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2008 has been a challenging year for China.  Apart from the global financial crisis, which took a toll on China’s national economy, the Sichuan-Wenchuan Earthquake had tremendous and devastating impacts to China – its people and its growth.

 

2008 has been a challenging year for China.  Apart from the global financial crisis, which took a toll on China’s national economy, the Sichuan-Wenchuan Earthquake had tremendous and devastating impacts to China – its people and its growth.
 
The 7.9 magnitude earthquake of May 12 resulted in the deaths of more than 69,000 people and injured some 374,000 people, nearly decimating entire towns such as Beichuan, which lost about 74 percent of its population (approximately 12,000 people).  Overall, it is estimated that the Sichuan-Wenchuan Earthquake caused approximately $123 billion in losses in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, destroying 34,000 km of highway and more than 4 million rural and urban homes.
 
The level of destruction of both homes and infrastructure put the spotlight on China’s development practices.  Rather than merely recovering lost resources, the onus is on China to build back better.
 
In terms of transportation networks, quality infrastructure support not only sound development but lifelines to aid in emergency response and recovery.  As stated in the note Re-Establishment of Transport Systems after an Earthquake and Establishment of Lifeline Systems, prepared by Senior Transport Specialist John Scales, “Social order relies on a complex network of infrastructure lifeline systems. When disaster strikes, restoring lifeline systems is at the heart of restoring social organization.”
 
Currently, China is faced with two priorities in re-establishing their transport systems:
• Reconstruction: building back to basic
This involves installing base-level infrastructure to quickly put provinces and people back on track.
• Redevelopment: building back better
Planning and constructing sustainable infrastructure to better withstand natural disasters, and to aid in response and recovery following future events.
Reconstruction
Rebuilding earthquake-affected China is important to putting life back on track in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi Provinces.  The World Bank has been working with local leaders to establish a reconstruction program in Sichuan and Gansu provinces, which will be financed by a US$710 million IBRD loan. This loan will support reconstruction investments in the transport, urban, health, and education sectors, and it is China’s hope that this reconstruction will be achieved in a relatively short period of time.
 
In support of China’s rebuilding effort, the World Bank offers technical assistance and guidance based on international experience. "The Chinese government is interested to have international organizations involved in order to learn from international good practice in disaster recovery and mitigation, build local government capacity to manage the reconstruction program, and put in place robust fiduciary and safeguards controls," says Senior Urban Environmental Specialist Mara Warwick.
 
Redevelopment
More than a quick recovery, China needs to rebuild with an eye towards sustainability and durability, considering how new infrastructure will stand up to future catastrophic events.

By improving planning and development methods, China has the ability to prevent direct and secondary losses during natural disasters.  Planning to build back better will further limit devastation and reduce recovery time allowing quick return to business as usual.
 
In addition to its contribution to reconstruction, the World Bank has the opportunity to provide technical assistance in the redevelopment of these earthquake-affected areas.  Recommendations for emergency planning and preparation include not only the seismic retrofitting of buildings and infrastructure, but also recommendations for transport system management, coordination of emergency response systems, and local empowerment in disaster response.
 
“It was clear during [World Bank President] Zoellick’s recent visit to the devastated area that Chinese officials dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake greatly value Bank work and technical support,” wrote East Asia and Pacific Regional Vice President James Adams in a message to staff.
 
As China continues to grow and develop, appropriate planning for catastrophic events is vital to long-lasting infrastructure and for sustained growth.  China has the opportunity to build back better in these provinces, supporting lifeline systems for a stronger, more robust China, even in the face of natural disasters.

Source: World Bank

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CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

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