Reconstruction and Recovery Planning of Key Infrastructure Sectors After Disasters

As infrastructure sector suffers from the highest level of damage and loss, planning its recovery is critical to economic recovery. At present, most countries focus on systematic post-disaster recovery of infrastructure sectors only after major disasters. Small and medium scale events also cause incremental damage and degradation of infrastructure leading not only to direct loss of capital assets but also productivity losses. This calls for predictable mechanisms for systematically assessing damages and losses to financing infrastructure recovery after disasters of varying magnitudes.

The essential steps involved in planning recovery are assessment of damage and loss, identification of recovery needs, preparation of sector recovery plans, and allocation of resources. Each of these steps could be improved through capacity-building at the national level. A greater attention to assessment methodology can improve infrastructure recovery planning. Reconstruction and recovery in infrastructure sectors must follow the “Build Back Better” principle for multiple hazards. The principle needs to be applied not only for the structural design of the infrastructure but also in management systems.

Furthermore, recovery could be used as an opportunity to improve the quality and standards of infrastructure. Developing improved specifications (seismic and wind-resistant features, improved natural drainage, and greater redundancy) can lead to resilience of infrastructure. Introducing these features require planned interventions and additional resources, which could come through a risk informed recovery planning. The session needs to consider different aspects of recovery needs assessment, recovery planning and implementation for improved resilience.

A disaster risk financing framework can involve:

  1. Risk retention that involves government budget reserves, calamity funds and contingent credit facilities.
  2. Risk transfer through government and private insurance and reinsurance markets, catastrophe bonds and other insurance-linked securities
  3. Post-disaster budget allocations —mostly external assistance.

Key questions:

  1. How do we improve the reporting of medium scale and smaller disasters? How can loss assessments be improved to take into consideration gradual degradation due to such events?
  2. How do we identify critical infrastructure? How can we increase the likelihood that critical infrastructure services are recovered and resumed rapidly following a disaster?
  3. How do we resolve the tension between providing essential services quickly, and ‘building back better’? What are the measures to establish good contingency planning to ease this?
  4. How can countries make coherent disaster recovery financing strategies to ensure that liquid funds are reliably available at the appropriate levels of government recovery and reconstruction?
  5. How can decisions on retaining and transferring risk be rationalised?
  6. How can we institutionalize the learning process after each disaster?

Recommendations from IWDRI 2018

Small and medium scale disasters

At present, most countries focus on systematic post-disaster recovery of infrastructure sectors only after major disasters. More predictable mechanisms are needed to account for damages, degradation and productivity losses due to small and medium-scale events.

Build Back Better

The concept of “Build Back Better” highlights the importance of having a combination of structural, non-structural (social and economic) measures for faster recovery and achieve the SDGs. As infrastructure are interconnected, their reconstruction must be discussed at a regional-level to account for downstream risk creation and capacities must be built at the local level to manage reconstruction activities.

Standardised reporting methods

A standardized format for estimation of post-disaster damages, losses, and replacement costs is essential. There is a need to move away from pure "restoration of services"  to "resilience focused reconstruction. Hence, alternative models of financing recovery such as private sector participation, selling of reconstruction bonds, and the setting up of intergovernmental risk pools must be explored. Environmental impact assessments encourage reduction in creation of new risks, the different approaches to rural and urban reconstruction projects and the incorporation of business continuity related indicators in the resilience building process.

Owner-driven reconstruction

Post-disaster reconstruction is an opportunity for incorporating resilience during the process of reconstruction. An owner-driven reconstruction programme will help greater impetus for mainstreaming risk awareness and resilient practices. An inclusive approach for recovery and reconstruction is crucial for ensuring the needs of the most vulnerable sections of the population, such as the poor, marginalized and persons with disabilities, are effectively incorporated.

Psychology of decision making

Uncertainty, complexity and volatility are factors that challenge decision making in post-disaster contexts. Additional complexities are added due to time pressure, changing preferences/ norms and cascading effects of infrastructure damage. Mapping and quantifying vulnerabilities of various industries to and failures aid in prioritization of decisions. The Humanitarian Decision Maker’s Anatomy helps understand the psychology of decision-makers in post-disaster contexts that must be able to account various interdependencies and fragmented/ volatile coordination.

Role of sub-national governments

Faster rebuilding processes require development and maintaining capacities of sub-national governments