Learning from Megadisasters: Presentation of the World Bank's report

Edoardo Croci, IEFE Bocconi University
Federica Ranghieri, The World Bank
Floriana Trama, Green Light for Business

Abstract: On March 11, 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 occurred in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan’s Tohoku region. The quake shook the ground as far away as western Japan and lasted for several minutes. A half hour later, a tsunami of unprecedented force broke over 650 kilometers of coastline, toppling sea walls and other defenses, flooding more than 500 km2 of land, and washing away entire towns and villages. 

The devastation left around 20,000 people dead or missing, with most of the deaths caused by drowning. The tsunami leveled 130,000 houses and severely damaged 260,000 more. About 270 railway lines ceased operation immediately following the disaster, and 15 expressways, 69 national highways, and 638 prefectural and municipal roads were closed. The areas worst hit were the Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures.

Learning from Megadisasters, a knowledge-sharing project sponsored by the Government of Japan and the World Bank, is collecting and analyzing information, data, and evaluations performed by academic and research institutions, nongovernmental organizations, government agencies, and the private sector—all with the objective of sharing Japan’s knowledge on disaster risk management (DRM) and postdisaster reconstruction with countries vulnerable to disasters. The World Bank and the Japanese government hope that these findings will encourage countries to mainstream DRM in their development policies and planning.
Other countries can protect themselves from major disasters by adopting - and adapting as necessary - some of the measures taken by Japan, and by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of Japan's response to the Great East Japanese Earthquake. To help them do that, the Learning from Megadisasters initiative will provide data, analysis, and insight in printed and web-based formats (including e-learning), in face-to-face activities, in seminars presented through the Global Development Learning Network and through a dedicated community of practice - all designed to build the capacities of government decision makers and other stakeholders in developing countries.

A serchable set of online materials at various levels of depth and detail will serve as a focal point for this community of learnind and practice on DRM. The knowledge base will grow as practicioners from around the world contribute their insights and expertise.

The first phase of the project delivered a set of 32 “Knowledge Notes” grouped into six thematic clusters:
-Structural measures
-Nonstructural measures
-Emergency response
-Reconstruction planning
-Hazard and risk information and decision making
-Economics of disaster risk, risk management, and risk financing.

The notes analyze and synthesize what worked, what did not, and why in the response to the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, offering recommendations for developing countries that face similar risks and vulnerabilities.

The Notes were prepared by more than 40 Japanese and international experts, assisted by 50 advisers and reviewers. The team included developing country practitioners, academic experts, and government officials. The KNs will provide a basis for knowledge sharing and exchanges with developing countries experts and practitioners in the coming years.