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.
Damage caused by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, Sichuan Province