Resilient Societies

Traditional Bhungas in Kutch region of India survived 2001 earthquake because of their traditional design and construction system. © Rohit Jigyasu

The only traditional structure in Anjar town that survived 2001 Gujarat earthquake in India when all other structures built after 1950s collapsed. © Rohit Jigyasu

Resilience is the capability of systems and individuals to cope with significant adversity or risk.

As natural disasters and wars rip apart societies, and as large-scale modernization projects, urbanization, and transnational migration bring about sudden dislocations, the endurance of cultural beliefs, values, practices, and knowledge, and their transmission across generations have become significant concerns. Projects carried out by UNESCO in Haiti, for example, have found that the vibrant local culture plays an important part in rebuilding a sense of community after disasters and is a key asset during the difficult process of rebuilding.

But culture is also an important resource in reducing disaster risks, before the associated hazards have happened. A well maintained historic environment, including built heritage and cultural landscapes, is likely to be very resilient to natural phenomena such as earthquakes or extreme weather events,  because it incorporates traditional knowledge accumulated over centuries of adaptation to the environment.  In 2009, a great number of traditional buildings managed to stand a terrible earthquake in Kashmir, saving the lives of their inhabitants, while conversely, reinforced concrete buildings which were badly constructed collapsed completely in the same affected areas, killing everyone inside.

When integrated into modern disaster risk management schemes, traditional management techniques have proven to be efficient and cost-effective tools to mitigate environmental risks and reduce vulnerability.

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