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FEATURE STORY March 12, 2018

World Bank Technical Deep Dive on Seismic Risk and Resilience

Connecting World Bank clients and teams to Japan’s Lessons for Strengthening Seismic Resilience


Participants at the Technical Deep Dive (TDD) on Seismic Risk and Resilience

March 12-16, 2018, Tokyo, Sendai, Kobe, Japan- Every year, earthquakes push more than 4 million people on average into extreme poverty. To take on this challenge, Japan’s approach of sustained investment in quality infrastructure and buildings, coupled with the preparedness of local authorities and residents, offers World Bank client countries new ideas and solutions to strengthen their own seismic resilience.

The World Bank’s Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) and Tokyo Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Hub jointly organized a 5-day Technical Deep Dive (TDD) on Seismic Risk and Resilience with the Government of Japan to support World Bank clients and teams to:

  • Understand the economic and practical feasibility of investing in seismic resilience;
  • Examine new investment options to plan and integrate into their expenditures in disaster risk management and seismic resilience; and
  • Connect to technical expertise and solutions that can support and enhance action and investments from the private and public sector.

Practitioners and decisionmakers from Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, Peru, and the Philippines – which together with Japan see an average of 1.2 million people exposed to earthquakes every year – joined the TDD to share knowledge and expertise on seismic risk identification, monitoring and alert systems, preparedness, and risk reduction in infrastucture and the built environment.

The TDD included interactive sessions with leading experts, peer-peer learning, and site visits in Sendai and Kobe -  two Japanese cities that have experienced devastating damage from earthquakes and tsunamis.


On March 11, Japan marked the 7th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, which killed over 19,000 people. Despite their tremendous impacts on society, such earthquakes and tsunamis occur infrequently. This poses three inter-related challenges for countries trying to take on their seismic risk:

  • Public Awareness and Preparedness: because governments and residents do not regularly face earthquakes, they often forget about these risks and fail to adequately prepare;
  • Collective Action and Investment: because of the lack of awareness and urgency, it is often difficult to spur action and investment to manage and reduce the underlying seismic risks;
  • Technical Expertise: since there is often little investment to address key seismic risks, the needed expertise to take on these challenges must be developed.

Mr. Go. Mukai, Senior Deputy Director, Multilateral Development Banks Division, International Bureau, Ministry of Finance Japan
Speaking at the TDD, Mr. Go Mukai, Senior Deputy Director of Japan’s Ministry of Finance, noted that, Japan’s approach to disaster risk management (DRM) is underpinned by:

(i)   a rigorous and up-to-date scientific understanding of the country’s seismic risk;

(ii)  a comprehensive legal and institutional framework; and,

(iii) systematically integrating lessons learned from previous disasters into their DRM planning and investment, as well as the country’s culture of preparedness.

This helps Japan ensure that it will not forget and not put its people or its economy at undue risk.

"Japan has proved that effective disaster risk management is possible even in the face of highly destructive disasters."
Mr. Go. Mukai
Senior Deputy Director, Multilateral Development Banks Division, International Bureau, Ministry of Finance Japan


The TDD connected teams with Japan’s leading DRM institutions, including the Cabinet Office; Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT); Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA); Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Sendai City; Kobe City; International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS) (Tohoku University); and the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience (NIED).

Sendai City demonstrated the structural and non-structural measures the City has taken to prepare for earthquakes and tsunamis, including enhancing the disaster resilience of its infrastructure asset management. City officials highlighted the importance of strengthening community resilience, Mr. Tomoki Suzuki, Director of the Disaster Prevention Planning Section, Crisis Management Department, City of Sendai, noted that, "Self-help and cooperation are critical, as there is a limit to administration responses even though we try our best. Disaster prevention awareness of residents and regional cooperation are important." Among other initiatives, they introduced "Community Disaster Prevention Leaders," who direct information dissemination, evacuation guidance, and shelter management at the time of disaster.

Kobe City, which was hit by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in January 1995, saw 120,000 buildings destroyed or damaged, and more than 4,500 people lose their lives -  over 70 percent of whom died due to building collapse. In Kobe, city officials showed TDD participants how the City enhanced the resilience of the building stock through (i) increasing local capacity to enforce building codes and (ii) a comprehensive retrofitting program – promoted through local awareness raising and a nation-wide retrofit subsidy program.

Photo of: Hnin Ei Win, Myanmar Section Head Engineer, Engineering Department (Buildings), Yangon City Development Committee
To conclude the TDD, participants presented practical action plans with key takeaways, approaches, and next steps to implement effective seismic risk management in their countries. Several client teams formulated strategies to strengthen their building regulatory frameworks and are now working with the World Bank’s Building Regulation for Resilience, Climate Change Mitigation and Development program to implement them. They also outlined how they will operationalize their existing risk assessments and enhance their emergency preparedness, including through education campaigns. The DRM Hub and TDLC are following up on requests for additional information and operational support to help clients achieve greater seismic resilience.