Community-based earthquake disaster risk reduction in China: integrating local and scientific knowledge for planning and preparedness

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Earthquakes are a major threat to lives, livelihoods, and economic development in China. Of the 2-2.5 million deaths in earthquakes worldwide since 1900, at least 650,000 have occurred in China. Chinese earthquakes have caused three of the ten highest death tolls in earthquakes since 1900 and have led to estimated losses of $678 billion (in 2012 USD). The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake alone caused direct economic losses of more than RMB840 billion, despite affecting largely rural areas of Sichuan province and causing only minor damage to the provincial capital of Chengdu. A future earthquake in China could cause catastrophic losses, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts in China are therefore of critical importance.

Local communities play a critical role in DRR preparation and planning. In the immediate aftermath of a large earthquake, communities are often cut off from outside resources and assistance, and must rely on their own plans and capacities. This is especially true of communities in remote or mountainous areas like northwestern China. While DRR planning in China has traditionally followed a very centralised approach, there is growing recognition of the importance of community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR) efforts. Most notably, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has embarked on a major programme to establish a network of thousands of 'demonstration communities' that have met minimum requirements for local-scale disaster preparedness. The proposed research is specifically aimed at supporting and enhancing the MoCA programme. Our work will ensure that it draws on broad scientific knowledge of the hazard, including secondary earthquake hazards such as landslides. Our work will also explore the factors that make communities more or less willing to engage in CBDRR, so that the MoCA programme can best reflect the broad diversity of communities that are exposed to that hazard.

We will first look at the ways in which CBDRR is achieved in China, and how these approaches compare to those in other earthquake-prone countries. At the same time, we will produce a new inventory of landslides in northwestern China (an area that includes Gansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia provinces), and will generate new knowledge on the sizes and effects of past landslides as a guide to landslide hazard in future earthquakes. Finally, we will work with two specific communities to find out their priority concerns and their awareness of the hazards that they face, and to come up with ideas for how they might deal with those hazards in a future earthquake. The emphasis of our work will be on sustained engagement with groups of engaged citizens to come up with solutions that will work in their communities. The goal throughout will be to take a community-centred approach to understanding the choices that people make to protect themselves from earthquakes.

The project will lead to (1) new knowledge of landslide hazard in the region; (2) better understanding of the factors that help communities to engage with DRR issues; and (3) strategies for local earthquake resilience that complement and extend the National Five-Year Plans for Comprehensive Disaster Reduction. By increasing resilience at the community level to the damaging earthquakes that will surely occur across this region in future, the project will make a direct contribution to sustainable growth and economic welfare. The research and training that we propose will increase local capacity to assess and plan for the effects of future earthquakes. Finally, China has engaged in constructive cooperation in south-south exchanges of knowledge in DRR, e.g. through the CBDM Asia project. We are keen to contribute to these exchanges and wider economic development of the region by sharing the outcomes of this research with partners in other earthquake-prone countries across Asia.

Planned Impact

The outcomes of our research will have impact at local and national levels in China. At national level, our work should help to refine the guidelines for comprehensive disaster reduction demonstration communities, as defined by the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA). The research will generate understanding of the factors that affect community participation and engagement in DRR activities, which will be of direct relevance to MoCA officials in considering how to improve the criteria for demonstration communities and the mechanisms by which those communities are chosen and monitored. The model of co-produced strategies to deal with earthquake risk may also be of relevance to MoCA as a way of enhancing the existing approaches to CBDRR. We also expect that some of the co-produced strategies for DRR actions will be of interest to MoCA as examples of activities that could be trialled more widely.

Our assessment of landslide hazard will result in novel characterisation of landslides in the study region. We will produce a set of practical tools with which to evaluate these hazards in exposed communities, allowing us to extend this work to other earthquake- and landslide-prone areas beyond the target communities. This understanding will be of major potential benefit to the China Earthquake Administration (CEA), which has statutory responsibility for assessment of earthquake hazard in China.

At local level, our project will have direct impact on awareness and preparation for earthquakes in our chosen case-study communities. A fundamental goal of our work is to understand the factors that can enhance sharing of awareness and information between different communities (broadly defined). We will thus aim to emphasise the aspects of our results that are transferrable - between different elements of a single case-study settlement, and between the study region and other tectonically-active parts of China.

Our primary pathway to impact with MoCA will be through PI Fan through the China National Disaster Reduction Committee and the National Disaster Reduction Center of China, which sits within MoCA. Prof Fan will broker key contacts within MoCA on CBDRR, including officials with interests in both demonstration community guidelines and in DRR reporting requirements under the Sendai Framework. We will organise a series of workshops in Beijing with key MoCA and CEA staff; these will be used to create quick-turnaround publications that summarise the state of CBDRR in China, along with recommendations for follow-up work.

We also expect that project will generate new understanding of the controls on, and limits to, community participation in China for DRR purposes. This understanding will be formalised in a report to MoCA that will outline how the Chinese government can implement its reporting responsibilities under the Sendai Framework for DRR.

Impact with CEA will be through Zhang Peizhen and Su Guiwu and their existing contacts with PI Densmore. We will coordinate the timing of field work in China to allow the direct exchange of information on primary earthquake hazard between different projects. Key CEA staff will also be involved in the Beijing meetings in Y1 and Y3. We will also run a training course for the CEA on landslide mapping and statistical analysis at the end of Y3, as part of the final Beijing workshop.

Finally, we will use the EwF partnership (which spans more than a dozen earthquake-prone countries throughout Eurasia) to share wider international perspectives on landslide hazard and CBDRR. For example, we will broker discussions between MoCA officials and EwF partners in the Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium, Bihar State Disaster Management Authority (India), and Kazakhstan Red Crescent Society with expertise and interests in evaluating characteristics of disaster-resilient communities.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Earthquakes are a major threat to lives, livelihoods, and economic development in China. Of the 2-2.5 million deaths in earthquakes worldwide since 1900, at least 650,000 have occurred in China. Chinese earthquakes have caused three of the ten highest death tolls in earthquakes since 1900 and have led to estimated losses of $678 billion (in 2012 USD). The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake alone caused direct economic losses of more than RMB840 billion, despite affecting largely rural areas of Sichuan province and causing only minor damage to the provincial capital of Chengdu. A future earthquake in China could cause catastrophic losses, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts in China are therefore of critical importance.

Local communities play a critical role in DRR preparation and planning. In the immediate aftermath of a large earthquake, communities are often cut off from outside resources and assistance, and must rely on their own plans and capacities. This is especially true of communities in remote or mountainous areas like northwestern China. While DRR planning in China has traditionally followed a very centralised approach, there is growing recognition of the importance of community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR) efforts. Most notably, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has embarked on a major programme to establish a network of thousands of 'demonstration communities' that have met minimum requirements for local-scale disaster preparedness. The CEDRRiC project is specifically aimed at supporting the Ministry in the development of the demonstration community programme. Our work is ensuring that the programme draws on broad scientific knowledge of the hazard, including secondary earthquake hazards such as landslides. Our work is also exploring the factors that make communities more or less willing to engage in CBDRR, so that the demonstration community programme can best reflect the broad diversity of communities that are exposed to that hazard.

The research has three objectives:

O1: Understand community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR) approaches and activities in China and the factors that govern community participation and engagement, to appreciate the wider governance context for (and constraints on) our community-level work. This work has shown that, while widespread and generally effective, government-led CBDRR efforts make relatively little use of existing scientific knowledge on earthquake hazard.

O2: Characterise the hazard posed by earthquake-triggered and post-earthquake landslides in the study area, to inform event and effects scenarios that can be used by communities to understand the hazards that they face. This work has shown that earthquake-triggered landslides in areas underlain by loess can occur on much lower slopes, and have much greater runout distances, than observed in previous large continental earthquakes. Thus, existing models of earthquake-triggered landslide susceptibility must be adapted before they can be applied in loess regions.

O3: Evaluate the effectiveness of those scenarios, focused primarily on landslides, for co-production of CBDRR strategies. This work is ongoing.
Exploitation Route Project outcomes are primarily focused on the NDRCC. We will make every effort, however, to compare and contrast CBDRR policies and practice in China with current practice elsewhere, including in Nepal, India, Kazakhstan, and the US and UK.
Sectors Environment

URL http://community.dur.ac.uk/cedrric/
 
Description Advice has been given to the National Disaster Reduction Center of China, the main project partners in China, on the design and implementation of surveys and other forms of quantitative and qualitative research to determine risk perceptions and earthquake preparedness in earthquake-prone regions of central China. This has influenced ongoing efforts by the NDRCC to understand the impacts of their disaster-resilient demonstration community programme. Project outcomes have also been used to help design an earthquake scenario for use in disaster response planning by the municipal government of Weinan city, Shaanxi Province, China. The scenario has been developed by the PAGER-O project, which is also funded by the NERC-ESRC-NSFC Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards in China programme. The specific inputs from this project to the Weinan scenario involve an innovative landslide model, which generates a realistic distribution of landslides across the Weinan area using quantitative probabilistic models for landslide occurrence and size.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Training in community engagement
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Training for staff from National Disaster Reduction Center of China on methods of community engagement, including surveys and discussion groups. This has shown that existing methods of disaster preparedness may not be as effective or comprehensive as previously thought.
 
Description Training in questionnaire design
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Chang'an University 
Organisation Chang'an University
PI Contribution We have contributed expertise in two areas: (1) social-science data collection for understanding risk perceptions, including surveys and focus groups; and (2) analysis of earthquake-triggered landslides, including mapping, analysis of size and spatial distributions, and assessment of landslide susceptibility.
Collaborator Contribution In area (1), Chang'an University has contributed by sending Dr Lyu Yan to Durham University as a visiting researcher (February-August 2017) in order to learn current research approaches for assessing hazard awareness and risk perceptions. During her visit Dr Lyu also worked to design, test, and refine a detailed questionnaire which will be implemented in the case-study communities by project partner NDRCC in spring 2018. In area (2), Chang'an University has contributed by sending Dr Zhuang Jianqi to Newcastle University as a visiting researcher in 2017, and by making available the results of a comprehensive study of the landslides associated with the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake. This was the last major earthquake in the Loess Plateau region, and serves as a good analogue for the impacts of a future large earthquake in the area.
Impact Zhuang, J., Peng, J., Xu, C., Li, Z., Densmore, A.L., Milledge, D., Iqbal, J., and Cui, Y. (2018) Distribution and characteristics of loess landslides triggered by the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake, northwest of China. Geomorphology, 314, 1-12. Not multidisciplinary
Start Year 2016
 
Description NDRCC 
Organisation National Disaster Reduction Centre of China
PI Contribution We have provided expertise in two areas: (1) quantitative and qualitative social-science research methods, specifically focused on assessment of hazard awareness and risk perceptions in earthquake-prone areas; and (2) assessment of earthquake-triggered landslide hazard, particularly in loess terrain. In area (1), we have prepared a risk perception questionnaire that builds upon parallel research in the NERC/ESRC Earthquakes without Frontiers project, and that can be used by NDRCC to understand the degree to which people exposed to earthquake hazard are aware of that hazard. The survey can also be used to understand the controls on attitudes toward earthquake hazard, and the level of expectation about the roles of government, NGOs, and individuals in responding to a future earthquake. All of these elements are expected to help the NDRCC to manage and refine its flagship disaster reduction demonstration community programme. In area (2), we have shared our understanding of the controls on earthquake-triggered landslide occurrence, with the aim of building a predictive model to assess landslide susceptibility based on experience in previous large continental earthquakes. We have also shared approaches for developing earthquake event and effects scenarios using a novel hybrid approach to seismic hazard assessment developed at Durham.
Collaborator Contribution The NDRCC has facilitated field work in the study-area communities of Haikou and Youyi, Ningxia Province, by coordinating with the local Ministry of Civil Affairs officials. They have developed a workflow for implementing the risk perception questionnaire across the study-area communities, and this will be carried out later in 2018. They have also raised the possibility of joint analysis of the NDRCC disaster fatalities database, but this has not yet been possible due to access constraints.
Impact No distinct outcomes yet.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Community focus group discussions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Focus groups on hazard awareness and risk perception in case-study communities (Haikou and Youyi), Pengyang County, Ningxia Province. These involved ~15-20 people each and have served to both communicate the nature of our research and to generate interest in participating in future elements of the study.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Community information sessions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussion groups with local government officials, disaster preparedness demonstration community leaders, and members of the public in two earthquake-prone communities in Ningxia province, China
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016