Preparing Indonesia prepare for disasters

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- Indonesia now better equipped legally and institutionally to respond to natural disasters

- World Bank shared knowledge on international best practice for damage and loss assessment with National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB)

- World Bank ready to provide technical support to government-led initiatives for damage and loss assessment and recovery planning

Once again, Indonesia is stricken by disaster. By now, it has become public knowledge that an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale rocked West Sumatra, killing an estimated 1,100 people and leaving thousands more trapped in rubble. This marks the largest disaster to strike Sumatra Island since a tsunami devastated parts of Aceh province in 2004.

In the case of Aceh, the World Bank's role in helping with the reconstruction and rehabilitation effort has been well documented. Drawing from its experience in facilitating community-driven development, the World Bank supported the efforts of the Aceh Reconstruction Authority (BRR) and other partners to help Acehnese communities redesign and rebuild their homes, as well as remap the very lay-out of their communities. Homes were made quake-proof, local facilities were improved - Aceh was built back better by the Acehnese themselves. Refining the lessons learned from Aceh, an even better and less expensive community-led response was applied in the aftermath of the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake which killed 7,000 people.

Indonesia itself is on much stronger footing - legally and institutionally - as it enters this new cycle. In 2007, Indonesia issued Law No.24 on Disaster Management which sets the legal framework for the coordination of disaster management efforts, the management of related funds, as well as the involvement of international agencies and NGOs. In 2008, Indonesia established the National Agency for Disaster Management (Badan Penanggulangan Bencana Nasional or BNPB), replacing and revamping the former National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Management (Badan Kordinasi Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana). The new agency's mandate extends beyond coordinating emergency relief efforts to encompass all phases of pre-disaster prevention and preparedness and post-disaster recovery. The fact that fatalities and damages in the last string of earthquakes were still high demonstrates the challenge in prevention, but at the same time the opportunity to build more resilient communities through reconstruction.

In helping strengthen the BNPB, the World Bank shared knowledge on methods of estimating damage and loss - often the first thing the World Bank helps out with after a natural disaster, to get a clearer picture of recovery and reconstruction needs. The standard methodology for damage and loss assessment (often referred to as DaLA) was first developed in the 1970s by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC), and has since been strengthened, simplified and customized for application in different parts of the world. The methodology looks at:

- how much it would cost to replace the physical assets that were totally or partially destroyed

- how much an economy stands to lose as a result of the damaged assets and disrupted activities

- how a disaster would ultimately affect a country's economic growth, its government's fiscal position and balance of payments, and more importantly the people's livelihood

The BNPB's newly acquired knowledge in damage and loss assessment was immediately put to use in March 2009 when the dam surrounding Situ Gintung - an artificial lake on the outskirts of Jakarta - burst due to heavy rains and poor maintenance, flooding a nearby residential area and killing 98 people. Collaborating with the Muhammadiyah University (run by Indonesia's second largest Islamic organization), the BNPB coordinated the first government-led damage and loss assessment effort since its establishment.

Disaster then struck again in September 2009, when 7.0 magnitude quake in West Java killed 79 people and displaced over 210,000 others. By this time, BNPB was ready to take charge of the DaLA.

"At the time of the West Java earthquake, the BNPB had already begun training local governments on assessing damage, losses and early recovery needs like providing temporary shelter, education and health facilities, as well as long term recovery efforts," said Iwan Gunawan, the World Bank's Disaster Risk Management Adviser in Jakarta. "The Indonesian Government did not seek international assistance on this disaster considering its relatively modest magnitude and impact and the increasing capacity of BNPB and the local governments "

Given the severity of the West Sumatra quake, however, Indonesia has opened its doors to international assistance while still maintaining a strong leadership and coordinating role. Following discussions with BNPB and the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), the World Bank will be providing technical support to government-led initiatives for damage and loss assessment and recovery planning.