Supporting Post-earthquake Recovery in China

December 4, 2012


The Wenchuan Earthquake Recovery Project (2009-2014) is restoring and building high quality infrastructure and improving health and education services for residents in the areas affected by the devastating earthquake in 2008, laying a solid foundation for long-term economic and social development of participating cities and counties in Sichuan and Gansu provinces.


On May 12, 2008, an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck southwestern China, centered in Wenchuan County of Sichuan Province. As a result, more than 47 million people were affected; over 69,000 people died, 374,000 were injured, and 18,000 went missing.

Public infrastructure, key government buildings and houses were severely damaged: 34,000 km of highway destroyed, 1,263 reservoirs damaged, 7,444 schools and 11,028 hospitals and clinics collapsed, and 5.5 million rural houses and 860,000 urban houses destroyed or significantly damaged. Sichuan and Gansu provinces were the hardest hit, with direct economic losses estimated at US$112.2 billion and US$7.1 billion respectively.


In order to plan for reconstruction in an efficient and effective manner, loss assessments, geological assessments and environmental assessments were conducted immediately after the earthquake. China’s State Council issued the Overall Plan for the Post-Wenchuan Earthquake Recovery and Reconstruction which lays out the framework for all recovery and reconstruction efforts.

Innovative mechanisms to secure the funds necessary to conduct these works, such as private-public partnerships, tax incentives, and the mobilization of public support are utilized thoroughly. The central government also set up a “twin assistance” mechanism by which affected counties are paired with a donor province responsible for offering financial and other assistance. The program also emphasized the non-structural aspects of building resilience in communities through better emergency preparedness and training programs.

World Bank support

To assist the earthquake-affected people to carry out the post-disaster reconstruction and to implement the Wenchuan Earthquake Reconstruction Master Plan, the Chinese government borrowed an emergency loan of US$710 million for the Wenchuan Earthquake Recovery Project (WERP). WERP is being implemented in both Gansu Province (US$200 million) and Sichuan Province (US$510 million).

WERP supports reconstruction and expansion of infrastructure including roads and bridges, water supply and sanitation, municipal solid waste management collection and disposal, drainage, flood control, slope protection and stabilization, and restoration of waterways and canals, as well as health facilities including township health centers, maternal and child health centers, and county hospitals and community disease control centers in both Sichuan and Gansu.  In addition, the project finances facilities, equipment and selective capacity building for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of primary schools, secondary schools, and vocational/technical schools in Gansu Province. The objective is to restore infrastructure, health, and education services to at least levels existing prior to the earthquake, and where appropriate, to provide for expansion of services while reducing the vulnerability to seismic and flood hazards.

In addition, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, provided advice to local government and financial institutions, including Mianyang City Commercial Bank (MCCB) to strengthen the post-disaster investment climate, attract outside investors, and support the reconstruction. IFC invested in six projects with a total commitment of $120 million, including $1.6 million equity in MCCB’s subsidiary, Beichuan Fumin Village and Township Bank, to expand access to finance for farmers and micro and small businesses.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) supported the involvement of international experts in the preparation of the WERP, and the training of teachers and school staff, as well as hospital staff, to improve emergency preparedness and response in schools and hospitals. (link to GFDDR Website – China: Restoring and Improving Education in Earthquake-Struck Areas – https://www.gfdrr.org/gfdrr/node/1180). The GFDRR also supported the government to review and evaluate the implementation of the Wenchuan Earthquake Reconstruction Master Plan and six sector-specific: rural reconstruction, urban and rural housing, public services and infrastructure, industrial recovery, relocation, and organization and implementation. The summary report was published in June 2012 and is available on the GFDRR website: https://www.gfdrr.org/gfdrr/node/1289.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided a grant of US$1 million to support assessment of potential chemical contamination from industries affected by the earthquake.

" Now with this road rebuilt, my business is a lot better. There is less dust and noise. I hope more good roads will be built, to make our city a better place to live.  "

a taxi driver in Santai County, Sichuan Province


WERP has made substantial progress since its launch around mid-2009. The Bank financing have leverage additional investments and helped transform cities, improving services and livelihood of people and improving the quality of the overall environment. Specific results include:

  • Construction of 110 km of roads, 100 km storm water pipelines, 93 km of sewers, 2 km of bridges, 9 km of embankments, and 105 km of water supply pipelines, 2 pumping stations, 1 solid waste transfer station, 3 solid waste storage stations, and 2 water supply plants in Sichuan Province;
  • Reconstruction and expansion of township health centers, maternal and child health centers, county hospitals and community disease control centers in 19 counties in Sichuan. By November 2012, all 60 health facilities were completed and are now fully operational, benefiting 9.82 million people.
  • Construction of 31 civil works (infrastructure investments in buildings, roads, water and sanitation), six schools, four hospitals, one bridge, one water treatment plant, and two wastewater treatment plants in Gansu Province;
  • Facilities are now upgraded to conform to environmental standards and ultimately minimize pollution. With support from the World Bank, the government is repairing the natural environment damaged by the earthquake thereby preserving the ecological environment of the area as well as contributing to the mitigation of future disasters.
  • Specific measures are taken to ensure that the cultural heritage and the distinctive local flavor of the cities of the af­fected areas are preserved.

Toward the Future

The World Bank will continue to strengthen its partnership with the Government of China on disaster risk management activities and disseminate China’s experience and expertise in disaster preparedness and relief to other countries in the region and worldwide. With support from GFDRR through the World Bank, the China Emergency Relief Training Center (CERT) offered a one-week “Emergency Response and Relief Training” in Beijing to selected rescue teams from Indonesia. Likewise a full report on the learning from the reconstruction has been published for international dissemination.


"Now with this road rebuilt, my business is a lot better. There is less dust and noise. I hope more good roads will be built, to make our city a better place to live," said a taxi driver in Santai County, Sichuan Province.