1 Chapter 13 Disaster Risk Reduction in Megacities: Making the Most of Human and Social Capital Ben Wisner New Research on Old Questions This paper reports for the first time on the results of a comparative study of urban social vulnerability in four of the world s megacities Mexico City, Los Angeles, Manila, and Tokyo. Two other cities Mumbai and Johannesburg were also included, but their results will be analyzed in a separate paper. 1 The goal of the study was to elicit and compare from both municipal officials and representatives of civil society definitions of social vulnerability to disasters, sources of information about groups defined as vulnerable, and programs that reduce their vulnerability. The gap between municipality and civil society concerning the understanding of and approach to urban social vulnerability was the major focus of the study. The main research findings document a paradox. Municipalities and civil society appear to have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Municipalities have the technical expertise and finances required to provide social protection from natural hazards for socially vulnerable groups of people and to assist in increasing the capacity of such people for self-protection. However, municipalities lack detailed knowledge of these vulnerable groups and do not enjoy their trust. The situation of NGOs and other civil society organizations is the opposite. They possess detailed knowledge of vulnerable groups and they have their trust. Rational action theory (RAT) would suggest that partnership would therefore be in the best interest of both municipalities and civil society. The paradox arises because the study revealed many obstacles to that ideal collaboration. Removing these obstacles and providing additional incentives for collaboration between municipalities and civil society should be a priority if the vulnerability to disasters of a growing number of people in cities is to be addressed. Methods In each study city interviews were conducted with citizen-based groups and municipal administrators at the level of the constituent city level (e.g., the 23 central wards of Tokyo, 18 delegations of Mexico City s federal district, and 26 municipalities of the State of Mexico into which the metropolitan region sprawls to the North, etc.). Descriptions of methodology are available in Uitto (1998), Velasquez and others (1999), Takahashi (forthcoming), Wisner (2003a). In addition to the published papers and unpublished conference papers by these team members cited below, the author has drawn from interim and final project reports. 2 Background: The Growth and Hazardousness of Megacities The second half of the 20th century witnessed the rapid growth of very large cities. There have been primate cities and metropolises for centuries. However, these new urban regions megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants are relatively recent. The average size of the world s largest 100 cities increased from 2.1 million in 1950 to 5.1 million in One-sixth of the world s population lived in cities with more than a million inhabitants in In that year there were 12 cities with more than 10 million people. Worldwide in 1990 there were also 33 cities with five million or more inhabitants and 281 so-called million cities (Satterthwaite 1998). In developing countries, cities with more than 1 million people jumped six-fold between 1950 and Worldwide in 2000, the number of cities larger than 5 million was estimated to be 41 (IDNDR 1996; U.N. 1999). The United Nations believes this 181
2 182 Building Safer Cities: The Future of Disaster Risk number will rise to 59 by 2015, adding another 14 million people to the streets and homes in large cities (accounting for 21 percent of the world s urban growth) (U.N. 1999). In the same year, there were 19 cities with more than 10 million residents, a number believed likely to increase to 23 by The megacity poses special challenges for disaster risk reduction for a number of reasons. 3 First, there is their sheer scale and geographic complexity. They sprawl over large areas, and this alone makes the day-to-day monitoring of hazards and vulnerability difficult and adequate provision and protection of lifeline infrastructure problematic. These urban regions have grown over and incorporated a variety of pre-existing villages and towns. Therefore, street patterns are complicated, and interconnectivity within the whole region is a physical challenge for the transport system. The megacity is made up of a number of municipal jurisdictions, so coordinated administration in normal times or emergencies cannot be assumed. Second, there is the environmental impact, or footprint, of such large urban regions (Girardet 1992; 2000). These cities require large amounts of energy, water, food, and other inputs and create large amounts of solid, liquid, and gaseous effluent and waste heat. Sometimes these characteristics of the urban ecology of megacities (and other large cities) contribute directly to the exacerbation of a natural hazard. An example is the 1995 heat wave in Chicago described in the social anatomy of this event authored by Kleinenberg (2002). Seven hundred and thirty-one people (mostly poor and elderly) died. Another example is the mass movement of a mountain of refuse, triggered by intense rainfall, that killed 705 people at the Payatas solid waste site in the northeast of Manila in 2000 (Westfall 2001). 4 However, such environmental aspects as the provisioning of megacities with water and fuel and the removal of waste more commonly have an indirect rather than a direct effect on disaster risk. In an earthquake or flood, these lifelines can be broken. Secondary hazards such as natural gas fires or spillage of hazardous waste can result. Provision of safe water and even food for survivors can also be made more difficult. Third, many megacities are located in hazardous locations. These include coastal areas or river deltas, where storms and floods are common. Cities such as Manila, Mumbai, Caracas, and Havana are following a worldwide trend. Of the 14 cities with more than 10 million inhabitants in 1995, all but two have coastal locations and 17 of the largest 20 cities are located either on coasts or rivers (Mitchell 1999b: 29). The sprawling growth of some megacities has meant that some are subject to wild fires on their peripheries (Sydney, Los Angeles, Cape Town). Others are located in seismically active zones (Mexico City, Los Angeles, Istanbul, Tokyo) and sometimes near active volcanoes (Manila, Mexico City, Jakarta). Table 13.1 reviews the hazardous locations of several megacities. Table 13.1 Megacities at Risk (UNU Study Cities in Italics) Population City/ 2000 Conurbation (millions) Hazards to which Exposed Tokyo 26 Earthquake, flood Mexico City 18 Earthquake, flood, landslide Los Angeles 13 Earthquake, flood, wild fire, drought Lagos 13 Flood São Paulo 18 Landslide, flood Mumbai/Bombay 18 Flood, cyclone, earthquake Shanghai 13 Flood, cyclone, earthquake Calcutta 13 Cyclone, flood Jakarta 11 Earthquake, volcano Beijing 11 Earthquake, severe winter Manila 11 Flood, cyclone Johannesburg- 8 Flood, tornado Gauteng Notes: Population 2000 : Population estimates for the six UNU project megacities refer to the greater metropolitan urban regions. The source is the World Urbanization Prospects (U.N. 1999). These numbers are gross estimates. As Mitchell notes (1995: 509), It is impossible to be sure of the exact population of the world s largest cities. Among others: definitions of cities vary; municipality boundaries vary; the existence, frequency, and accuracy of urban censuses vary; and the rates of population change vary. Johannesburg-Gauteng : The new 2001 South African census results are not available at the time of writing. The last firm estimate of the population of Gauteng Province (essentially identical with the greater Johannesburg or Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeninging (PWV) urban industrial region was 7.4 million in 1996 (GPG 2001). Using the average African urban growth rate of 4.4 percent per year for calculated by U.N. (1999: 4), one can estimate between million in the year 2000, and a total population approaching 9 million in Since the end of apartheid in 1994, there has been a series of spatialadministrative reorganizations in and around South Africa s large cities, resulting in the case of greater Johannesburg of a consolidation of 51 municipalities into 15 (GPG 2002). Therefore, comparable data are difficult to obtain. Since the former PWV urban region (greater Johannesburg) already had 7.5 million inhabitants in 1990 (Wisner 1995: 337), use of the administrative area of Gauteng Province as a surrogate for the megacity may produce an underestimate. In short, it could well be that the greater Johannesburg megacity reached 10 million in Source: Adapted from United Nations 1999.
3 Disaster Risk Reduction in Megacities: Making the Most of Human and Social Capital 183 Finally, megacities are highly diverse socially. In them live some of the richest and poorest people on earth. There is typically significant linguistic, ethnic, and religious diversity, and there is usually a population of recent immigrants, some foreign, and some undocumented or illegal. Illegality and irregularity also can extend to the nonimmigrant population, where extensive squatter settlements have grown (Fernandes and Varley 1998). Social Capital and Urban Social Vulnerability Reduction It is this last characteristic of the megacity, its social diversity, that presents both problem and opportunity. A four-year study ( ) supported by the United Nations University revealed a rich mosaic of social networks, coping and support systems, and citizen-based initiatives in six megacities. However, this study also revealed that there was a large gap in understanding and approach to urban social vulnerability on the part of municipal officials and civil society groups. Often they carried out parallel or even conflicting risk-reduction activities. At the extreme there was sometimes animosity and distrust between them. Certainly in no case were the possible synergisms between civil society resources and those of the municipalities maximized. The study showed that municipalities had technical knowledge and financial resources that could benefit socially vulnerable groups of people, but they lacked detailed knowledge of these groups and were not trusted by them. By contrast, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other institutions and groups within civil society knew a great deal more about these groups of vulnerables (e.g., the homeless, the frail elderly, street children, the disabled, those in squatter settlements) and had their trust, but lacked the technical and financial resources. Cities need institutions of civil society to provide a bridge or interface between municipal administrations and the 600 million people (possibly closer to a billion) who live in unplanned, self-built, unserviced, and legally unrecognized settlements (Toepfer n.d; Lee 1994: 396). 5 The study discussed in this paper was an attempt to understand the obstacles in the way of improving that bridging function. Before entering into the detailed results of this study, several key terms require definition. Social capital is a term that comes from the so-called livelihood approach in development studies and development policy (Sanderson 2000). It is used here in two ways. First, more conventionally, social capital refers to the access to resources and information that households have by virtue of their noneconomic social relations with other people. These may be based on kinship, friendship, common religious adherence, membership in cultural and sports clubs, shared hometowns, etc. Studies of the ways households cope with the stress of drought, flood, and other hazards have shown that socially mediated access and mutual aid play an important part in coping strategies and, in turn, the resilience of livelihood systems (Blaikie and others 1994: 67 68). This is true in urban as well as rural circumstances. By extension, the term social capital is also used in a second way. To the extent that institutions of civil society such as NGOs and CBOs (citizen-based organizations) can provide a bridge between the formal agencies of disaster management in governments and urban dwellers, these institutions themselves form social capital. Despite some reservations, the term has been adopted as a shorthand for a wide variety of socially facilitated opportunities and capabilities (see below) for ease of communication with development policy experts. The phrase social capital has, indeed, been criticized as depoliticizing the essentially conflictual nature of development. Critics believe the term confuses the real differences in political and economic power in most societies between a minority elite who control the means of production and financial capital and the majority who may enjoy other capitals human, social, etc. (Harriss 2001). There are similar problems surrounding the use of the term human capital; however, again, for ease of communication with policymakers and for brevity, it refers to local knowledge of the built and natural environment and the skills, formally and informally acquired, that are collectively called capacity in disaster-management circles (see below). Vulnerability is a term that occurs with a general meaning in livelihood literature and a more precise significance in disaster management. The more general meaning refers to susceptibility to harm or loss due to external shocks or stresses on the livelihood system (e.g., extreme price swings such as the current coffee price decline, political regime changes, extreme natural events such
4 184 Building Safer Cities: The Future of Disaster Risk as drought or flood, seasonality, etc.). In this paper, and in the UNU study, a more precise definition was adopted. In words employed by the author and coauthors in 1994, By vulnerability, we mean the characteristics of a person or group in terms of their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of a natural hazard (Blaikie and others 1994: 9). The author understands and defines vulnerability as the absence or blockage of capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of a natural hazard. Others have juxtaposed vulnerability and capacity in this way (Anderson and Woodrow 1999; IFRC 1999). These capacities (in his work, Sen (1993) refers to them as capabilities ) include an array of skills, knowledge, and networks through which one gains access to information, knowledge, and material resources. In short, vulnerability/ capacity is a function of the livelihood system in its entirety, including social capital. In this approach, vulnerability makes up one of three components of disaster risk. In addition to vulnerability, there are hazards (an event in nature) and mitigation (measures taken by households or collectivities to reduce the impact of the hazard). 6 These four essential elements of disaster management and prevention are related in a systematic way. Risk (R) is a function of the frequency and magnitude of natural events, often called hazards (H), the vulnerability (or capacity) of people (V), and the ability of government agencies, other groups and institutions, or households to prevent or mitigate, and prepare for, hazard events (M, as the shorthand for all these activities, is usually mitigation ). These relationships can be expressed schematically: R = [H V] M. A final term that needs defining is civil society. This term is used to signify all institutions and organized activities in society that are nongovernmental and outside direct control of the government, political parties, and businesses. Nongovernmental organizations and citizen-based organizations are part of civil society. Megacity Profiles Comparing four of the UNU study megacities gives an impression of the range of geographic and socioeconomic conditions in them. Table 13.2 summarizes some striking similarities among these four large urban regions. First is their size. They all fall squarely into the strictest definition of megacity, with well over 10 million people in their metropolitan areas. They are all extensive, but Los Angeles far exceeds the others in sprawl, and has the lowest average density. The other three are densely populated, with Tokyo exceptionally so. Los Angeles is the youngest city region among them. The others are each twice as old, or nearly so, even dating Mexico City from the Spanish conquest and not from its Aztec origins (given in brackets). All four urban regions contain considerable floodprone flatlands, even though Mexico City is the only one without a coastal location. Three have over many years augmented their coasts with considerable landfill that shares with the drained lakebed under the historic center of Mexico City soil conditions subject to subsidence and liquefaction. In all cases, there are hills adjacent to or intermixed with these flatter parts. Therefore, despite their differences in climate, in all cases there are times in the year, or particular climate events, during which one can expect landslides. Social Vulnerability: Perception and Policy Comparisons in Four Megacities Despite these important similarities in the geography of hazardousness, the UNU study found different definitions or perceptions of who the highly vulnerable social groups are and what policies best address their needs. Two-by-two comparisons of the megacities reveal both convergence and difference. Before overall patterns and their policy implications are discussed, two such sets of comparisons will be presented: Mexico City versus Los Angeles and Manila versus Tokyo. Mexico City versus Los Angeles In Mexico City, the more detailed breakdown by age, gender, and socioeconomic status was generally thought by officials in the Delegations of the Federal District (DF) and the Municipalities of the Estado de Mexico to be an academic luxury of a rich country (see table 13.3). While a small number of respondents acknowledged that some of these groups face additional risks and problems
5 Disaster Risk Reduction in Megacities: Making the Most of Human and Social Capital 185 Table 13.2 Comparison of four megacities Characteristics Greater Los Angeles Metro Manila Greater Mexico City Metro Tokyo Population Size (000 km 2 ) Density (pop/ km 2 ) ,857 Age since foundation (years) (666) 398 Situation Coastal and Coastal peninsulas Inland valley on Coastal, running inland valleys between bays plateau north and west into hills Topography Mix of flood plain, Coastal plain, river Center over ancient Flat in much of canyon, coastal cliff, flood plain, hilly lakebed, many ward (Ku) area, and estuary to East ravines to North, more relief in West, and South, Tama area to flatter to Northeast West Climate Semi-arid Tropical Semi-arid Temperate Political and economic Regional economic Nationally primate Nationally primate Nationally primate importance role, Pacific Rim and sub-regional in economic and in economic and and Latin America, economic role political terms, political terms, Regional economic in Asia regional economic world an regional and political role in U.S. role in the Americas economic center Percent poor Percent in informal settlement or illegal migrant Natural hazards Earthquake, fire, Earthquake, flood, Earthquake, flood, Earthquake, flood, flood, landslide landslide, typhoon landslide typhoon Last major disasters Northridge earthquake Payatas garbage dump Earthquake 1985 Earthquake and 1994; wildfires 1995 flood, fire, and landslide fire Sources: Manila and Tokyo: Fuchs and others (1994), Lo and Yeung (1996), Tayag (1999), Velasquez and others (1999); Tokyo: Takahashi (1998; 1999; 2003), Tokyo Metropolitan Government (1995); Manila: Tayag (1999); Mexico City: Gilbert (1994; 1996), Townsend (2000), Puente (1999a and 1999b), Eibenschutz and Puente (1992); Los Angeles: Wisner (1999a; 1999b; 2003a), Bolin and Stanford (1991; 1998); General: U.N. (1999). 7 Table 13.3 Groups perceived by disaster management professionals to be highly vulnerable to disasters (Percent officials) Mexico City Los Angeles Squatters (67 %), especially Elderly persons (100 %) Living in ravines Living over ancient mines Living near hazardous industries Children (23 %) Disabled persons (93 %) Children (93 %) Legal immigrants (16 %) Persons with special medical needs (86 %) Disabled persons (14 %) Mentally ill (54 %) Elderly (14 %) Illegal immigrants (29 %) Homeless (11 %) Foreigners/ foreign-born (29 %) Mentally ill (5 %) Homeless (21 %) Persons with special medical needs (5 %) Street children (14 %) Illegal street vendors (5 %) People living near oil refineries (7 %) Artisanal fireworks producers (5 %) People living near water pumping stations (4 %) Street children (2 %) People living in mobile homes (4 %) Notes: Percent Officials : Percentage of 44 disaster-management officials interviewed in greater Mexico City and 28 interviewed in greater Los Angeles. Legal immigrants : This includes people from the rural areas of the country where indigenous people live. Foreigners/foreign-born : This was said to be mostly to do with lack of knowledge of English.
6 186 Building Safer Cities: The Future of Disaster Risk during disaster recovery, the consensus was different. Most believed that illegal or informal squatters, who most commonly live in ravines over ancient mines on some of the surrounding slopes, were generally vulnerable. They thought that everyone in such a living situation was vulnerable without finer distinctions. The exception to this concerned a more common belief that children needed special protection. In greater Los Angeles, there was nearly universal acknowledgement of the special vulnerability faced by the elderly, disabled persons, children, and people with special, chronic medical needs (e.g., those on oxygen or ventilators at home or those in need of frequent dialysis). The mentally ill or disabled were also recognized in more than half of the interviews with disaster management officials in greater Los Angeles. A smaller group of municipalities believed that the legality of immigrant status, language ability of foreigners or the foreign born, and homelessness create situations in which people can suffer increased vulnerability to disaster. Despite differences in the way that social vulnerability is defined and understood by municipal disaster managers, their approaches to planning and to the acquisition of information is similar. Table 13.4 summarizes these data. Mexico City officials and their counterparts in greater Los Angeles try to involve neighborhood groups and NGOs in the planning process, but more try to do so in the Mexico City megacity (Carrasco and Garibay 2000). This difference is due in large part to the history of social and political organization in the two urban regions. In Mexico there is a long history of political party patronage and clientalism that manifests itself in the form of a variety of local associations and groups that rely on such support. There is also a tradition of opposition and protest in Mexico that gives rise to other groups that do not enjoy party political support. It is striking, however, that despite claims of involvement of citizens in the planning process, few municipalities in greater Mexico City actually obtain information about socially vulnerable groups from neighborhood groups (where the fine-grained and detailed information exists). At the level of the municipal jurisdiction, both sets of officials, in Mexico City and Los Angeles, claim a high degree of intersectoral cooperation. This turns out in practice to be a matter of legal formality attending the same planning meetings, signing off on the same planning documents. However, more than half in both cases claim to obtain information about socially vulnerable groups from other departments in the same Table 13.4 Knowledge of vulnerable groups and planning of programs to reduce vulnerability in Mexico City and Los Angeles (Percent officials) Mexico City Los Angeles Involve neighborhood groups in planning (71 %) Involve neighborhood groups in planning (50 %) Obtain information from neighborhood groups (9 %) Obtain information from neighborhood groups (21 %) Involve NGOs in planning (43 %) Involve NGOs in planning (21 %) Intersectoral coordination at municipal level (91 %) Intersectoral coordination at municipal level (100 %) Information from other government departments in Information from other government departments municipal government (68 %) in municipal government (61 %) Information from national agencies (30 %) Information from national agencies (14 %) Experience problems using social data (66 %) Experience problems using social data (71 %) Notes: Involve neighborhood groups... : Many of these take the form of groups formed around someone who has taken the free 18-hour course called Citizen Emergency Response Training (CERT) made available to citizens. The inspiration for this kind of training came from the experience of spontaneous citizen action after the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, where L.A. Fire Department Chief Frank Borden had gone as an observer. The course included fire suppression, light search and rescue, first aid, transportation of the injured, communication, and team leadership. Involve NGOs in planning : One of the six municipalities that involves NGOs is the City of Los Angeles, where there is an active network of 70 NGOs with official status in the planning and emergency-response system called the Emergency Network Los Angeles (ENLA). There is a great contrast between a city like the City of Los Angeles and its relationship with NGOs through ENLA, and other, much smaller, municipalities that have no process for involving NGOs with the exception of the two national, quasi-governmental bodies, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Intersectoral coordination... : Universal claims of coordination are explained by the legal requirement in California to follow what is known as the Standard Emergency Management System (SEMS), which mandates plans and exercises that involve multiple sectors and mutual aid contingency arrangements among cities and counties. Information from national agencies : This was most commonly information from the National Center for Disaster Prevention (CENAPRED) or the National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information (INEGI).
7 Disaster Risk Reduction in Megacities: Making the Most of Human and Social Capital 187 municipal government. This sharing of information takes coordination beyond mere formalism. A most striking result was how few municipalities take advantage of the many publications and electronic information sources made available by their respective national government agencies. In part, this is due to a lack of financial resources and time by understaffed, small municipal offices. It is also a reflection of the background and lack of specific training in social sciences for those working on disaster management at the municipal level. In greater Mexico City, most have engineering backgrounds or come from the construction industry. In greater Los Angeles, they either have had careers in law enforcement or fire fighting. In neither case do managers find it easy to use social data. These results provide support for the general finding mentioned earlier: municipalities generally have the technical resources to meet the needs of socially vulnerable groups, but they lack detailed information about them. Social Capital and Civil Society in Mexico City and Los Angeles The starting point of this research project was the hypothesis that civil society (NGOs and CBOs) can provide a vital link or bridge between highly vulnerable populations and municipal governments. In the ideal world, such groups would have information about and trust relationships with marginalized people who the city finds it difficult to understand or to approach. The UNU research partially supported the hypothesis. However, there are at least three factors that seem to limit the ability of civil society to function in this mediating, bridging manner. The first limiting factor concerns the structure and function of NGOs themselves. Most NGOs have their own fairly narrow and well-defined agendas and areas of expertise and concern (Foreman 1998; Carrasco 2000; Benson and others 2001). In part this is a natural result of how NGOs are formed and remain funded. They carve out niches in the urban ecology. Focused concerns include housing, legal empowerment, women s rights, and sanitation. The problem observed is that such groups see disaster management and the process of vulnerability reduction through the prism of their established agenda. For example, in Los Angeles neither the Mothers of East L.A. nor the Community/Labor Strategy Committee two NGOs with long histories of activism on air quality problems concerned themselves with the fact that low income Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to live in flood-prone areas. There were a few, predictable NGOs whose mandate specifically addresses aspects of risk communication or more general disaster management: these include the Red Cross in both cities, or Emergency Network Los Angeles (ENLA) and the Salvation Army in Los Angeles and CARITAS in Mexico City. Ironically, however, these NGOs have been so fully officialized and incorporated into the metropolitan systems of disaster management that they do not function as conduits to and from the poorest of the poor and other special-needs groups. In a similar way, there are some specialized disasteroriented CBOs, such as the neighborhoods in central Mexico City trained by the Association of Retired Fire Fighters 8 and those in Los Angeles that have had Citizen Emergency Response Training (CERT). These suffer from narrowness of mission and, in the case of Los Angeles, a definite class bias. Most of the roughly 20,000 CERT-trained individuals in the City of Los Angeles are white and middle-class. These groups are not oriented toward dialogue with marginal, socially vulnerable groups of people because their mission is defined as preparedness and response (not prevention and mitigation) and because of the socioeconomic class position of leaders and members of these groups. The second limiting factor concerns politics. In a number of interviews, municipal officials indicated that they believed that NGOs involved themselves in relief and post-disaster recovery work to further their own political ends. They were not trusted and collaboration suffered. From the NGO side, there was as often a history of antagonism with the government. Mistrust from the NGO side could have deep roots and center around larger societal issues such as human rights and corruption giving rise to such epochal changes as the electoral loss of Mexico City by the PRI political party. Mistrust could also be focused on feelings of neglect and social exclusion by the communities served by the NGO, as was the case of the Pico Union Cluster near downtown Los Angeles. This is a low-income residential district populated by Hispanic immigrants, especially from El Salvador