Letter sent to the Guardian:
By David Sanderson
"Sir, We welcome the announcement by
international development minister George Filches that Britain has committed funds to the
rescue effort (UK gives £600,000 to quake victims, 16 January).
"But this tragedy highlights a problem long ignored by governments and institutions.
By 2015, 600 million people will live in the burgeoning cities of the developing world.
The overwhelming pressures of urbanization force the very poorest citizens into a
city's most dangerous and disaster-prone areas.
"Inadequate urban management, and the subsequent rise of unplanned
shanty towns - with little in the way of city services or building regulations - puts
citizens at the mercy of natural disasters. Earthquakes, hurricanes and everyday
emergencies, like fires and landslides, continue to claim thousands of lives, perpetuate
poverty and erode poor people's savings.
"By 2025 over three fifths of the world's population will live in cities. If more
support was given to development and urban planning in the third world, then
fewer funds might be needed to respond to the growing global tally of natural
disasters." [ emphasis added] David Sanderson,
Technical and Policy Advisor, CARE International, UK. 16 January 2001
This comment is basically correct, but
what good does it do to exhort donors to support urban planning and development with they
have no leverage of the "growth machine" that profits from uncontrolled growth
in cities all over the world (see Sustainable Development and
"Oscar Ortiz, mayor of Santa Tecla
... a former guerrilla fighter ... took over as mayor for the FMLA ... says his office has
been left alone to provide for the hundreds of homeless." [A. Bounds
and R. Lapper, "Earthquake opens up some old divisions," Financial Times , 20
Jan. 2001, p. 3]
Note from Steve Bender, OAS ( http://www/oas.org)
As in the case of Haresh, I want to build
on Ben's communication and note that an open alternative to address the vulnerability
reduction of populations and their social and economic infrastructure to natural hazards
is to continue to tie vulnerability issues directly to economic development, particularly
at the national and regional scale since development loans and programs are set at those
levels, and through sectoral mechanisms.
To that end, I am enclosing information about the upcoming Hemispheric Conference on
Vulnerability of Reduction of Trade Corridors to Socio- Natural Disasters (TCC), organized
by the OAS, to look at the linkages of
the agriculture, energy and transportation sectors to national and regional development
through the perspective of trade corridors, such as the Central America Pan American
Highway, which was severely impacted by the earthquake.
Please consider your participation and I would be glad to answer any questions you might
have, or they can be directed to Laura Acquaviva <firstname.lastname@example.org>
at the TCC secretariat. I apologize if you have previously received this information and
already acted on it.
To carry through with international declarations in 2000 that disaster reduction is a
development problem entails linking disaster management issues to high profile development
"The task of rebuilding 75,000
houses fully or partially destroyed is 'a massive challenge,' said deputy housing Minister
"'I have traveled through dozens of
communities and villages and the scene is the same: homes are in ruins,' he told AFP,
adding: 'We have no option but to ask for aid.'
"Even before the crisis, El Salvador, with a population of 6.1 million
people, had a shortage of half a million houses, according to official estimates."
[AFP, 19 January 2001, emphasis added]
"There has been some criticism
leveled at the government - that they have being giving priority to the population base of
its own political party rather than targeting on a needs basis." [Ros O'Sullivan,
Concern (Ireland), 19 January 2001]
"Salvador's former leftist rebel group Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, now
a political party, called on Congress to revoke a recent law making the US dollar legal
tender in El Salvador.
'We ... ask that the dollarization (of the economy) be rolled back, because we feel the
measure is making the uncertainty and confusion caused by the earthquake even worse,' FMLN
leader Leonel Gonzalez told AFP." [AFP, 18 Jan. 2001]
"...rebuilding will cost $1billion , or 50% of the budget. But budget approval has
been held up because the main opposition, the former guerrillas of the FLMN, want more
flexibility in spending. For that reason, they have also called on Mr. Flores t o suspend
a newly-introduced plan to adopt the dollar as currency." ["Lessons from El
Salvador's tragedy," The Economist, 20-26 January, 2001, p. 31]
Of course houses and infrastructure need
to be rebuilt, but how and in what economic context? What is also required is a national
dialogue on the meaning of "development", an open discussion that begins with
human needs and does not take the dogmas of neoliberalism for granted. In Nicaragua, for
example, the two years since Mitch have seen the evolution of such a new vision of a
possible future, articulated by 350 non-governmental groups involved in recovery work.
These groups represent a wide cross-section of the population and of sectors (see CCER web
"Inter-American Development Bank
President Enrique V. Iglesias and the president of the Coordination Center for the
Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America, Claudio Gutiérrez Huete, today signed
documents that provide $1,410,000 in nonreimbursable financing to strengthen the capacity
of six countries of the Central American Isthmus to prevent or mitigate the most
devastating effects of natural disasters. [IAB, 4 August 1999]
Has there been an annual review of that
has been accomplished with this investment? It's been more than a year. There are minimal
things that one might expect: protection for schools and hospitals, identification of
landslide hazard (as mentioned earlier), protection of life line infrastructure. What's
been accomplished? ( See http://www.cepredenac.org/)
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