earthquake and study the successful experience and lessons of the Chinese government , as well as how non-governmental organizations can better play their roles in the face of disaster. Based on analysis and assessment of earthquake disaster risk, we can make a conclusion that Integrated Disaster Risk Management is the only way for China to decrease and reduce the earthquake disaster risk.
Disaster management can be divided into four stages, including monitoring and warning, prevention, emergency response and reconstruction(Xiao Pengjun, 2006).This article will analyze the earthquake disaster management capacity of the Chinese government from the four stages. 2.1.1 Monitoring and warning In the Wenchuan earthquake, two problems should call for our attention, firstly, the weak earthquake monitoring technology; Secondly, the lack of unified and authority disaster information distribution system. The United States is the first country to report the magnitude and epicenter of the Wenchuan earthquake, which was 10-20 minutes earlier than China. At that time the United States was at midnight, while China was in the daytime, from which we can see that the earthquake science and technology of China has fell behind the times. When the earthquake occurred, the public communication system of the disaster area totally collapsed , causing the hardest-hit area to become “islands of information”, resulting in the rescue delay(Hu Shiquan, 2008). In the first few days, it was very difficult for the central government to make decisions because of lack of information. The government could not promptly bring the local governments and departments into play. It had serious impact on disaster assessment, relief arrangements, resource allocation , policy adjustments and other decision-making. Besides, the experts of Seismological Bureau came under severe censure because they did not release earthquake warning in advance. On the contrary, the Japanese government released an earthquake warning a few seconds ahead of a big earthquake and that saved thousands of life. With the advent of information age, there still exist problems of disaster information release. Many government officials do not have the sense to deal with the media and fully prepare to guide the public opinion. (Yi Liqi,2008) On the contrary, local governments tend to control the newspaper and restrict news and information of the disaster areas. As for infrastructure construction, although the functional departments like civil defense, health, public security, transportation all have their own information systems, cross-functional communication is poor and the information resources are not integrated. The collection, collation, aggregation of public safety information is scattered and it is difficult for the government to conduct a comprehensive disaster monitoring and early warning. Thus, it is essential for the government to establish an authoritative disaster information release system. 2.1.2 Prevention Earthquake is a typical random event, therefore, by its very nature, we cannot make an accurate forecast or warning for its occurrence, so key to disaster management is pre-disaster prevention. Effective disaster management can reduce actual damage and loss arising from the disaster. Disaster management refers to the whole process in which the organizations carry out a variety of resource planning, coordination, integration and implementation activities. It takes disaster risk decrease and reduction as the purpose and is based on prevention and preparedness prior to the disaster occurrence. It is a combination of emergency response, disaster recovery and disaster mitigation (Comfort, L.K ,2005).The effective operation of the disaster management system should rely on the interaction of governmental institutions, civil society and business services. But the reality is that the Chinese government needs improvement in disaster management, especially disaster risk prevention. Song Ruixiang, former director of China Earthquake Administration, has said that China does well in rescue during the earthquake and reconstruction after the earthquake, while it is poor in prevention prior to the earthquake. Japan is earthquake-prone country, but the government conducts integrated disaster risk management. The Japanese government authorizes September 1th as the “disaster drill Day” and it distributes manuals to tell the civil how to cope with the earthquake. In Chile, another country with frequent earthquakes, the government conducts three earthquake drills every year for the students, while China is lack of civil education and public awareness of disaster response. 2.1.3 Response When the Wenchuan earthquake suddenly fell, the Chinese government started all the earthquake relief work within two hours. It took only more than one hour from the central government to activate the contingency plans and just two hours for the deploy of the army to head for disaster-affected areas. In the case of all roads leading to the affected areas impassable, tens of thousands of soldiers forced marched into the disaster areas for rescue in heavy rain and aftershocks. The Chinese government showed its coordination and organizational capacity in the earthquake response(Desheng Dash Wu &Jiuping Xu,2009). For the release of information in the earthquake, the Chinese government released first-hand information timely and journalists were not much restricted for news gathering. The government released daily figures about the deaths and the rescue progress. People had access to the newest information about the disaster relief. However, some local governments tried to control the media and covered up the losses, resulting in lack of concern about the disaster-hit areas. Several counties in northern Gansu also suffered earthquake, but the local government did not allow journalists to visit the areas and release information about the affected areas, leading to lack of timely rescue. (Shi Xuehua & Deng Jiwen,2009)When the Wenchuan earthquake happened, only Phoenix TV instantly reported the earthquake. We had official information on the network ten minutes later than that we got from foreign news websites. The spokesman for the China Earthquake Administration just briefly overviewed the situation and did not satisfy the public demand for more information on the earthquake. He read a statement hastily and did not give the opportunity for the reporters present to ask questions. Such thing proved that the government still lacks experience when dealing with public emergency. The coordination capacity of the government has yet to be improved. Dealing with public crisis calls for close cooperation and mutual coordination between government functional departments and social groups. However, Chinese administrative departments are fragmented and any policy implementation needs much time. When disaster occurs, this kind of management system cannot quickly operates and public resources cannot be effectively deployed and utilized. Disaster management asks for collaboration of different departments, but we do not have a unified disaster management coordinating institution, and the resources and power in fact is scattered in Production Safety Supervision Bureau , Quality Supervision Inspection , Quarantine Bureau, Municipal Administration Commission, the Public Security Bureau, Health Bureau, Trade and Industry Bureau, drug supervision Bureau, Civil Air Defense Office and other functional departments. The relevant functional departments lack of share of disaster management resources and information, and there is no early warning system and a unified coordination system. The government is not fully acquainted with disaster information within the region. The response capacity to various types of disasters has to be improved. 2.1.4 Recovery and reconstruction Within a month after the earthquake, the Chinese government announced the post-earthquake reconstruction work plan and introduced a number of documentation about earthquake rehabilitation and reconstruction. It set up the National Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Planning Group. The State Council formulated and promulgated the “Regulations of post-earthquake restoration and reconstruction”, and made a tentative scheduled to complete the reconstruction work in eight years. We look forward to the reconstruction work in Wenchuan all going well. At the same time, the Chinese government should enhance earthquake monitoring and forecasting in those areas where earthquake is possible to occur.
After the Wenchuan earthquake, domestic and international non-governmental organizations immediately took actions and they had played an irreplaceable role in disaster rescue and relief. But we can easily see that non-governmental organizations have the problems of disorder, weaknesses, trust and capacity deficit and mismanagement of relief funds. (Cui Yan, 2009)Therefore, studying the role of NGOs in earthquake disaster risk management and discussing how the government can guide NGOs for health development is particularly important. 2.2.1 The role of NGOs 1. NGOs respond to disaster risk and provide emergency aid service. Non-governmental organizations play an important role in rescue and emergency aid. (Farazmanda A., 2001) They involve in all aspects of disaster management, from fund-raising, transportation, supplies, disaster relief, order maintenance to care provision. In post-earthquake reconstruction and recovery, they provided essential services in supplies, personnel, information, technology and psychological counseling. After the earthquake in Wenchuan, China Red Cross Society, China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and many other charitable and nonprofit organizations took action immediately and participated in the rescue and relief. NGOs even formed a joint office in the front-line of the areas affected. By May 18, international NGOs involved in humanitarian relief in Sichuan were more than ten. After the earthquake, the NGOs quickly donated and collected supplies worth nearly ten million yuan. (Sina,2008)Chief Secretary for Administration of the Hong Kong SAR Government, Henry Tang said that by June 19, the SAR Government had taken money totaling 27.25 million HK dollars from the disaster relief fund to support the operations of Hong Kong non-governmental organizations in Sichuan provinces. The funds were used for emergency rescue through the Hong Kong Red Cross, World Vision, Oxfam, the Amity Foundation and other agencies. (Showchina,2008) 2. Non-governmental organizations supervise the usage of public resources and performance of public services Every disaster management activity is associated with deployment and usage of a large number of public resources, and the deployment is non-routine and emergent(Laurie Pearce,2003). Legitimate and effective usage of public resources is not only important, but also tend to cause problems. The rich experience and the supervisory role of NGOs now can give full scope to public resources. In the earthquake relief, some non-governmental organizations made reasonable suggestions to the relief agencies, such as food safety, psychological problems and so on, which are beneficial for the rescue service. 3. NGOs discover hidden crisis, provide professional advice in disaster prevention. Many non-governmental organizations have a large number of highly qualified experts with much professional knowledge and practical experience. They form social group based on their interest and responsibility sense. They provide information, use their expertise to observe the society. The advice they offer on disaster risk is of great significance. 2.2.2 Bring NGOs into play We should also note that there are still some factors to restrict the role of non-governmental organizations. The most important reason is that the government does not well coordinate the power of NGOs and properly deal with the relationship with them. Meanwhile, China’s NGOs is still immature in human resources management and operations. Therefore, the government should actively support the development of NGOs, and enhance supervision and management to guide and promote the role of them. 1. Properly deal with the relationship between government and NGOs. Government is the leading force in response to disaster relief and NGOs are also indispensible. In order to bring into full play the initiative, wisdom and power of the NGOs, the government must accurately position itself, change governmental functions, remodeling public service concept and give more autonomy to the NGOs. At the same time, NGOs should actively participate in the recovery and reconstruction work planed by the government, and carry out the work according to the specific needs of the government. The government and NGOs should cooperate and compete with each other in public service sector and bring their advantages into full play. Meanwhile, the government should further strengthen the public information distribution system and pay attention to the establishment of resource coordination and integration mechanism. Through the information platform, the NGOs can be fully informed of the problems to be solved and advancement of the reconstruction work, and achieve information share and functions interaction between the government and NGOs, thus to improve the efficiency of the reconstruction and recovery work. 2. Establish disaster emergency response system to promptly convene and integrate NGOs and other civil groups. During the initial period of the earthquake, volunteers across the country, various non-governmental organizations from all over the world rushed to the earthquake-stricken areas and their contribution was indelible. However, organizational disorder, poor information access and capacity deficit resulted in waste of social resources and confusion. The reason was that the government had not yet set up a department to deal with great disasters and lacked of a comprehensive disaster management system. The relief headquarters established in a hurry were not competent for disaster response and policy arrangements. The United States establishes social networks to mobilize non-governmental organizations and community members to participate in disaster relief. Norway government establishes civil defense emergency rescue system, and gives full play to the efficiency of civil society and the masses in disaster management. International experience shows that establishment of effective disaster emergency response system has become a priority. Therefore, the Government should enhance emergency response capacity to serious natural disasters, improve emergency relief system, regulate emergency relief activities and give scope to the sensitivity and flexibility of NGOs. 3. Strengthen supervision and management of NGOs, especially the collection and use of funds. On the one hand, the government should create development opportunities for NGOs, on the other hand, it must establish an effective legal and social supervision system and create a regulated development environment for NGOs. Generally speaking, NGOs lack market competition mechanism, thus they tend to be inefficient. The establishment of third-party monitoring and evaluation mechanism is an urgent task in post-earthquake reconstruction, and also necessary for the healthy development of non-governmental organizations in the future.
According to Zhang Jiquan(2006), the so-called integrated natural disaster risk management is that people identify, analyze and evaluate various natural disaster risk, and comprehensively use legal, administrative, economic, technological, engineering and educational means accordingly. It improves the capacity of the government in disaster management and disaster prevention through integration of organizational and social resources. It will effectively prevent, respond to and mitigate natural disasters, protect the public interest and people’s lives and property, and achieve the sustainable development of the society(George D. Haddow et al., 2008). From the late 20th century on , with the deepening and application of risk management concept, some international organizations have formed unique disaster risk management frameworks, among them the mainstream include the frameworks of the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC), Emergency Management Australia (EMA) and the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC).
IRGC thinks that the objective of risk management is to maximize the benefits of disaster reduction with the minimum cost. The risk management of IRGC is to help people make decisions under very complex and uncertain conditions, therefore the IRGC’s risk management framework also fully considers the risk brought by the social background in which the disaster management is implemented, in addition to standard risk assessment, management and communication. IRGC framework consists of five parts: A¢‘A Pre-assessment. Develop early warning and risk management framework to further provide relevant background information for various practical problems. A¢‘A¡ Risk analysis. Based on assessment of risk source and the interest of risk undertakers, the framework will tell the decision makers what risk to face and the possible consequences. A¢‘A¢ Risk assessment. According to the results of risk analysis, different risk undertakers judge the risk based on their assessment criteria and manage the risk accordingly. A¢‘A£ Risk management. Design and implement risk reduction measures, including avoidance, reduction, transfer, disaster preparedness and so on. A¢‘A¤ Communication. Let the risk undertakers understand the risk and participate in the decision-making and fully understand the role of risk management and believe each other during the process.( Renn O.,2006) Figure 1: IRGC risk governance framework: core process( Renn O.,2006)
More comprehensive risk management framework is ERM (Emergency Risk Management Framework) brought forward by Emergency Management Australia (EMA). ERM highlights communication and control in the whole process of risk management to achieve dynamismA and efficiency. A¢‘A Communication and exchange. EMA successfully emphasizes on involvement of various stakeholders in the whole process of risk management, so as to make people understand and support the risk management programs and measures. Communication and exchange have at least three advantages: Firstly, to heighten awareness of risk and understanding of the principles of risk management; Secondly, to ensure that different views of stakeholders will be fully taken into account; Thirdly, to let all participants understand their roles and responsibilities. A¢‘A¡ Monitoring and feedback. As risk is rarely static, the change of environment will affect the rationality of methods and measures taken in risk management , so monitoring and feedback mechanisms should be set up for every key point to ensure effective risk management. Risk management should repeatedly monitor every aspect of the risk, especially when the following phenomenon appear: a new method is applied to the management; a new request is to be added to the management; new management ideas and experience are added; new data is put into the system(EMA,2000). Following is a risk management framework suggested by John Handmer& Dovers(2008). The framework informed by elements of Bridgman and Davis’ (2004) Australian policy cycle and the emergency risk management process (EMA 2000), itself based on the Australian/New Zealand Risk Management Standard. The framework combines an understanding of both policy and disasters. It represents a comprehensive and integrated framework and checklist, not a prescriptive model or sequence. Figure 2: Framework for emergency management policy development (Handmer and Dovers, 2008)
ADRC and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN / OCHA) establish the Total Disaster Risk Management (TDRM) based on disaster relief experience, particular the practice experience of Asia. Two basic principles of TDRM are “taking all the stakeholders into account ” and “apply disaster risk management to all stages”. TDRM system has three parts: A¢‘A Disaster risk management process. A¢‘A¡ Disaster risk management cycle: TDRM considers the whole process of disaster risk management as “prevention / mitigation – preparedness – emergency response – recovery / reconstruction”.A¢‘A¢ Specific disaster mitigation measures, such as legislation on disaster relief, disaster management education and so on. The framework of TDRM is almost the same with EMA(Alan March & Susan Henry,2007). Figure 3: ADRC’s disaster risk management framework (TDRM) (Alan March & Susan Henry,2007)
Japan is said to be the country with most earthquakes in the world, and about 10% of the earthquakes occurred in Japan and its surrounding areas.(Liu Dan,2009)Nearly 1000 earthquakes that can be felt happened every year. Japan has done a lot of researches and exploration in earthquake disaster risk management and has accumulated considerable experience. In the disaster management agency, Japan set up special “disaster prevention department”, and establishes central and local disaster prevention and mitigation information systems and emergency response system. Once the state suffers a serious disaster, the Prime Minister will serve as commander in chief. The Japanese government has spread disaster prevention and relief knowledge to the masses for a long time(Takaaki Kato,2008) “Earthquake Special Measures Law” stipulates that September 1st is National Disaster Prevention Day, and the time from August 30 to September 5 is the National Disaster Prevention Week. Japan has many earthquake museums open to the public free of charge around the whole country. With the year-round announcement of disaster prevention and relief, the disaster awareness deeply rooted in the Japanese people. Japan has the most advanced earthquake early warning system in the world. If the predicted earthquake magnitude is more than 5.0, the Meteorological Agency will release emergency warnings to all the areas with magnitude of above 4.0 through television, radio, phone and alarm system terminal facilities. On June 14 2008, an earthquake with magnitude 7.2 happened in the northeastern region of Japan, and the emergency warning system played a certain effect and saved thousands of lives. In 1966, Japan promulgated the earthquake insurance law. The reinsurance system is built under the support of the government, and has had a number of improvements and refinements. The coverage is expanded and premium rate is revised. The latest amend was in 2007. (OECD,2009)The system requires all the insurance companies fund the establishment of the Japanese Earthquake Reinsurance Company, which is responsible for the earthquake reinsurance business. The earthquake insurance system disperses the financial burden and disaster risk of the government, which can not only greatly reduce the financial burden of the government but also ensure that people can restore the social stability and production as soon as possible.(Teng Ying et al., 2009)A¦Å“-A¨A¯A» A¦ËœA¾A§A¤AºA¥A¯A¹A¥Aº”A§Å¡”žA¦”¹”°A¤A¸AA¥A-A§A¬A¦A§Å¡”žA¦”¹A¼A©Å¸A³ A¥A-A¥…A¸ – A¦Å¸A¥A§Å“”¹A¥A-A¥…A¸A¨A¯A¦A§A»” A¥” …A¥A®A¹
From the perspective of disaster risk management, this article discusses and appraises issues in China’s earthquake disaster risk management seen from the Wenchuan earthquake, which is combined with international experience in disaster risk management. It can be summed up that: (1) The organizational and mobilization capacity of Chinese government in the earthquake shocked the whole world, and the government successfully completed the rescue and relief work in the shortest time. However, while it has done a great job in relief and reconstruction, the earthquake highlighted the deficiencies of the Chinese government in disaster early warning, prevention and emergency response. (2) Non-governmental organizations took quick actions in the earthquake and played an irreplaceable role. However, to further give play to their agility and flexibility, things should be done under the guidance of the government. The government should properly deal with the relations with NGOs, improve integration of social resources and strengthen supervision. (3) Integrated disaster risk management is the most effective means to conduct a comprehensive disaster reduction and relief. Through disaster risk management, the severity of the disaster can be greatly reduced and it has a high cost – benefit ratio. Integrated disaster risk reduction and management should star from prevention, which is an opinion consistent with “Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Strengthening the Resilience of Nations and Communities” proposed in the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction on January 2005. It emphasizes on risk identify, analysis and evaluation, thereby reducing potential risk and decreasing the severity of the disaster significantly through comprehensive disaster risk management.
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