神戸大学大学院国際協力研究科 復旦大学国際関係・公共事務学院 高麗大学校国際大学院

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Risk Management Seminar “Kobe’s Recovery and Community Disaster Prevention”

  On 21 October 2014, Professor Akihiko Hokugo, Professor of the Kobe University Research Center for Urban Safety and Security, delivered a lecture entitled “Kobe’s Recovery and Community Disaster Prevention” for the Kobe University CAMPUS Asia Program.

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  To begin, Professor Hokugo described the damage caused by the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. He recalled how before this disaster, Japan had not experienced a major earthquake for many years. Even after seeing the damage caused by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles, many Japanese researchers believed that Japan would avoid such damage should a similarly sized earthquake occur. But when the earthquake hit Kobe, many structures were damaged or destroyed and thousands died.
  Damage was caused not just by the earthquake itself but also by widespread fires afterward. In the aftermath of the disaster, the city needed a comprehensive reconstruction plan. However, such large-scale reconstruction projects entailed many challenges. Professor Hokugo said that although urban fire safety and rescue service were improved, these projects were often launched hastily without sufficient consultation with local residents. Also, some reconstruction work was done without giving priority to areas where it was urgently needed. Many of these problems stemmed from inadequate procedures based on outdated laws. This shows the importance of amending laws to reflect current social needs and planning for post-disaster reconstruction.

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  In this concept, local communities were given a more significant role in disaster preparation and reconstruction planning. Professor Hokugo then explained the concept of local communities’ disaster management ability, the goal of which is damage reduction. He named three keywords: human development, which enables individuals to understand disaster mitigation; connection mechanisms, which facilitate community-based cooperation and participation; and community design, which increases local community members’ familiarity with public spaces that serve as evacuation locations.
  Professor Hokugo reiterated the importance of communities in disaster prevention. By tackling this issue as a whole community, residents can point out hazards in their community, discuss them, and cooperatively plan for reconstruction in the event of a disaster. Also, community-wide activities provide training for properly responding to disasters and preventing damage.
  Professor Hokugo concluded by stating that each community envisages problems and solutions differently, but in any case it is vital for local governments and communities to work together to maximize their ability to manage disasters. Further, he added that individual participation is a key to making these community activities more fruitful.