Iran has designated $4 billion to building earthquake-proof schools and retrofitting.
By Denis McClean
GENEVA, 5 July 2012 - The Mayor of Mashad, Seyed Mohammad Pezhman, is leading a major push for more Iranian cities to join UNISDR's "Making Cities Resilient" campaign as ten cities from disaster-prone Khorasan Razavi Province in north-eastern Iran signed up to the campaign yesterday.
Ultimately, Mayor Pezhman with the active support of the National Disaster Management Office, would like to see all 70 cities and towns in the region become members of the campaign. The ten new campaign members are Fariman, Dargaz, Sabzevar, Kashmar, Chenaran, Torbat-e-Heidariyyel, Shandiz, Gonabad, Bajestan and Qouchan.
Mashad has a population of three million and is a major pilgrimage site. It is also a Campaign Role Model City for disaster awareness and education. Mayor Pezhman said: "We are one of the most risk-prone Provinces in Iran. Earthquakes, floods, fires and drought are the worst problems we face. We have more than 20 million pilgrims and tourists visiting Mashad every year, and this is projected to come close to 40 million in the coming years."
Aboghhassem Baghban, Director of Crisis Management, Mashad, explained: "We have taken a comprehensive approach to making our city resilient. We have a programme we call Samen. We are improving our response and preparedness capacities with doubling of fire brigades and work with training thousands of volunteers in all neighborhoods; we have massive training.
"We are also renovating big parts of the most central areas of the city, applying strictest safety regulations, latest building codes and urban planning principles; we have established data sites on risks and we are seeking to reach out and work with all sectors of the population."
Iran has made significant progress in developing resilient infrastructure in recent years, particularly in strengthening school infrastructure throughout the country. Partly thanks to UNISDR's Safe Schools initiative, Iran has designated $4 billion to building earthquake-proof schools and retrofitting. Mashad has strengthened 250 schools in recent years including reinforcing foundations and deploying steel braces to strengthen structures.
Helena Molin-Valdes, UNISDR's head of advocacy and outreach, said: "Iran undertakes a yearly school earthquake drill across the country involving 14 million students. This year it takes place on November 28. The country is covering both aspects of school safety, combining significant physical improvements with education and preparedness programmes in schools. This is an excellent model to share with other seismically challenged cities and countries."
UNISDR and the UN agencies in Iran are working with the National Disaster Management Office to scale up the Making Cities Resilient Campaign across the country. This will include combining use of the newly-developed Local Governments Self-Assessment Tool with national reporting on implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action. A national Resilient Cities Award is also under consideration.
News report by HispanTV on UNISDR's Acting Director Helena Molin Valdes trip to Iran. (Video is in Spanish)