Earthquakes without frontiers: a partnership for increasing resilience to seismic hazard in the continents

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hull
Department Name: Histories


Please refer to the forms submitted by the Lead Institution (Cambridge) for this proposal.

Planned Impact

Please refer to the forms submitted by the Lead Institution (Cambridge) for this proposal.
Title Scattered Pieces 
Description Art and earthquake are the twin themes of this documentary. Contemporary Kazakh artist, Syrlybek Bekbotayev transposes the abstract geometric shapes and bold colours of Kazimir Malevich' paintings to the walls of his home village to represent the scattered pieces of falling masonry as buildings collapse during earthquakes. Art, he says, makes people face the things they would sooner forget. And his message is simple: rural areas are often neglected despite the fact that many more deaths happen in non-urban areas. While increasing resilience to earthquakes has become a major research and policy goal in the Global South, the focus has largely been on the "big city" and on how aware and prepared the urban population is to manage such events. Rural areas are largely ignored, and people's awareness is low. The absence of a major earthquake in Kazakhstan this last century has instilled a false sense of safety and complacency in the authorities and made raising rural people's awareness and preparedness for such events difficult. Art, as this documentary shows, has a provocative role to play in reversing this perilous condition. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Entered for Sheffield Documentary Film Festival June 2020 Entered for Moscon International Film Festival Doker 2020 
Description There was recognition at the start of EwF that work in Kazakhstan was starting at a low level with few existing relationships and limited understanding/familiarity with the context amongst the team (3-4 July 2012 meeting). The fact that this might take some time to develop was acknowledged early in the project (3-4 Sept 2012 meeting). The first visits to Kazakhstan for EwF took place in Sept 2012 when James Jackson gave a public lecture in Almaty and Alex Densmore made first contact with potential project partners including UN Women and the Red Cross/Red Crescent, among others, and social scientists at al-Faraby Kazakh National University.

Visits to Almaty by other members of the team followed in the first half of 2013 - Katie Oven and Susanne Sargeant in February, and Susanne Sargeant and Brian Baptie in June. During this initial phase of the research, contact was made with a wide range of actors (social scientists with a potential interest in research on social vulnerability and disasters, UN organisations, social science researchers, the British Council, local NGOs, the Institute of Seismology (IoS) and the Kazakh National Data Centre (KNDC). As a result, awareness of the context and how it would influence the approach that the project would have to take took time to mature. An initial project outline for the social science/science-policy work in Kazakhstan was developed by the team, which was intended to be a starting point for discussion with potential local collaborators. Issues regarding the appropriate permissions for the project surfaced in a number of conversations with local organisations, which also had to be managed. At the same time, geological field investigations (in teams including people from the Kazakh-British Technical University and the Institute for Geophysical Research) were underway to identify and characterise the sources of the 1889 and 1911 earthquakes.
Year two of the project was characterised by efforts to strengthen relationships with local partners (or potential partners) and undertake joint research. For example, a seismologist from IoS visited BGS in April 2014 to develop a joint work plan and this was followed by the BGS team providing some training for IoS in September. The earth science research continued with another successful field season that involved local scientific partners as well as participants from Kyrgyzstan, France and Germany. Steps were also taken to try to coordinate with other international projects active in Kazakhstan such as EMCA (Earthquake Model Central Asia - part of the Global Earthquake Model) who were working in earthquake risk-related research with some of the same groups as EwF. The social science research began in earnest with repeated field trips by Greg Bankoff and Katie Oven. It was decided to give precedence to rural areas over urban ones in the three most seismically active oblasts, South Kazakhstan, Zhambyl and Almaty. More people die from earthquakes in non-urban areas than they do in the cities and approximately 45% of the population in Kazakhstan still live in villages and small towns. As a consequence, Bankoff and Oven toured potential partners in south and south-eastern Kazakhstan, giving presentations and meeting with local stakeholders in an attempt to find potential partners. This proved exceedingly difficult as the epistemological legacy of the Soviet Union is very pervasive and there is little or no consideration of earthquakes as being anything other than a preserve of natural scientists. It was at this point, that contact was made with the Red Crescent Society of Kazakhstan who proved to be EwF's main partner throughout the project. Over 2014 and the following year, as familiarity with the context grew (evidenced by the 'mayor's blessing' for a meeting in Almaty in 2016, 'a robust discussion of the realities of earthquake prediction science' with the Mayor of Almaty), it was becoming clearer that working in an interdisciplinary and/or participatory way was relatively new to people in Kazakhstan (Durham notes, 2014).

Throughout 2015-2016, the social science research in South Kazakhstan, in partnership with the local office of the Red Crescent Society, began with a survey of earthquake risk perception in six villages. The survey was followed up by focus group discussions with village elders (all male), women, and young people aged 18-30 (mixed sex). It was apparent that the level of earthquake risk awareness was very low among all age groups. At the same time, the very presence of EwF team members in the villages tended to increase the level of anxiety amongst local people and posed an ethical dilemma for the research that was only resolved through the Red Crescent subsequently carrying out earthquake awareness and preparedness training sessions in these same villages. In Zhambyl oblast, Bankoff and Oven decided to focus the research on the state of the building stock in a provincial city, Taraz, where they partnered with ????????, a branch office of a semi-autonomous state agency devoted to monitoring building and architectural standards. The primary research here was a social and engineering study of approximately 10% of the city's residential buildings, both houses and apartments, to ascertain how many (few) of them actually conformed to the regulations and what were people's attitudes towards building safety. As far as it is certain, this research on both rural perceptions and provincial building stock are the first of their kind in Kazakhstan.

Geological and social science fieldwork continued (albeit separately) in 2016-2017. Geological fieldwork on active faulting and work with the Institute of Seismology (e.g. providing technical advice and support in the development of the new seismic hazard maps) was maintained. BGS and IoS submitted a joint proposal to the Newton Fund for a site-specific seismic hazard assessment and engineering analysis for Kapchagay hydroelectric power plan in southern Kazakhstan. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the joint development of the proposal was an indication of how the relationships between the researchers and their organisations involved had grown and that the group shared a vision. A high point in 2016 was a three-day conference in Almaty co-hosted by EwF, the Institute of Seismology and the Almaty Akimat's office. This brought national and international scientists together. At the meeting, the practical issues of public awareness and education on earthquakes and seismic hazard, as well as on the dangers in allowing any belief in short-term prediction to be linked to policy on public safety, were discussed. Importantly, this was an opportunity to bring EwF partners together from across the Himalayan Region to share their experiences, including, for example, partners from Nepal who had studied under the former Soviet Union, and who were arguably better placed to transcend cultural and political boundaries. A conference report was published by ODI shortly after the meeting that summarised the discussion. Following the meeting, the geological team guided Kazakh students and workshop attendees on a two-day training field trip around active faults in the Almaty region.

Social science research during 2016-17 was mainly focused on realising the existing collaborations and on initiating the final major phase of fieldwork. In South Kazakhstan, as partnerships were built up in the villages, it was possible to conduct a series of in-depth interviews with prominent village elders such as biys (headmen), imams or shamans who provided critical insight into how village structures work (and might work in an earthquake and its aftermath) and how it had operated during the period of the Soviet Union. In Zhambyl oblast, the surveys were completed and a visit from NSET, the National Society of Earthquake Technology - Nepal was organised to visit rural communities around Shymkent and Taraz so that they could share their experiences of engaging with communities on earthquake DRR (amongst other things) in Nepal. Efforts are underway to explore the engineering aspects of vulnerability with a view to developing community engagement activities in provincial Kazakhstan following this. Partnering with the national office of the Red Crescent Society, Bankoff and Oven also began preparation to carry out a survey of community attitudes towards earthquakes in comparison to floods and mudslides (perennial threats) in the provincial town of Talgar in Almaty oblast.

Social science research carried on throughout 2017 and right up to the summer of 2018 with the surveys and focus group discussions being realised in Talgar. This research completed the team's comprehensive analysis of earthquake risk perception and earthquake risk reduction across the spectrum of rural habitat from the village, to the town, to the provincial city. This overview has provided important insights into the social construction of earthquake risk in Kazakhstan that has application to the rest of Central Asia. One of the principal concerns in this final phase of the research was to ensure its impact beyond the lifetime of the project. To this effect, Bankoff and Oven commissioned and facilitated a digital reconstruction of how typical Kazakh village and provincial houses perform at various seismic intensities (in collaboration with NSET-Nepal) and are in the process of completing a 20-minute documentary film highlighting the importance of earthquake resilience in rural areas.
Exploitation Route We are developing a training film with the Red Crescent to be used by their operatives in the field and a festival short (film) for more wide public dissemination of earthquake awareness and preparedness both domestically within Kazakhstan and externally. A draft of this festival film is currently being edited. The training film still needs one further set of measurements before the digital reconstruction can be completed by NSET and the film made.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Environment,Other

Description Bankoff and Oven are also continuing their collaboration with building engineers at Taraz State University to investigate the vulnerability of a sample of private houses and apartment blocks of different ages across Taraz City. The survey, which includes a visual assessment by engineers, and a social survey exploring householders' perceptions of earthquake risk and the decisions they have taken regarding their own properties, has been completed across 400 households. A follow-up public information campaign on how households can better prepare for earthquakes and limit the dangers to life and property in the city will commence in summer 2017. Bankoff and Oven have begun a project in the Talgar Valley, Almaty Province with the National Red Crescent Society exploring local perceptions of, and responses to, earthquake and debris flow risk. The pilot survey has been undertaken, with the main data collection due to begin in March 2017. Bankoff and Oven will be joining colleagues from the Red Crescent in April to conduct a series of follow-up focus group discussions with community members and interviews with local government officials on the governance of disaster risk reduction.
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Risk, Hazards, Disasters and Cultures: Exploring an Integrated Humanities, Natural Sciences and Disaster Studies Approach
Amount £34,623 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/N009436/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016 
End 07/2018
Description Investigating the resilience of private domestic houses to earthquakes in Taraz City, Jambyl Region 
Organisation M. Kh Dulati Taraz State University
Country Kazakhstan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Preparation of all survey instruments, districts to be surveyed, training/briefing of survey administrators, oversight of survey and survey administration, data analysis and outputs
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration on all the above, principal role in administration of survey and data input.
Impact Data analysis still ongoing. Multidisciplinary involving social sciences (risk perceptions, use of buildings) with architecture and building construction. An information campaign through leaflets attached to the back of utility bills was also conducted throughout the city to better acquaint local residents with the resilience of their homes.
Start Year 2016
Description On-site structural study of typical houses in Kazakhstan and the digital reconstructions of how both such structures might fare at different intensities of earthquakes 
Organisation National Society for Earthquake Technology
Country Nepal 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Direction of research, facilitation and organisation of visit by NSET engineer, oversight of measurements and digital reconstruction, and purpose to which digital reconstruction will be used in collaboration with the national office of the Red Crescent Society of Kazakhstan.
Collaborator Contribution NSET carried out an on-site structural study by a qualified engineer of typical houses in Kazakhstan, one rural made from adobe and situated in South Kazakhstan Oblast, and the other suburban, and located in the city of Taraz, Zhambyl Oblast. From such studies, NSET has created a digital reconstruction of how such structures might fare at different intensities of earthquakes with acceleration ranging from 0.1 g to 1.0 g using few selected recorded time histories appropriate for the location that can be used both digitally and in film. These reconstructions and a written report will soon be made available for distribution in Kazakhstan through the national office of the Red Crescent Society
Impact Digital reconstruction of how structures might fare at different intensities of earthquakes with acceleration ranging from 0.1 g to 1.0 g for use in a Red Crescent training film and for other educational or public dissemination purposes as the organisation might see fit. In addition a written report on the resilience of housing types is also available
Start Year 2017
Description Red Crescent (National Office) Risk Perception Survey Talgar 
Organisation Red Crescent Society of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Country Kazakhstan 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution A collaboration agreement to survey community perceptions of, and responses to, landslide hazard and risk in the Talgar Valley in the Almaty Region of Kazakhstan, involving the administration of a survey of up to 500 residents (split according to location and geographical risk) and input the survey data into SPSS/Excel; conducting three to five focus group discussions as practical with residents living in at risk areas to explore their perceptions of, and responses to, landslide and mudflow risk; interviewing up to 10 key stakeholders including community leaders and local government officials to explore how the landslide and mudflow risk is responded to by communities and local government.
Collaborator Contribution Input into all instruments used in the research, organisation and administration of the survey and data input into SPSS/Excel (ongoing), organising and participating in focus groups and interviews, collaborating in writing outputs (commencing second half of 2018)
Impact Data is still being processed. Content of the study is primarily Social Science
Start Year 2017
Description Red Crescent Society (Shymkent regional office) Kazakhstan 
Organisation National Society for Earthquake Technology
Country Nepal 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Bankoff and Oven have been continuing their collaboration with the Red Crescent Society on community-based earthquake risk reduction in rural communities in the South Kazakhstan oblast. In September 2016 they were joined by colleagues from NSET-Nepal on a knowledge sharing field trip (funded through the EwF Nepal engagement budget). Amod Dixit and Surya Shrestha shared their experiences of engaging communities in earthquake risk reduction in Nepal, with a particular focus on earthquake safe construction practices, with the Red Crescent Society and the local government in South Kazakhstan. The team visited rural communities to see example mud brick houses in Shymkent and met with engineers in Taraz City to learn more about Kazakhstan's building code, current gaps and issues around compliance.
Collaborator Contribution NSET engineers have modeled a typical adobe house in rural Kazakhstan as well as a concrete urban residence in Taraz with a view to determining the level of earthquake safety. The output will be used as a resource for further research and community engagement activities in provincial Kazakhstan.
Impact An article by Oven, K. and Bankoff, G. 'The Neglected Country(side): Earthquake Risk Perception and Disaster Risk Reduction in Post-Soviet Rural Kazakhstan, Journal of Rural Studies (under review)
Start Year 2015
Description Risk, Hazards, Disasters and Cultures: Exploring an Integrated Humanities, Natural Sciences and Disaster Studies Approach 
Organisation University of Bristol
Department Graduate School of Education
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Experience of inter-disciplinary work with geophysicists and seismologists partly gave rise to the idea of further integrating the Humanities in DRR
Collaborator Contribution Co-I on project
Impact held four workshops: 2 X Bristol, 1 in Hull and 1 in Norwich. Edited volume in preparation: Greg Bankoff, David Haines and Caroline Williams (eds.) Why the Historical Approach Matters in DRR?
Start Year 2016