Peru and Bangladesh are countries among the world’s most vulnerable to natural hazards. In 1970, catastrophic natural disasters ravaged both nations – the Great Peruvian Earthquake which resulted in 70,000 deaths, and six months later the Bhola Cyclone in Bangladesh which cost an estimated 300,000 lives, making it one of the most deadly natural disasters of all time. Both countries have since followed a different trajectory towards an integrated system of disaster risk management focused on preparedness and risk reduction rather than emergency response.
Bangladesh has proactively invested in disaster risk reduction policies, including infrastructure along coastal areas and early warning to mitigate the risk from floods and cyclones, demonstrating tangible results in terms of protecting lives and hard-won economic gains. However, the vulnerability of its urban areas to seismic risk remains an area that is not as well understood, or addressed, in the country’s policy framework.
Peru has also been very proactive in developing its disaster risk reduction policies and procedures considering it is located in one of the most active seismic zones of the world. In 2011, a new law on disaster risk management established a comprehensive National Disaster Risk Management System (Sistema Nacional de Gestión del Riesgo de Desastres, SINAGERD).
Peru’s experience in managing its seismic risk is highly relevant to the Government of Bangladesh, which has less expertise in tackling this growing challenge. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank, which are supporting Bangladesh’s first initiative to address urban disasters, facilitated an initial dialogue between the two vulnerable nations.
Brig. General Ali Ahmed Khan, Director General, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense (FSCD) participated in this learning exchange when enabled Bangladeshi officials to become acquainted with initiatives underway in Peru: “We sincerely appreciate the World Bank and GFDRR organizing this knowledge exchange program which will contribute greatly in helping us efficiently and effectively develop and implement the Urban Resilience Project, the first of its kind in Bangladesh”.
“Such south-south knowledge exchanges are critical as they can create concrete opportunities to bring new approaches into a country, and build momentum for reforms underway”, added Marc Forni, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank, who leads the urban resilience project in Bangladesh.
Over the course of a week, officials from the Government of Bangladesh visited the towns of Pisco and Tambo de Mora and met with many relevant government agencies and organizations in Peru, including:
- Presidency of the Council of Ministers (Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros, PCM), which is responsible for overseeing SINAGERD’s coordination as a Disaster Risk Management Secretariat.
- National Civil Defense Institute (Instituto Nacional de Defensa Civil, INDECI), who shared activities with regard to emergency preparedness and response and the legal and institutional arrangements in place. INDECI also shared the techniques which are used to carry out damage assessments and the types of early warning mechanisms used.
- National Center for the Estimation, Prevention and Reduction of Disaster Risk (Centro Nacional de Estimación, Prevención y Reducción del Riesgo de Desastres, CENEPRED), which is responsible for disaster risk information, risk-reduction policies and reconstruction processes.
- The Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation discussed its activities which are similar to what is now being carried out in Bangladesh with GFDRR and World Bank support, such as vulnerability assessments of critical and essential facilities.
- The Peruvian Society of Engineers highlighted approaches to promote safe engineering techniques.
- The National University of Engineering, Peru and Japanese Peruvian Center for Earthquake Engineering Research and Disaster Mitigation (CISMID-UNI), which has had a critical role in disaster risk reduction of infrastructure projects, with their work to subdivide seismic zones in a number of cities as well as research on materials and technologies for construction of earthquake-resistant infrastructure.
- The Peruvian Geophysical Institute (IGP), which generates and transfers knowledge and scientific and technological information in the field of geophysics and similar sciences and forms part of the international scientific community.
- The General Headquarter of Fire Service, Search and Rescue Team showcased how the Peruvian system of Volunteer Firefighters work.
The Bangladesh delegates also met with representatives from non-governmental organizations and civil society working on disaster risk management, and participated in a workshop on effective civil society participation on mitigating and responding to natural disasters.
Government officials of Peru, in turn, expressed a strong interest in visiting Bangladesh to learn about its disaster risk management system, in particular about early warning systems related to hydro-meteorological hazards—an area where Bangladesh has had a long and successful engagement. Peruvian officials were also keen to learn about Bangladesh’ legal and institutional arrangements guiding policies.
“Peru and Bangladesh have similar disaster risk scenarios and the two countries should remain engaged to keep up a constant exchange of knowledge and experiences,” said Gral. Alfredo Murgueytio, Chief. National Civil Defense Institute, INDECI, in an official press release highlighting the visit.
Bangladesh also underscored this point, with Mr. Tariq-Ul-Islam, Secretary, Planning Division, Ministry of Planning, and Head of the Bangladeshi delegation expressing the need for continued collaboration: “Through this kind of experience sharing both countries will be able to reduce our vulnerability to natural hazards and get an opportunity to share best practices. The Government of Bangladesh expects to carry forward the knowledge exchange with Peru by signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the two governments.”