Cities are facing more and more severe weather events in recent years exacerbating the urgent need to better prepare themselves to withstand the adverse impact of disasters which can enable an effective post-disaster recovery and minimize losses. The city of New Orleans has been dealing with disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Ida and has taken countless steps to address long-term recovery. The Bordeaux metropolitan area in France is subject to the dual risk of the sea and the river, which exposes the region to severe shocks like flooding. The city has been experimenting with adaptation strategies to increased disaster risks, with the increasing need to look at integrated disaster management measures. It is essential to look at learnings on how these cities are approaching recovery and reconceiving their planning post-disasters.
The fifth session of Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series, 2023, with the support of the Embassy of the United States of America, France and co-hosted with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and France Ville Durable, focused on ‘Post Disaster Resilience and Recovery’. To kick start the session, Michael Turner, Counselor for Cultural Affairs in the Public Diplomacy Section at the U.S. Embassy in France, highlighted the need to establish dialogue and share learnings on how both U.S. and French cities touched by disasters can learn from and build safer durable cities.
“US cities know the intensity of natural disasters and the scope of reconstruction, especially hurricanes and forest fires, similarly Bordeaux has been facing the risk of flooding since the 1980s. This is why we are here today. For them to share their experiences with us and to build for a better future by learning from all these past disasters”Michael Turner, Counselor for Cultural Affairs in the Public Diplomacy Section at the U.S. Embassy in France
Austin Feldbaum, Hazard Mitigation Director, City of New Orleans, talked about the Comprehensive Recovery Framework developed by the city to create transparency and a common language for understanding goals as part of the recovery process. The Framework is essentially a set of guidelines to better address complex needs after a disaster, and implement a continuous process to work towards better outcomes. The city has also been focusing on stakeholder collaboration and expanding partnerships with NGOs and civil society by building capacities to assess post-disaster needs and feed information to decision makers to efficiently direct recovery resources where they are most needed. The city has also worked on specific response strategies for resilient planning with public health and housing agencies, advocates, service providers to design responses and address underlying vulnerabilities. The city is also exploring the idea of data driven metrics and indicators that the city can use over time to track progress towards the outcomes desired from disaster recovery.
“Disasters exacerbate pre-event inequalities and by focusing on the most vulnerable, we can prevent some of the most tragic consequences”Austin Feldbaum, Hazard Mitigation Director, City of New Orleans
Valerie Saberan, Director, Climate Risk and Resilience, Bordeaux Metropole focused on the unique topography of Bordeaux with the Garonne River, proximity to the ocean, and dry soil limiting percolation, increasing its risk of flooding and violent storms, which the region has been experiencing for many years. Following the floods of 1982, the metropole undertook an ambitious policy for the management of territories in relation to rainwater. The technical response to this stress was to build retention basins, storm drains, and pumping stations in the city to retain rainwater and avoid instances of flooding. In terms of regulatory response, the region has adopted a holistic risk prevention plan defining areas where development can be undertaken and restricting development in vulnerable areas. In terms of administrative response, there is a dedicated department whose capacities are built to deal with such instances of crisis management. Because of these efforts, the region has been able to anticipate and manage rain events and avoid flooding instances in an efficient manner. The city has also adopted modern technological innovations like automated management systems which capture information from the entire network of infrastructure for management of flooding. Metropole is also developing alternative approaches to risk and resilience, to not fight the situation but integrate it in a systemic manner through strategic approaches.
“Urbanization should not stop but should be integrated into all of our procedures to effectively plan for risks”Valerie Saberan, Director, Climate Risk and Resilience, Bordeaux Metropole