Activity Report

Activity Report of Open Application Course vol.36

Providing young people of Nepal an opportunity to study ways to improve urban environment to withstand natural disasters

Report from the Global Cooperation Institute for Sustainable Cities,
Yokohama City University

The Urban Planning Unit of the Global Cooperation Institute for Sustainable Cities, Yokohama City University, supported by the SAKURA Exchange Program in Science invited a total of 11 people (ten graduate and research students and one teacher) of the Khwopa Engineering College located in Bhaktapur, Nepal and organized a study tour on the theme "Urban Revival after Natural Disasters: Ways to Improve Urban Environment to Withstand Calamities (November 14 to November 22, 2017). This year was the second year of a project that has been approved for a two-year period.

Nepal is still in the process of reconstruction after the earthquake that hit the country in April, 2015, and the country perceives disaster-ready city planning as a highly important issue for architectural science and municipal engineering. Particularly in the case of Bhaktapur, an area with many objects of historical value, during reconstruction there is a need to simultaneously address a wide variety of issues including preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, improvement of urban environment, development of society and economy, promotion of community participation, fostering economic independence of the residents, and improvement of legal systems that support all of the above.

In the project, the activities were conducted in various locations - Yokohama, Tokyo, and the North East of Japan - and the invited guests from Nepal were introduced through lectures and tours to the main points of Japanese municipal engineering and city planning, measures conducted in our country to make cities ready for disasters and preserve historically valuable environment. Also, students from Nepal were given an opportunity to make presentations regarding the earthquake that recently hit Nepal and the revival measures conducted, as well as exchange opinions with students from Japan.

Inspection tours and lectures

(1) Urban design of Yokohama
After attending a lecture on the urban design of Yokohama, the guests were taken on a tour of the city from Kannai to Minato Mirai. In the lecture, the guests listened to the outline of Yokohama's history, a city that suffered during the Great Kanto Earthquake and then was devastated during massive air raids, but managed to overcome all its troubles and achieve revival. Information regarding the reconstruction programs that made it possible was also provided. As the participants of the program were walking around the city, confirming with their own eyes the points they were taught during the lecture, they seemed to be very interested in such aspects of the urban planning as the sidewalks that made walking so easy, the way roads and buildings are maintained, and the various signs.

image1 Lecture on urban design of Yokohama
image2 Walking from Kannai to Minato Mirai

(2) Disaster prevention measures implemented in Japan
The guests were given an opportunity to learn about creation of disaster-proof districts using the example of Machiya area in Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama, where our university is located. First of all, the guests walked around the area accompanied by Mr. Sakurai, a city planner, who for a long time has been working with planning of disaster-proof measures and their implementation in the area and the president of a neighborhood association. Listening to the explanations regarding the disaster-proof urban planning, the guests inspected the narrow streets and evacuation facilities of Yokohama confirming the points being explained to them on the actual location. After the excursion, they returned back to the university and were given explanations regarding the concepts of the plans, the process whereby the plans were created, etc.

The guests said that creating urban environment capable of withstanding natural disasters and improving cities so that they are easy to live in require policies that are based on dialogues with the residents, and in that sense, what they see in Japan is quite similar to the problems found in historical areas of Nepal, and that they would like to use the information they acquired to try and find ways to adapt it to match the needs of the areas back home. To see ways to teach people how to behave during disasters, the guests then visited the Yokohama Disaster Risk Reduction Learning Center that offers simulations of earthquakes and fires as well as disaster training rooms, and participated in an experiential tour of the facility. They were very interested in the Center, a place where regular people can learn about disasters and how to behave when natural calamities occur.

image3 Experiential tour of the Yokohama Disaster Risk Reduction Learning Center

(3) Great East Japan Earthquake and reconstruction
In order to study the revival measures implemented after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the guests were taken on a tour of the Sanriku region. Traveling from South to North, the guests went from Onagawa to Ishinomaki, Minamisanrikucho, Kesennuma, and Ofunato, visiting temporary dwellings, disaster recovery public housing, new housing for relocation to higher elevations, newly built commercial establishments, etc., and learned about many aspects of the revival efforts including methods of reconstruction of housing and reconstruction of communities, reconstruction of industries and the commerce, methods of regional vitalization, and methods of revival planning rooted in the particularities of each region. In Kesennuma, they also visited the Rias Ark Museum of Art, which was a good opportunity to think about how to preserve memories of the disaster for the following generations.

image4 Visit to the urban area of Ishinomaki
image5 Visit to the Rias Ark Museum of Art

image6 Inspection of new housing for relocation to a higher elevation
image7 Preparing for the next visits and reviewing the past ones at a hotel room rented for that purpose

Presentations

The supervising teacher and the students each made presentations to students and teachers of our university on the reconstruction measures undertaken in Nepal to rebuild the areas damaged in the earthquake. Soon after the earthquake, the Khwopa Engineering College established a reconstruction project team to help in the reconstruction of the historical sites of Bhaktapur and the university is conducting its original research and investigation in this area. This time, the guests made presentations on the projects each of them is actually involved in, and then a questions and answers session was held. For students of our university, this was an invaluable opportunity to learn about the earthquake that happened in Nepal and the subsequent reconstruction efforts from the people, who have first-hand knowledge of the situation on site.

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Presentations on the earthquake in Nepal and reconstruction effort

In addition to the above, the guests were given lectures on how urban problems can be solved through international cooperation and were given an opportunity to learn about preservation of historical artifacts through a visit to Kamakura. The comments we received from the students show that they were highly stimulated by everything they saw and heard during their trip - each and every process of municipal engineering and disaster prevention planning, the importance of each detail, the significance of facilities for learning about disasters, the building engineering of Japan, the approaches for preservation of artifacts of historical value, etc. - and that they learned a wide array of things before going back to their own country. Moreover, some commented that for students from developing countries, an opportunity to train at another country is extremely valuable, and that they are very happy to have visited Japan. We would like to use this opportunity to thank SAKURA Science for the support we received for two years of the program.

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