The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan are extending a $3 million grant to Bhutan to rebuild damaged schools using earthquake-resilient materials and designs which could potentially be replicated around the country.
The grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction for the Upgrading Schools and Integrated Disaster Education Project will be used to reconstruct four primary schools which were severely damaged in a devastating earthquake that struck the country in September 2009. Funds will also be used to train district engineers in earthquake-resilient building design and construction quality management, and to teach disaster risk management skills to community members.
“By introducing a seismic resistant structural design into the Ministry of Education’s standard school design, the project will enable the Government to easily replicate it when building other schools,” said Makiko Watanabe, Rural Development Specialist in ADB’s South Asia Department
Bhutan lies in one of the most seismically active zones in the world and the 2009 earthquake was the most damaging natural disaster the country has experienced in recent times, with 12 people killed and thousands left without proper shelter. Among the worst hit areas were the districts of Mongar and Trashigang, two of the most remote and impoverished areas in the country. The Government of Bhutan and development partners provided swift assistance in the immediate aftermath of the calamity but without longer term support, including the rebuilding of damaged schools and other public facilities, there are concerns that already poor communities will be plunged even deeper into poverty.
The project is taking a ‘build back better’ approach which will see the four target schools restored using earthquake-resilient materials and design. Where possible, local materials will be sourced while private contractors doing the construction work will be encouraged to hire members of the affected communities, including women. Participating community members will also be taught earthquake resilient construction techniques that could potentially be applied to communal buildings or their own homes. Disaster risk management skills will be taught to district government officials and teachers and school administrators, who will in turn provide community training aimed at increasing awareness and ensuring effective responses to calamities.
“By providing disaster risk management training, communities will be prepared to proactively cope with future disasters,” Ms. Watanabe said.
The project is expected to benefit about 880 students and teachers at the affected schools and around 9,000 residents of neighboring communities.
Along with the ADB-administered grant, the Government of Bhutan will make an in-kind contribution of almost $824,000 with target communities providing $14,400 in-kind, for an overall investment cost of almost $3.84 million. The Ministry of Education is the executing agency for the project which is expected to be completed by August 2013.