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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Community Earthquake Disaster Risk Reduction in China (CEDRRiC)

A research project of the Department of Geography.


Earthquakes are a major threat to lives, livelihoods, and economic development in China. Of the 2 - 2.5 million deaths in earthquakes worldwide since 1900, at least 650,000 have occurred in China. Chinese earthquakes have caused three of the ten highest death tolls in earthquakes since 1900 and have led to estimated losses of $678 billion (in 2012 USD). The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake alone caused direct economic losses of more than RMB840 billion, despite affecting largely rural areas of Sichuan province and causing only minor damage to the provincial capital of Chengdu. A future earthquake in China could cause catastrophic losses, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts in China are therefore of critical importance.


While DRR planning in China has traditionally followed a centralised approach, there is growing recognition of the importance of community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR) efforts. Most notably, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has embarked on a major programme to establish a network of thousands of 'demonstration communities' that have met minimum requirements for local-scale disaster preparedness. The proposed research is specifically aimed at supporting and enhancing the MoCA programme. Our work will ensure that it draws on broad scientific knowledge of the hazard, including secondary earthquake hazards such as landslides. Our work will also explore the factors that make communities more or less willing to engage in CBDRR, so that the MoCA programme can best reflect the broad diversity of communities that are exposed to that hazard.


We will first look at the ways in which CBDRR is achieved in China, and how these approaches compare to those in other earthquake-prone countries. At the same time, we will produce a new inventory of landslides in northwestern China (an area that includes Gansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia provinces), and will generate new knowledge on the sizes and effects of past landslides as a guide to landslide hazard in future earthquakes. Finally, we will work with two specific communities to find out their priority concerns and their awareness of the hazards that they face, and to come up with ideas for how they might deal with those hazards in a future earthquake. The emphasis of our work will be on sustained engagement with groups of engaged citizens to come up with solutions that will work in their communities. The goal throughout will be to take a community-centred approach to understanding the choices that people make to protect themselves from earthquakes.


The project will lead to (1) new knowledge of landslide hazard in the region; (2) better understanding of the factors that help communities to engage with DRR issues; and (3) strategies for local earthquake resilience that complement and extend the National Five-Year Plans for Comprehensive Disaster Reduction.

External Staff


From the Department of Geography

From other departments