Reducing risk and preparing communities for disasters in South and Central Asia
Working with local governments and communities, AKAH implements a wide range of disaster risk reduction (DRR) programmes across Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Syria, and Tajikistan. DRR programmes include hazard, risk and vulnerability assessments; disaster preparedness education; emergency response and search and rescue training; and structural mitigation projects for all levels of community and institutional structures, such as building flood retaining walls, riverbank and slope stabilization, reinforcing bridges and roads, avalanche protection measures, and constructing debris flow channels.
In partnership with local communities, AKAH has also relocated or retrofitted vulnerable buildings in regions of seismic risk - such as schools and health facilities - as well as built safe havens and created stockpiles of vital relief supplies for use by local communities.
By investing in the training of local community-based professionals and volunteers, AKAH is able to increase local capacity, particularly in remote high mountain areas. Through its DRR programmes, AKAH empowers vulnerable communities to respond to emergencies immediately and without relying solely on external humanitarian aid. Trained community volunteers are the first responders in the event of a disaster, capitalising on their local knowledge of the terrain, language and culture.
Emergency Management teams have conducted hazard, vulnerability and risk assessments for nearly 2,500 villages and supported communities to develop village disaster management plans based on these assessments. They also work to improve preparedness through weather monitoring posts and Early Warning Systems (EWS) monitoring avalanche, mudslide and flood risks. AKAH maintains a network of over 30,000 active volunteers for disaster response and management, providing them regular training on emergency response, first aid and search and rescue.
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) wins World Habitat Awards “Gold Award”
Integrating indigenous knowledge and technology for safer habitat
According to the World Bank, Pakistan is one of the most disaster-prone countries in South Asia, having suffered an estimated $18 billion in damages and losses during the past decades. The northern mountainous areas – home to some of the most disadvantaged and isolated people in the country – are subject to earthquakes, floods and many other hazards that have caused mass-scale damage in recent years. The remoteness of these areas also poses difficulties for preparedness and response efforts.
Population growth, climate change and increasing environmental degradation make future disasters more likely. Several international and national agencies work on disaster preparedness and response in Pakistan, and this has increased since the floods that affected the country in 2010. However, there are few examples of village or community level hazard, vulnerability and risk assessments (HVRAs) as a planning tool for disaster preparedness, response, rehabilitation and development.
Integrating indigenous knowledge and technology for safer habitat was set up by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan (AKAH Pakistan) to integrate disaster-risk prevention into habitat planning and development projects at village and community levels. The project uses residents’ local knowledge together with Geographic Information System (GIS) data to map risks by using satellite images and advanced risk-mapping tools. It also provides training and enables residents to build homes in safer areas using construction techniques which mitigate future disaster risks.
This is a unique approach to disaster risk reduction in Pakistan. The proactive approach of promoting hazard, vulnerability and risk assessments (HVRAs) for planning – and not only for mitigation measures – enables communities to take control, reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid and be self-reliant, reducing risks and adapting to the impacts of the climate emergency.
The project in practice
The project educates and works with communities to build better and safer homes in safer areas and to develop and implement their village disaster-management plans, including structural and non-structural mitigation measures at local levels.
In developing the HVRAs, residents and community organisations actively participate in data collection and knowledge-sharing, including evaluation of local disaster history, identification of areas where people live or work, and collection of demographic data. The maps and findings are used to create community-based village disaster management plans.
The HVRAs influence both the planning and implementation of risk-reduction measures, such as the construction of gabion walls. They are also used to identify safer sites for temporary shelters following disasters.
Fifty villages have been identified as ‘high-risk’, due to the regular occurrence of disasters. Therefore, relocating people from these settlements is considered the most viable option. AKAH Pakistan, together with local communities and civil society organisations, is working on developing a comprehensive relocation programme.
The maps are also shared with various government agencies and civil society organisations as tools for their planning and development programmes. AKAH Pakistan has links with academic institutions and is currently working with the Karakoram International University to educate students on participatory hazard and risk assessment, and HVRA mapping.
While the use of HVRAs is not unique to this project, AKAH Pakistan has been innovative in integrating indigenous knowledge in the process, enabling communities to play a central role, and using HVRAs not only for disaster risk reduction, but also for habitat and development planning and sustainable development. The project is, however, unique in implementing HVRAs at micro-level, in villages and communities.
Social and environmental impact
To date, AKAH Pakistan has conducted HVRAs in 785 settlements, mostly in the mountain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral regions – home to more than one million people. The project has provided more than 20,000 households with technical assistance in maintaining and improving their homes, constructed over 4,000 shelters for internally displaced people, and created more than 280 community disaster management plans.
Over 50,000 community volunteers have been trained across Pakistan in community-based disaster risk management. Alongside AKAH Pakistan, they have responded to over 200 disasters and, through the use of HVRAs, identified 50 extremely hazard prone settlements for relocation. AKAH Pakistan has also established 190 community-managed emergency stockpiles, which include tents, blankets, search and rescue tools and first aid kits.
In addition, they have installed 52 community-based weather monitoring posts and four early warning systems. These alert communities of the need for temporary evacuation, saving lives from avalanches and floods.
AKAH Pakistan has used the HVRAs to inform its habitat planning activities for its Multi-Input Resettlement Program (MIRP) housing project, which is part of its longer-term relief efforts after 2010’s floodings and Attabad landslide. Through this project, AKAH has constructed 370 houses on safer sites in Hunza, Gilgit, Ghizer, and Chitral, for internally displaced people. They have also constructed over 100 community buildings – including schools, health centres and community facilities – in safe zones identified using HVRA maps and assessment reports.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority has recognised, encouraged, and also incorporated HVRA as a best-practice measure. AKAH Pakistan has also contributed to the National Disaster Management Plan and helped shape community-based disaster risk management guidelines.
Since its beginnings as a research activity to produce a pilot map for a district in northern Pakistan, the project has been improved by developments in science and technology as well as through the knowledge and input of communities, and has been scaled-up to reach almost 800 villages in Pakistan.
AKAH Pakistan plans to further expand the scale and scope of the project to oversee more sustainable and safer habitat planning in Pakistan and increase the use of HVRAs among local communities to promote their incorporation into:
land-use planning and management;
housing and infrastructure development;
natural resources management;
agricultural and forest management;
emergency management; and
disaster risk reduction.
By the end of 2025, AKAH Pakistan plans to have conducted and updated over 2,000 HVRAs across Pakistan.
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat wins World Habitat Awards Gold Award
Islamabad, Pakistan, 3 December 2020 - The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) won the World Habitat Awards 2020 Gold Award today for its “Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Technology for Safer Habitat” project.
In the winning project, AKAH pioneered the use of Hazard Vulnerability and Risk Assessments (HVRAs), which integrate science, technology and local knowledge for disaster risk management and sustainable habitat planning and development.
Reflecting the importance of this work, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, Chair of AKDN’s Environment and Climate Committee, said: “For decades the AKDN has been working with vulnerable communities to improve quality of life and reduce disaster risk. Today in the face of the climate crisis, understanding and mitigating these risks is even more urgent. Only by helping these communities adapt and thrive in harmony with their often-precarious habitat can we hope to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, said: “UN-Habitat commends 'Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Technology for Safer Habitat' because of its community-based planning and risk management approach, integrating local knowledge. This is very much in line with UN-Habitat’s belief that when developing, formulating and implementing tools, policies and programmes, we should place people at the centre of our thinking and action.”
One of the judges of the award, Leilani Farha, Global Director of The Shift, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said: “This project, led by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan, is the embodiment of a human rights approach to climate change adaptation policies. This novel project manages to combine indigenous knowledge, community involvement and technological advancements to ensure resilient, sustainable communities capable of living in dignity, security and peace amidst the rising threat of climate-induced disasters.”
AKAH’s technical experts conduct hazard vulnerability and risk assessments using satellite data and geographic information system technologies together with participatory on-site assessments to help communities understand, map and plan for the risks they face.
The project combines local and scientific knowledge in order to assess hazards, map risks, determine residential and economic zones, and develop disaster management and habitat plans. AKAH geologists use remote-sensing and geographic information system (GIS) technologies and risk-scoring tools, combined with participatory risk assessment and community knowledge, to develop plans for safer habitats.
Nawab Ali Khan, Chief Executive Officer, of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat in Pakistan, said that, “Winning this Gold Award is an honour for AKAH and gives us added motivation to do more for building safer communities and safer habitats. We at AKAH value the trust and engagement of the communities and volunteers we work with and the support of our local and international donors and partners who believe in our work integrating emergency planning and preparedness and habitat planning for climate change adaptation in Pakistan”.
In Pakistan, AKAH conducts HVRAs – for nearly 800 settlements that cover over one million people – with robust risk mapping and monitoring capacities and development planning. The Agency has also provided technical assistance on safer and greener home improvements to more than 20,000 households while constructing over 4,000 shelters for internally displaced people. AKAH has also trained over 50,000 local volunteers in Pakistan in community-based disaster risk management. The volunteers have responded to over 200 disaster events.
Onno Rühl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, "Our mission is to empower communities living on the frontlines of climate change to not only survive but thrive despite the growing risks they face. Integrating deep community engagement with scientific data, we help communities understand and manage disaster risk to be able to plan for a better future. We are honoured by the recognition of the World Habitat Awards and proud to promote solutions that help vulnerable communities adapt to climate risk.”
Extension and seismic retrofitting of Diamond Jubilee High School, Immit. Data from the HVRAs on high-risk and safe zones is used to reinforce, protect and relocate critical infrastructure. Thanks to these efforts more than 100 schools, health centres and community buildings have been made safer and built in secure areas.
For more information:
Today the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan AKAH won the World Habitat Awards 2020 Gold Award for its work helping vulnerable communities in Pakistan manage disaster risk and plan for a better future, using hazard vulnerability and risk assessments. Combining the latest scientific insights with the power of a community that is prepared, AKAH has helped set up plans for nearly 800 villages in Pakistan, reaching over one million people.
“For decades the AKDN has been working with vulnerable communities to improve quality of life and reduce disaster risk. Today in the face of the climate crisis, understanding and mitigating these risks is even more
Editor and Animator: Sameed Makhani
Line Editor: Shariq Saleem
Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, 1 February 2021 – Better Shelter, a Swedish social enterprise working with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat on emergency and transitional housing solutions, has launched a low-cost emergency shelter which can be upgraded with local materials.
“Structure” was developed to offer a shelter that provides immediate protection in emergencies, but also the possibility to be locally upgraded at a later stage - thereby increasing its lifespan and resilience among displaced communities. “Structure”, which employs the prefabricated modular steel frame used by Better Shelter, can be transformed into an emergency shelter by draping it in standard sized tarpaulin sheets. It can be made more durable as a longer-term transitional shelter by covering the frame in locally available material.
In Tajikistan’s Rushan district, workers fix the wall frame in place and apply the outer coverings of Better Shelter’s “Structure”.
During 2020, the Better Shelter team piloted “Structure” together with Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and with SEEDS in India. The shelters have been put to the test with tarpaulins as well as different types of locally sourced and adapted materials. In 2021, Better Shelter will scale up the aim to provide “Structure” for 10,000 families.
“’Structure’ combines the dependability of a standardised shelter and the adaptability of a local solution. In an ideal world all emergency response would be local. But when assisting the hardest-to-reach individuals in the most difficult types of situations, prefabricated shelter remains the final safety net,” says Johan Karlsson, Managing Director, Better Shelter.
“Better Shelter is working with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) to innovate how to shelter people who have lost their homes due to natural disasters in the high mountains of Asia,” said Onno Rühl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat. “We want to stop using tents in these harsh environments and instead upgrade Structure frames to provide winter ready temporary shelters. This will enable the communities we serve to have a better quality of life while we work to provide them with permanent homes.”
In parallel, Better Shelter is launching a consumer-focused fundraising platform for the 235 million people who will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021. Currently 80 million people across the world are displaced and the changing climate is expected to displace more people in the coming decades. The fundraising platform is at https://createstructure.org/ where contributors can support displaced communities by funding an entire or a part of a Structure.
“Moving Together”: AKAH, MIT and KVA MATx work on voluntary relocation planning in Tajikistan
Aerial view of Basid village in Tajikistan.
Relocation planning and design case study on exhibit at La Biennale di Venezia
Bartang Valley, Tajikistan, 22 May 2021 – To develop solutions to help vulnerable and disaster-affected communities plan for a better future, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the design firm KVA MATx collaborated on a case study on voluntary relocation. AKAH, MIT’s Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA), the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism (LCAU) and KVA MATx have been invited to exhibit the project at Giardini, Central Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia curated by Hashim Sarkis.
Disasters caused by the changing climate are destroying the homes, villages and livelihoods of millions of people leaving them with nowhere safe to go. Too often these families face long-term displacement, continued vulnerability or migration. While the priority after a disaster is to rebuild and return home, sometimes it is not safe to go back to the same site or even the entire village. Yet giving up ancestral lands and relocating an entire community is complicated with risks of its own that need to be carefully studied and addressed.
The AKAH, MIT and KVA MATx partnership set out to look at how planning expertise and community engagement can overcome these challenges. The partners looked at Basid village, located in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast of Tajikistan, to develop a model for voluntary relocation planning. The mountain village faces an extraordinary array of natural hazards, including rockfall, mudflow, flooding, avalanche and earthquake. Located under Lake Sarez, an unstable glacial lake, the village was struck by massive mudflows in 2010, which wiped away many homes and farms and an earthquake in 2015 that caused devasting damage. Fortunately, there is a nearby safe place (the Khabust) where the people of Basid can and want to move. They asked AKAH to help them plan this resettlement.
Biennale Moving Together exhibition - World map
Onno Ruhl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, stated: “Over 90 percent of Tajikistan is mountainous and about half of the country’s territory is at 3,000 metres or higher and exposed to multiple natural hazards. As natural disasters become more frequent and severe due to climate change, solutions to help communities rebuild and, when necessary, relocate are essential. The AKAH Habitat Planning Framework gives agency to displaced people to plan for a safer and better future.”
The Basid case study combines the community’s own skills and knowledge with data-driven analysis and best practices in urban planning and design from AKAH, MIT and KVA MATx, to develop a model for participatory relocation planning. It brings world-class planning to a remote mountain village.
Building on AKAH’s Habitat Planning Framework and Hazard & Vulnerability Risk Assessments, the AKAH, MIT and KVA MATx team, together with the community, identified four main design challenges: improving access; providing a water supply; enriching the land through soil and vegetation conservation; and creating safe village layout options.
James Wescoat Jr., Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Geography at MIT, said: “The Basid Case Study shows the importance of close linkages between research, planning and design. Basid faces myriad challenges, from frequent rockfall to episodic flooding and uncertainties associated with the natural dam upstream at Lake Sarez. So, it is important to create a voluntary relocation case study that encompasses as many of the determinants, design components and options as possible for a secure life on the plateau and with continuing productive uses of the floodplain.” A complex and multi-hazard challenge calls for a multi-sectoral yet streamlined approach to habitat planning that unites data-driven decision-making and the community’s vision and voice.
The team used AKAH’s Habitat Assessment approach – which included drone photography and GIS data and analysis to determine safe sites, map hazards and assess other environmental and geo-spatial data important for planning including solar exposure, topography, water, vegetation, soil analysis, etc. Community participation is integral to AKAH’s habitat planning process and the team engaged with residents and community leaders to identify needs and promising programming and engineering concepts. They conducted collective design sessions in the field, which MIT and KVA MATx further developed into a set of design options and recommendations for a phased relocation.
The case study proposes a range of design options that can be implemented incrementally starting with immediate emergency measures and moving through to complete long-term relocation. Measures include transplanting fertile river soil up to the new village site; designing homes and farms for the best orientation relative to sun, wind and water exposure; sustainable planting strategies; tree plantation to stabilise slopes and terraced fields as well as other disaster risk reduction strategies including seismically resistant construction or even a Community Drone Port to transport medicine and food in times of emergency.
The case study is being featured at La Biennale di Venezia (the Venice Biennale) this year. This year, La Biennale looks at the question of “How will we live together?” focusing on the new challenges that climate change brings to architecture, on the role of public space in the recent urban uprisings, on the new techniques of reconstruction and the changing forms of collective building. The Basid relocation study looks at how communities can move together peacefully, justly and productively with self-governance, recognising that with the increase in climate induced disasters “living together” will often mean “moving together”.
To develop solutions to help vulnerable and disaster-affected communities plan for a better future, the #AgaKhan Agency for Habitat, the @Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the design firm KVA MATx collaborated on a case study on resilient, equitable and voluntary community relocation for Basid village in the Pamirs of #Tajikistan. The case study combines the community’s own skills and knowledge with data-driven analysis and best practices in #urbanplanning and design to develop a model for participatory relocation planning. It brings world-class planning to a remote mountain village. This project is featured at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia from 22 May 2021 to 21 November 2021.
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat and Tajikistan partner to open an urban planning and design lab
Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 19 August 2021 - The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan’s Committee of Architecture and Construction that will include measures for increased hazard mitigation, strategic densification and climate change adaptation for a city of 31,000 residents.
A key component of the agreement will be to update the 2010 Khorog Town Plan to include resilience components, part of a collaboration between the Committee of Architecture, UN-Habitat, AKAH and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
The Resilient Khorog Town Plan will be linked to an investment plan, leading to increased economic growth for the city as the population is expected to double over the next 20 years. The aim is to provide a model for resilient town plans in high mountain settlements, which can be replicated across Tajikistan, or in other parts of Central Asia.
The collaboration will support the Committee of Architecture in the areas of sustainable urban planning, resilience projects and rural planning. The Agreement is signed under the Khorog Urban Resilience Programme, a five-year partnership between the Government of Tajikistan, the international community and the people of Khorog to build long-term resilience for Khorog and for the people of Tajikistan.
Further areas of collaboration include capacity building to develop the technical expertise for modern, sustainable and resilient town planning, including tools for city action and resilience planning. AKAH and SECO are supporting with software and hardware for town plan development; city financial planning; demographic capacity assessments; planning for climate change adaptation for cities; and green construction processes. AKAH and the Committee of Architecture are collaborating on the “My Vision for Khorog” Competition, designed to gather community views on the development for the next 30 years, as Tajikistan celebrates the 30th anniversary of independence this year.
The new urban planning and design lab will promote green disaster mitigation measures, such as using gabion boxes filled with local rocks to stabilise slopes and riverbanks. AKAH is training local communities in gabion weaving techniques.
Welcoming the partnership, the Chairman for the Committee of Architecture and Construction, noted: “Tajikistan has a long history of urban planning. We are honoured to have partners like AKAH and the Government of Switzerland who are willing to share their knowledge, technical expertise and support to address some of the challenges facing Tajikistan. We look forward to fruitful collaboration.”
Richard Chenevard, Deputy Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office in Tajikistan noted: "The Khorog Urban Resilience Programme is a very ambitious endeavour not only because of its intrinsic complexity but also because it aims at defining very long-term objectives. It prepares the future with and for the people involving experts and highly dedicated partners at government, oblast and city level. Switzerland, through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), is proud for being part of this challenging journey and looks forward to this renewed long-term relationship with Khorog and with the Republic of Tajikistan.”
Hadi Husani, the CEO of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat applauded the historic partnership, noting that urbanisation is increasing, and “this brings great potential for climate friendly economic development for greater economic growth. However, with the growing impact of climate change and natural hazards, resilient urban planning is even more important than before. With the support of the Committee of Architecture and Construction, the Government of Tajikistan and the strong partnership with the Government of Switzerland, we will transform Khorog, and other towns in Tajikistan into resilient cities, improving the quality of life for future generations”.
AKDN and EU partner for disaster and health preparedness in Gilgit-Baltistan
Pakistan, Islamabad, 23 August 2021 - The Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan Agency for Habitat launched a partnership with the European Union (EU) that will reach 74,000 people in four districts of Gilgit-Baltistan: Diamer, Astore, Karmang and Shigar.
The project will enable communities and health authorities to anticipate and respond to natural hazards and emergencies including COVID-19. To be implemented by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan, the 18-month project will address the immediate needs of at-risk communities by building knowledge, systems, and capacity at the institutional and community levels.
The project targets 30 villages through a community driven approach. To enhance community disaster preparedness, AKAH will form and train Village Disaster Risk Management Committees and first responder teams; develop Village Disaster Risk Management Plans to enable communities to take pre-emptive measures to protect themselves and their assets; and preposition stockpiles of emergency supplies in the most vulnerable and remote locations.
At the institutional level, AKF and AKAH, P will strengthen the physical and personnel asset base at seven Tehsil Headquarter hospitals by building capacities of health staff and first responders using integrated training modules on emergency preparedness, response, and management; conducting mass casualty management planning; providing medical first responder kits; and rehabilitating water and sanitation facilities to ensure adequate functionality in the case of mass casualty incidents. The project will directly benefit 74,000 people (48% female), including local communities, vulnerable groups, and health workers.
In his remarks, Akhtar Iqbal, Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation, Pakistan, remarked that “this project will build on a long-standing partnership between the Aga Khan Foundation and the EU to address humanitarian needs in vulnerable and remote communities in Pakistan”. He went on to say that the partnership will allow AKF and AKAH “to strengthen disaster resilience at the grassroots by developing local understanding of disaster preparedness and ownership of community-anchored coping strategies. This, in turn, will be complemented with a targeted effort to strengthen the ability of our institutions, particularly the health system, to respond to disasters. We hope that this project will contribute positively towards furthering the Government of Pakistan’s development agenda on climate action”.
Talking about the joint partnership, Nawab Ali Khan, Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan, said that “this partnership will help save lives through well-planned early adaptation actions thereby enhancing the resilience of at-risk communities and relevant authorities in four highly vulnerable districts of Gilgit-Baltistan. Risk mapping and village disaster risk management planning activities will help reduce disaster risk and advance broader habitat planning in the years to come”.
The project will complement an existing partnership between agencies of AKDN and EU that was designed to respond to COVID-19 in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral.
This event – to celebrate the winners of the 2020 World Habitat Awards (run in partnership between World Habitat and UN-Habitat) and the Outstanding Contribution to Housing Award – will provide an opportunity to discover and analyse the processes, lessons and solutions to three of the biggest housing challenges, from three remarkable organisations.
The event will feature the two World Habitat Award Gold winners: Newcastle City Council, UK and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan.
Also featured will be the winners of the Outstanding Contribution to Housing Award – presented by World Habitat for the first time – which recognises the work of youth-led organisation TECHO.
Representatives from these organisations will be joined by a select group of global housing experts.
All times are GMT - 5 Hours Goto page Previous1, 2
Page 2 of 2
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum