09 March 2010

Earthquakes and governance

Suvrat's post bringing out the link between governance and earthquake impact talks of how building codes and safety regulations are routinely violated in India, making governance, especially at the municipal level a key variable in understanding disaster management.
Kaufman and Tessada's review of natural disasters and national diligence delves into this issue in depth:

Chile’s good governance played a significant role in limiting the death toll resulting from this earthquake. In particular, two dimensions of governance stand out—government effectiveness (the efficacy of the public sector), and control of corruption. Over the years, Chile’s effective institutions succeeded in designing and adopting better building codes, which have been periodically upgraded, to take into account previous earthquake experience, innovations in preventative technologies and the country’s growing wealth (made possible in part by good governance).
Equally noteworthy is that these building codes are enforced. The media has brought to international public knowledge a new high-rise that has collapsed in ConcepciĆ³n and an apartment building near Santiago that has been rendered inhabitable since it is leaning more than the Tower of Pisa. Notably though, these examples indicate that non-compliance with building codes (and possibly corruption) is likely individualized, rather than systemic. Naturally, there are many damaged structures, particularly (but not exclusively) those built long ago. Even though there are many people close to the epicenter who are now homeless, the overall stock of houses was not decimated and the number of fatalities due to buildings collapsing was limited. In fact, a very large portion of deaths resulted from the tsunami instead.

Undoubtedly, as with past earthquakes, lessons will be drawn from damage assessments and building codes will be improved; but overall the existing system did work. In contrast with the devastating effects that corruption in the construction sector had on the cities affected by the earthquakes in Turkey (where many new residential buildings collapsed) and China (where many schools full of pupils collapsed), the low levels of corruption in Chile, coupled with effective institutions, help explain why building codes were largely enforced.
ore broadly, empirical evidence, such as that presented by Kahn’s study on natural disasters (gated, ungated), suggests that among other factors, governance and corruption control are determinants of the death tolls A review of recent earthquakes, as shown in Table 1, and of the quality of governance (in terms of governance effectiveness and control of corruption) is also suggestive, as depicted in Chart 1.

See the article for more details.

No comments:

Post a Comment