Creating a Safer Romania

June 6, 2012


  • Romania’s natural disaster readiness got a major boost thanks to the Bank’s Hazard Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project.

Romania faces severe threats from earthquakes, floods and landslides whose devastating consequences include human and economic loss. In the last hundred years, 14 earthquakes of magnitude VII or greater and eight major floods affected almost two million people. Property loss from earthquakes and floods is estimated at around US$ 400 million per year.

Romania lies on the Vrancea fault that forms an ellipse stretching from the northeast to the southwest of the country. Proximity to the fault and poor soils make Bucharest Europe's highest seismic risk capital city and one of the 10 most vulnerable cities in the world. Over 35% of Romanians, or 65% of the urban population, is exposed to seismic hazards from the Vrancea fault.

Records show that large magnitude earthquakes occur on the Vrancea zone with regularity—Romania has more than 30 quakes a year with a magnitude of 3 or more —and a large magnitude earthquake is anticipated in the coming years. A repeat of the devastating 1977 earthquake, which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale and killed over 1,500 people, would result in US$ 7.45-17 billion in estimated losses, roughly equivalent to 20-45% of the Romanian GDP. Such a loss would be catastrophic for the Romanian economy.

The World Bank’s Hazard Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project, which came to a close at the end of June 2012, assisted the Government of Romania in reducing the environmental, social, and economic vulnerability to natural disasters and catastrophic mining accidental spills of pollutants through:

  • strengthening the institutional and technical capacity for disaster management and emergency response through upgrading communication and information systems;
  • implementing specific risk reduction investments for floods, landslides and earthquakes;
  • improving the safety of selected water-retention dams;
  • improving on a pilot basis the management and safety of tailings dams and waste dump facilities.

 “One dollar invested in mitigation saves US$ 7 in post-reconstruction efforts,” said World Bank Sr. Irrigation Specialist Gabriel Ionita, the Task Team Leader for the project.

" One dollar invested in mitigation saves US$ 7 in post-reconstruction efforts "

Gabriel Ionita

World Bank Sr. Irrigation Specialist

The project’s four components included: (a) strengthening of emergency management and risk financing capacity; (b) seismic risk reduction; (c) floods and landslides risk reduction; (d) risk reduction of mining accidents in the Tisza Basin.

Approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors in 2004, the project has been successful in meeting its objectives. The Emergency Management Information System was rolled out in 48 locations (exceeding the target of at least 23 locations), a public awareness and education program was designed, and a catastrophe insurance program was set up. The Vrancea earthquake scenario was also developed.

Seismic retrofitting of over 40 public buildings has been completed, and 14 hospitals, 10 local administration buildings, nine education facilities, seven emergency response facilities and four social protection facilities will be completely refurbished under the project by May 2013.

While 23,350 people are considered at direct risk in the event of a severe earthquake, it is estimated 2.8 million people would be indirectly affected and benefit from the project’s accomplishments.

To reduce the risk of floods, the safety of seven dams was improved, which together with the flood protection efforts in 10 vulnerable areas will provide protection to over 266,000 people and 68,000 households at direct risk of flooding. In addition, almost 100 km of national roads and over 110 km of county roads have been protected, as well as many schools, churches and daycare centers. In addition, landslide monitoring equipment is in place and data collection has begun.

Government and local agencies identified pollution from mines and mine tailings as Romania’s greatest environmental quality threat. According to available information, 264 small dams store mine tailings, of which about 40 pose a severe threat to the surrounding human population and the environment. Accidental spills of pollutants from mining accidents could cause water and soil contamination, send pollutants into the Danube and Black Sea basins, and cause the loss of human and aquatic life.

A  Global Environment Facility (GEF) co-financed component of the project assisted in improving the management and safety of tailings dams and waste dump facilities and catalyzed trans-boundary cooperation on integrated water resources management of the Tisza Basin. The successful implementation of the GEF co-financed component will serve as a model for reducing mining accident risks to human and aquatic ecosystem health throughout Romania and other parts of the Tisza and Danube basins. Remediation works in six sites have been completed, exceeding the initial target of three sites.

The Hazard Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project was funded with a total of US$197 million, of which US$ 143.4 million was from IBRD, US$ 46.6 million from the Government and US$ 7 million from GEF.