Relationships Between Local Urban Development and Disaster Management System in Bam

  • Fatemeh Farnaz ArefianEmail author
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


This chapter discusses the local-level underlying drivers linked with existing urban development system, broad disaster management policies and severity of destruction, and professional context interplayed towards shaping the Bam recovery strategy and reconstruction objectives. It examines how the historic and traditional urban characteristics of the Bam urban area, the fame of its ancient citadel (Arg-e-Bam) along the severity of the earthquake, death toll and devastating disaster made a special case for the Bam recovery and reconstruction that is relevant to other international cases. The reconstruction of the Bam urban areas was seen as an emerging opportunity to influence the broader urban development system in the country. The Bam recovery positioned itself as optimistic but pragmatic within the contemporary debates on linking reconstruction and urban development. Yet there were challenges of linking short-term activities to longer-term reference documents of urban development plans, as well as existing sanctions on Iran at the time that also challenged the deliverability of key developmental initiatives that were agreed with international agencies. Despite challenges, the Bam case exemplifies reconstruction per se is part of the developmental path of the area. It highlights a fundamental difference between participatory housing programmes and non-participatory reconstruction projects.

4.1 Overview

The Bam area is located in Kerman province in southeast Iran. It has historical importance for the region and the country, as it is on the connecting trade routes of the Silk Road. The city was an important centre for the production of fine silk and dates. Being the only habitable area in the eastern deserts and being close to Sistan made Bam a strategic location and a gateway to India throughout history. The internationally famous citadel Arg-e-Bam is a reminder of this history as UNESCO World Heritage Centre describes on its website:

The origins Arg-e Bam, can be traced back to the Achaemenid period (6th to 4th centuries BC) and even beyond. The heyday of the citadel was from the 7th to 11th centuries, being at the crossroads of important trade routes and known for the production of silk and cotton garments. For centuries, Bam had a strategic location on the Silk Roads connecting it to Central Asia in the east, the Persian Gulf in the south, as well as Egypt in the west and it is an example of the interaction of the various influences.

The existence of life in the oasis was based on the underground irrigation canals, the qanāts, of which Bam has preserved some of the earliest evidence in Iran. Arg-e Bam is the most representative example of a fortified medieval town built in vernacular technique using mud layers (Chineh).

(UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2004a)

According to UNESCO World Heritage Centre (ibid) the cultural landscape of the Bam area (including the urban area) is an important representation of the interaction between man and nature and retains a rich resource of ancient canalisations, settlements and forts as landmarks and as a tangible evidence of the evolution of the area. With the shift of international trade from the old Silk Road towards ports at the Persian Gulf and Indian Sea, the golden days of trade importance passed. However, Bam retained its importance as a regional centre for the eastern part of the country, and still exports its fine dates to the world, and is on the international transit freeway from east to west (Ekhlaspour 2009; UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2004b; Bastani Parizi cited in Meskinazarian 2011). Unlike its dry and desert-like surroundings, the Bam area is mainly characterised by its palm groves, which are irrigated by traditional underground water systems. Figures 4.1 and 4.2 show the geographical location of the area in relation to the historic trade routes, and the Arg viewed from inside the medieval city of Bam. Figure 4.3 shows the aerial map of the Bam urban area. The area resembles an oasis in a desert.
Fig. 4.1

The schematic geographical location of the area on historic trade routes.

Source Wikimedia Commons, [Accessed 29/10/2014]. (Public domain)

Fig. 4.2

The citadel from a view from inside the medieval city of Bam.

Source Arad, via Wikimedia Commons, [Accessed 08/03/2017]. (Public domain)

Fig. 4.3

The aerial map of the Bam area in 2003.

Source HFIR (Reprinted by permission)

4.2 Socio-Economic Characteristics of Bam

The Statistical Centre of Iran (2004), in its special issue on Bam published 2 months after the earthquake, explains that the earthquake damaged region of Bam had a population of 142,376, and that the urban population of Bam and its suburb Baravat were 89,145 and 15,324 respectively. The rest of the population, 37,907 lived in 65 rural centres. According to 1996 census, the closest to the earthquake, 11 to 24 years olds formed 34.66% of the population in the Bam area. This means that at the time of the earthquake, 7 years after the 1996 census, more than one-third of the population were 18 to 31 years old, a young generation who were about to start a family and needed housing (Meskinazarian 2011). The same census indicates that the literacy rate in the Bam urban areas averaged 86.02% (88.10% for males and 83.92% for females) which is significantly higher than the country’s average of 74.2 and the province average of 74.8% (Armanshahr 2004). However, in rural areas the literacy rate, 64.2%, falls below the country’s average (Statistical Centre of Iran 2004).

The main economic activities in the area include agriculture, industry and the service sector, and the area is a tourist attraction. The historic and modern life of the locals (both rural and urban) emotionally and economically is interrelated to the palm grove gardens. Fine dates are the main agricultural product of the region; and they are exported worldwide. Most families are related to palm grove gardens, even if they formally have another job, through either owning a number of palm groves or working on them seasonally. The Bam area continued its date production during a lengthy drought, in 2002 and 2003, in southeast Iran that affected the rural poor the most (Ekhlaspour 2009). As a historic urban node remote from other cities, Bam is the commerce and service hub in its region. The service sector’s share of employment is 46%, of which 26% belong to public services provided by the government, including the military (Ekhlaspour 2009; Khatam 2006). Arg-e-Bam is a national tourist attraction and one of the international tourist destinations in Iran. Despite the country’s post-revolution turbulent international relations, it still attracts overseas tourists, with reports of 104,446 visits to Arg-e-Bam in 2002 (Statistical Centre of Iran 2004).While the area has decent hotels and an airport to accommodate such interests, tourism is not the core of the economic life of the city (Ekhlaspour 2009). Historically, the area has agriculture-related industries, e.g. storing, packaging and transport. The Bam area also saw the establishment of a free economic zone (including a car factory, Daevoo Motors) and its related services within commuting distance of Bam that created jobs for locals.

According to the 1996 census the rate of unemployment was 13% for the Bam area (Statistical Centre of Iran 2004). Given the size of the 18–31 age group, we can conclude that this group also had the biggest share of unemployment at the time of the earthquake. Official census reports indicate a mere 10% as the women’s share in the total economic activities in the region, however, Ekhlaspour, a sociologist from the region, argues that this does not reflect the real situation and the real rate is higher. According to her, the collected primary data for the census did not consider women’s work in their family-related economic activities in agriculture, livestock and in-house light industries, or as seasonal workers (ibid). She also reports of a marginal society at the periphery areas of the city, comprising of Afghan refugees and seasonal workers who come to the city to work on agricultural lands or other industries.

4.3 Bam Urban Characteristics

The present city of Bam is the expansion of the medieval-walled city around the citadel, towards south and palm tree gardens, with establishing urban nodes such as bazaars, mosques, caravanserais and baths (Armanshahr 2004). Emotional and economic interrelations with palm grove gardens are also manifested in the urban fabric, both in present Bam as the regional urban node and in its suburb Baravat. The city is organically formed of dispersed blocks of palm groves and residential houses that are situated among the palm groves. The city is famous as an organic traditional ‘garden city’. The urban fabric of Bam, in general, is dispersed; the only relatively dense urban fabric is the city centre, formed around the main Bazaar. Bam is characterised by its organic urban morphology and garden houses. Narrow roads follow the traditional irrigation system, qanats, which organically pass between garden houses.

The study of architectural characteristic of the Bam area, focusing on housing, based on desk study and fieldwork immediately after the earthquake, later published by the MHUD in 2007, divides garden houses into two main types, traditional and semi-modern. The first type, referred to as traditional garden houses, belongs mainly to older families in Bam and can as much as 200 years old. Various spatial configurations of houses with central courtyards or freestanding can be observed. They present traditional styles of architecture, including traditional materials, dome roofs and wind-catchers. The second type consists of newer garden houses that again have various configurations with a central hall or ‘villa’ (freestanding) style. This type consists of masonry or steel structure buildings, flat roofs and modern architectural styles. This was the prominent type in recent years (Golpayegani and Einifar 2004). Figures 4.4 and 4.5 show examples of those housing types that appeared in the aforementioned book. Additionally, the recent city expansion followed a grid network urban morphology. Residential blocks were situated in linear forms adjacent to the roads and houses were built of modern building materials, with flat roofs and modern architectural styles, as of other cities in Iran, with a number of two or three-storey buildings (Armanshahr 2004). The suburb of Baravat is a peri-urban district and has a dispersed urban fabric. It is dependent on Bam in almost every aspect of urban life, despite having a separate municipality. It is like a detached district of Bam as a result of a fault-line in between the two. Since it was recently recognised as a town it does not require a comprehensive plan; instead it has a guiding plan which is typically prepared for villages.
Fig. 4.4

Examples of traditional garden houses in Bam.

Source Research and Documentation Centre, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Development, Shahid Beheshti University (Reprinted with permission)

Fig. 4.5

Example of newer garden houses in Bam.

Source Golpayegani (Reprinted with permission)

The most recent comprehensive urban development plan followed the same fashion in urban development as the rest of Iran. It was prepared by a consultancy company (Armanshahr), in 2003, and endorsed just before the earthquake. It envisioned Bam as the regional service centre for the surrounding villages and smaller towns. It was a long-term plan which looks at the city for the next 20 years, from 2003–2023 (1382–1402). After the earthquake, the same company was later appointed to prepare the post-earthquake urban development plan, in the format of ‘The Special Structural-Strategic Plan for Bam’, as such fresh knowledge on the destroyed city was extremely valuable at the time. The Bam population was estimated to be 150,000 by 2023. According to the Structural-Strategic Plan for Bam, the majority of the buildings (especially houses), before the earthquake were one storey, and the average household size in the 1996 census was 5.23 people; it was reduced to 3.10 after the earthquake and the Plan envisioned reaching 3.4 in 2023. The culture of house ownership was strong, as 73.60% of households were home-owner, while, 8.11% lived in their accommodation for free (e.g. extended family and organisational housing), and 17.03% of households were renters (Armanshahr 2004; Statistical Centre of Iran n.d.).

4.4 When the Earthquake Hit Bam

In the early morning (5:28 am) of Friday, (the weekend in Iran), of 26 December 2003 a major earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale struck Bam. Within 12 s, according to the UN Flash Appeal in 2004, the earthquake caused around 30,000 fatalities, injured 20,000 people and an estimated 75,000 became homeless. The extent of devastation touched all aspects of survivors’ lives, for example 131 schools, all 3 existing hospitals with 225 beds and 24 health centres were destroyed or became unusable. Approximately 85% of the houses, commercial units, educational facilities and health facilities, as well as public and private offices in Bam and its surrounding villages were completely destroyed or became unusable (UN 2004). President Khatami announced the disaster and the government’s policy of open skies for the first time since the revolution, eliminating the necessity of requesting a visa to enter the country for the purpose of assisting the affected area. As the news broke, the organisations responsible for the emergency management in the country, their international counterparts, and volunteers from inside and outside the country rushed into the area. As the Oxfam’s Humanitarian Programme manager (cited in Meskinazarian 2011) recalled in the first 2 weeks in addition to 8,600 Iranian personnel and 4,500 tonnes of supplies deployed by the government 1,900 international personnel and 120 tonnes of supplies arrived in the area (Havaei and Hosseini n.d.; Ghafory-Ashtiany n.d.). Figures 4.6, 4.7 and 4.8 represent Bam after the earthquake.
Fig. 4.6

Destruction of the Bam central area, Photo Arefian 2004.

Fig. 4.7

The extent of destruction of the Bam urban fabric around the ancient citadel after the earthquake.

Source HFIR (Reprinted with permission)

Fig. 4.8

Zooming out on the residential urban fabric after the earthquake.

Source HFIR (Reprinted with permission)

National and international practitioners describe the overall emergency and relief performance as impressive. According to Iranian Red Crescent (cited in Meskinazarian 2011) within the first 12 hours of the earthquake food and water were distributed, and over 20,000 tents were distributed during the first 3 days. There was no significant disease outbreak. Due to the severity of the disaster, the early response teams had to deal with repairing infrastructure such as the water system and health and social services alongside the emergency provision. For example, while one-fifth of the teachers died, a few days after the earthquake schools resumed their work in tents with the help of 1,000 educational volunteers to provide a supportive environment for the surviving students. Mental health councillor volunteers organised supportive activities and group counselling (Tierney et al. 2005; Ghafory-Ashtiany and Hosseini 2007).

On 20th January 2004 (28/10/1382 in Persian calendar) three weeks after the earthquake, the Government formed the Steering Committee for the Reconstruction of Bam (in short, the Steering Committee). According to the government appointment letter on 29/01/2004 (07/11/1382 in Persian calendar), the Committee had the full authority of the government on affairs related to planning, organising, directing operational activities and supervision the reconstruction of the earthquake affected Bam area The Committee consisted of the ministers of the Ministry of the Housing and Urban development (the head of the Committee), the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Affairs, the Ministry of Economic and Revenue Affairs, the Ministry of Justice; the president of the Planning and Management Organisation; the president of IFRC, the president of HFIR, the governor of the Kerman Province; and three professional representatives of the president. The Committee members were special representatives of the president for reconstruction (The Cabinet 2004).

4.5 Earthquake Destruction

The epicentre of the earthquake was underneath the city of Bam meaning that more destruction occurred in the urban area. The earthquake directly affected 92,000 people in urban areas and 48,000 in rural areas. Early examinations estimated 25,562 urban residential and commercial units needed to be reconstructed and 828 units were in need of repair. A total of 24,332 rural units needed reconstruction (Joodi 2010).

To examine what had happened during the earthquake that caused such severe disaster, technical research centres such as the Building and Housing Research Centre (BHRC) and International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology (IIEES), quickly deployed expert teams. The Emergency, Preliminary Report of the Bam Earthquake, published 10 days after the earthquake, showed that the majority of destroyed buildings had either sundried adobe structure or unenforced masonry systems with heavy roofs and weak walls. This included a number of public buildings, for example the Municipality of Bam that was made of brick and was destroyed completely (BHRC 2004). The older parts of the city and villages houses are built using sundried adobe structure. These older buildings used traditional materials extensively were blamed for the extent of the destruction during the earthquake. According to the Bam Special Structural-Strategic Plan (Armanshahr 2004) 38.7% of houses were built from sundried adobe structures, while 61.3% were masonry buildings, built using bricks.

However, the BHRC and IIEES separate examinations also found that the area, especially the urban area which had newer buildings with steel or concrete structural systems, were also destroyed. This included residential and non-residential buildings. Those studies revealed that the majority of the newer buildings would not have been destroyed if they had applied basic seismic engineering considerations (BHRC 2004; IIEES 2004). Despite having seismic codes as part of the National Building Codes, the extent of damage and destruction of these newer buildings, as the Armanshahr report (2004) emphasises exposed the fact that engineering regulations and codes during design and construction were not applied. A few remaining ‘Mohandesi-Saz’ (Engineer-Built) buildings became evidence of the effectiveness of complying with engineering codes and regulations as they stayed either undamaged or with slight damage causing no fatalities (BHRC 2004).

In fact it had been easy to receive the Certificate of Completion for a building without meeting the compulsory regulations. Municipalities as the bodies in charge of housing development did not have effective mechanisms for enforcing contractors and owners to apply the seismic regulations and even in some cases the basics of structural engineering. People did not hire them; buildings could be built without appropriate supervision; the municipality did not carry out the necessary technical control that they were responsible for. Although according to the Engineering Organisation Law, the compliance with building codes and regulations were compulsory in practice, they could be easily skipped or examined superficially. An experienced Bami structure engineer, and one of the few engineer supervisors before the earthquake, who left Bam after the earthquake, has an interesting story about this: In the midst of blaming local engineers for earthquake destruction, he proved to the Kerman Engineering Organisation1 (KEO) that Bami engineers supervised building construction operations whenever people wanted them. A few houses with slight damages belonged to the people who had asked supervisors to do the job:

The first local (engineer) participated in reconstruction was me. It had been said that Bami engineers didn’t do their job before the earthquake. The first time (after coming back to Bam after 6 months) I went to the Engineering Organisation (office) to complain (about such accusations). They said: “You betrayed Bam”. I just gave them 60 names of owners and addresses of their houses. After a while they (from Kerman Engineering Organisation) called me in Kerman and asked me: “how could we know that it was you supervised those building? Prove it.” They had visited those houses and saw minimum damages on them. Municipality confirmed that I did those jobs. In Khordad 83 (May 2004, six months after the earthquake) I returned to Bam. It was proved that if an owner or developer had asked for supervision Bami engineers would not cut the job.

(Bami engineer)

4.6 Strategising the Overall Reconstruction

4.6.1 Fundamental Questions on Reconstruction

High-level immediate discussions about reconstruction and recovery among Steering Committee members and their advisors had to answer fundamental questions and topics that would set the overall direction of reconstruction. This was focused on the question of relocation or in situ reconstruction, and managing the scale of reconstruction. The general goal of the reconstruction was defined as:

Reconstructing residential and commercial units and other physical assets in cities and villages that were damaged as a result of the Bam earthquake, in-line with regional development plans, within the national and local capacities and based on the available capacity and resources in order to return physical life to cities

(Steering Committee 2004)

The Bam reconstruction is an in situ reconstruction despite the volume of its destruction. The most important considerations were the expenses of relocating the city, the existence of Arg-e-Bam, strong emotional and economic dependency of the people of Bam to their palm gardens, previous negative relocation experiences such as Buiyn-Zahra, and finally the geopolitical importance of the current location of the city in southeast of Iran (HFIR 2012; member of Armanshahr, interview 2013).

The Steering Committee commissioned each national organisation to take the responsibility of the reconstruction of their-sector related facilities and buildings. It was to manage the scale of such overall reconstruction which in fact was reconstructing the whole city on the ruins of the previous one, for example: HFIR for debris removal and the operational management of the urban and rural housing and commercial units; the National Organisation of Schools Maintenance and Development for reconstruction of schools; the Ministry of Agriculture Jihad for dealing agricultural affairs; and the Ministry of the Interior (Municipalities in Iran are part of the Ministry of the Interior) for dealing with urban affairs (HFIR 2012).

4.6.2 Dynamics of the Introduction of Core Principles of Reconstruction

The previous literature review in Chap.  2, showed that within disaster development literature it is acknowledged that natural hazards reveal failures in development activities. Similarly, the Bam earthquake was a sharp surgery knife, which exposed shortfalls of safe construction in housing development and urban planning for appreciating the historical–traditional urban identity. As a result, the Steering Committee translated the aforementioned overall reconstruction goal to the three guiding principles of reconstruction that in turn formed the strategic objectives of the housing reconstruction as the following:
  1. 1.

    Designs would safeguard the cultural identity and architectural fabric that Bam was famous for.

  2. 2.

    Buildings would be earthquake resistant.

  3. 3.

    Beneficiaries would be mobilised and would participate (e.g. HFIR 2004, 2012; Joodi 2010)


The dynamics of such translation was linked with the professional, emotional and social environment in the immediate aftermath that directed everyone towards the three main concerns. The relatively open social space fostered and supported the emergent of such discussions.

First, severe damage to the Arg-e-Bam with its international fame and national importance drew attention to the city itself and the unique characteristics that were unknown in many parts prior to the earthquake. This echoed concerns about the importance of appreciating historic and traditional cities and failure of the existing quantitative urban planning system activities in the Bam context. The future of the Bam urban area, given its previous traditional garden city characteristics and architectural style, was one of the main topics for discussion in the meetings. One simple example was what happens to the garden city characteristics (palm tree gardens) during reconstruction if reconstructed houses were to be built according to the mainstream comprehensive urban development planning norms, which located the building in the north of a plot. Such concerns were supported by the fact that the Bam area (including urban area) was a World Heritage area and there were nostalgic feelings after such disaster for the famous city citadel, Arg-e-Bam.

Shared understanding (e.g. Iran Cultural Heritage Organisations, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the Housing Foundation and the Bam Town Council) indicated the need to safeguard the Bam urban architectural identity during reconstruction, including housing reconstruction. The high-profile brainstorming meetings later led to the establishment of the Bam Architecture and Urbanism Council (BAUC); this was formed to ensure that all activities in the Bam reconstruction were design based. Additionally, from this consensus, an opportunity emerged in order to influence the mainstream of the country’s urban planning by bringing in the qualitative urban design and architectural features into the mainstream of urban development and housing development (interviews 2013).

Second, similar to the Manjil disaster, the severity of the Bam disaster triggered discussions on disaster prevention in general and insufficiency of the existing measures and processes for safe construction in particular. At the time of the Bam incident, earthquakes were referred as ‘unexpected incidents’ within the disaster management system. Such labelling was questioned by high-profile managers such as the president of Iran Cultural Heritage Organisation in consultative meetings (Beheshti 2004). Specialist reports, e.g. the ones by BHRC and IIEES confirmed the general consensus that the extensive destruction of Bam area was the result of problems at a national level such as unsafe construction. Having compulsory seismic codes in place was not enough to achieve safer buildings as they were not applied (BHRC 2004; Moghadam and Eskandari 2004; Eshghi and Zare’ 2003). Bam was a small example of the big threat posed by large-scale urban disasters. The vice minister of the MHUD, in a consultative and technical workshop for reconstruction and urban planning of Bam held on 17/04/2004 (27/01/1383 in Persian calendar), called such disaster a death lottery throughout the country:

If the earthquake had hit any other city in the country the result would has been the same or even worse. Bam was destroyed because it happened in Bam. It was a death lottery. Bam was a sample of what could happen in other cities, especially the bigger cities, and the capital. Having compulsory seismic regulation in place (Regulation 2800) is not enough. Many of the destroyed buildings were the newly built ones which must have complied with those existing regulations. The extensive volume of destruction was a result of weak and poor quality structures of the buildings that could not resist the earthquake.

(Hanachi 2004, Italic from author)

Third, the extensive previous experiences had proved that engaging people in the reconstruction of their own homes and assets was a win–win situation. Following the commissioning of the task of reconstruction management to HFIR, a quick discussion reconfirmed the Bam reconstruction should be a participatory reconstruction. There was no doubt on the necessity of sharing the task with the beneficiaries. The government was the facilitator-supervisor for the housing reconstruction, which was driven and undertaken by beneficiaries themselves. The operational considerations on rural and urban houses reconstruction process were to be decided (HFIR 2012; Joodi 2010).

Each of the above spheres of the Bam earthquake directly led to defining three core principles for the whole reconstruction activities; they directly transferred to housing reconstruction programme as the strategic objectives. The housing reconstruction programme, therefore, had the task of approaching those strategic objectives. To do that the housing reconstruction programme brought organisations and beneficiaries together within the programme delivery system. As will be discussed later, approaching those objectives influenced the system formation, and in turn was influenced by the system formation and implementation. For example, the organisational configuration of the system, as will be discussed later, contributed to unexpected issues during the programme implementation that required adjustments.

4.7 Housing Reconstruction Programme Policies

Besides the previous core principles framework regarding reconstruction of Bam, there were also a number of established broader policies that were in place for organising housing reconstruction activities in general after the Manjil reconstruction. They addressed a variety of considerations and practicalities for housing reconstruction related to finance, administration, construction technology, construction materials and manufacturing, organisational, designing and planning, as well as participation of beneficiaries (HFIR n.d.). They are adapted for each individual case, as for the Bam case HFIR (2004) introduces them as follows:

Policies on the participation of beneficiaries indicated that they would be the construction manager of their own house reconstruction. Within this cooperation, HFIR was the representative of the government and the executive body for the overall reconstruction (HFIR 2012). Table 4.1 shows how the role of people and the government were defined.
Table 4.1

Defining roles between government and people in Bam

The Role of Government

The Role of People

• Enabling people through providing:

• Grant and loan facilities

• Building their homes through

• Technical guidance and support

• Management of Construction

• Appropriate plans

• Supervision and pursuing

• Resources

• Participation for provision of their house’s plans and approving it

• Special supports for the poor and vulnerable people

Financial policies indicated the government would financially support the housing reconstruction in three ways: presenting banking facilities with low-interest and commission rates, providing grants, and financially supporting the technical services that are related to housing reconstruction but people cannot undertake, including debris removal, technical supervision and a special budget for housing reconstruction for people with special needs.

Average size of houses was related to the financial support that was provided—up to 60 m2 in rural areas, and 80 m2 in urban areas. If applicants required there would be technical considerations in order to extend their houses if possible.

One of the main construction policies was to improve the quality of construction of houses, compared to the situation before the disaster, by using the financial governmental assistance and beneficiaries’ awareness. Rebuilding houses as they were before the earthquake would mean losing the opportunity to make changes that would decrease future risks. Construction methods should be either the existing local methods or had the potential to be accepted and used in the country. Therefore, people would be able to undertake and manage the majority of their housing reconstruction by using the available capacity. Educational activities had to be arranged to enhance the quality of construction during the reconstruction period.

Policies related to construction materials and manufacturing of material dictated that attention should be paid to the availability of the raw material within the local area; avoiding complex technologies for transforming raw to finished materials; that materials be economical; it should be possible for the local people to participate in the work; and avoiding materials that are harmful to the environment. Additionally, the policy indicated increasing the manufacture of construction materials and intervening in their distribution management in order to control the market to prevent the creation of a black market or price increase.

Organisational policies indicated that urban development plans and design for cities and villages to be, respectively, the undertaken by MHUD and HFIR. Organisational policies focused on: utilising other provinces’ capacities, including human resource and construction instruments; avoiding administrative bureaucracy, and reducing the number of institutions with parallel activities; and speeding up the procedure for people, and reducing the number of organisations that people must contact.

The design and planning policies required reconstruction planning to be flexible. The design procedure had to be in collaboration with beneficiaries, respect what people had already done and try to establish systems and methods that were familiar. The design procedure must respect beneficiaries’ expectations, which were according to their social and economic standing. The design system was to accept the previous framework, and to provide a number of technical and design improvements. Proposals for relocation or merging building sites without strong technical reasons were to be refused.

However, the multi-organisational system for delivery of the housing reconstruction programme, that ultimately must approach the strategic objectives, simultaneously is influenced by some practical policies and in turn, the configuration and implementation of the delivery system influenced addressing these policies in practice. Problems occurred and the system was adjusted to respond to the realities of implementing the housing reconstruction programme. Emerging problems were related to the programme formation and the system configuration. Therefore, the housing reconstruction programme was adapted to the realities of implementing the programme. These will be discussed in detail later.

4.8 The International Organisations and Disaster Diplomacy

International organisations at various levels were among key stakeholders in the response, recovery and reconstruction in Bam. For example, WHO, the World Health Organisation was the first international organisation that entered the country; and the UN issued a flash appeal 12 days after the earthquake, 8 January 2004 (HFIR 2012). The UNDP worked closely with the government, provincial and local authorities as well as affected locals. As was documented later by the Housing Foundation, from the very beginning the UNDP played an active role in preparing a UN strategic document: A United Nations Strategy for Support to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran Following the Bam Earthquake of 26 December 2003. According to the UNDP report in 2004, collaboration with the UNDP and the Iranian government included both short-term and midterm collaboration on supporting a coordinated UN response in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, restoration of water supply infrastructure systems for earthquake affected smallholder dates palm plantation in Bam district; provision of technical support through specialist workshops and consultative meetings, provisions of local and international expertise and experience, demonstration projects, advocacy initiatives, capacity buildings and training programmes; and finally a small-scale pilot project for sustainable housing reconstruction in Bam through community mobilisation and participation. The scale of this pilot project was 130 families and a child-friendly park, jointly funded by the Bam municipality and the UNDP (HFIR 2012; UNDP.I.R. 2005). A report on the field trip, 23–25 January 2008, to visit activities carried out in Bam within the aforementioned projects noted:

The synergy and partnership between national counterparts and international agencies, including UNDP was remarkable.

(UNDP 2008, p. 3)

For the general housing reconstruction the presence of UNDP was more focused on the earlier stage of reconstruction and preparation level, e.g. jointly (with the MHUD and HFIR) organising specialist workshops on ‘The Bam We All Want’, in April 2004, technical workshops for locals on the earthquake vulnerability of the houses and architectural styles. Dr. Victoria Kianpour, the programme analyst at UNDP Iran in charge of the Bam project at the time, praised the efforts by the Iranian government and especially the Housing Foundation and its president at the time. She clarified that the role of the UNDP in reconstruction was more one of coordinating international efforts and intellectual support at earlier stages rather than financial support or decision-making role (interview 2013). My timeline analysis supports this as that indicates setting the overall reconstruction approach and strategy as well as the reconstruction programme was proposed and approved in January and February of 2004 before the joint consultative workshops with the UNDP.

However, in addition to those promising collaborations the case of Bam also illustrates complexities of the international diplomacy of disasters in an aftermath when interactions with the broader international political representatives might seem hypocritical. Local development programmes and people are the ones who ultimately suffer from such hypocrisy. The government of Iran from the revolution in 1979 has had a turbulent relationship with mostly Western countries, especially the USA. In addition to a general distrust and suspicion between the revolutionary governments and the big players in international diplomacy, Iran faced US sanctions and a number of UN resolutions at the time of the Bam earthquake. This affected absorbing disaster-related loans and implementing longer-term developmental projects. An illustrative evidence of this is the emergency loan agreement between the government of Iran and the World Bank for the Bam reconstruction and recovery.

According to the World Bank project documents, after lengthy preparations and negotiations starting in March 2004, a loan for the Bam emergency reconstruction project amounting to 220 million dollars from the World Bank was approved on 28 October 2004 and endorsed on 16 November 2004, 11 months after the earthquake. The loan agreement focused on five components: first and foremost was an estimated 150 million dollars for the provision of construction material and equipment for housing and commercial unit reconstruction. The second was an estimated 22.35 million for repair of the transport infrastructure, focusing on the rehabilitation and preventive works for the main international highway that also links Bam to the provincial capital of Kerman. Third was an estimated 11.45 million for the repair of telecommunication infrastructure. Fourth was 8.39 million for retrofitting works on emergency response buildings in Kerman province and provision of the vehicles and equipment. The fifth was an estimated 5.85 million dollars for project management and technical assistance through establishing the Bam reconstruction office and procuring consulting firms for providing advisory services, monitoring advisory services and technical supervision.

However, as a result of reoccurring problems in the fulfillment of the loan agreement the actual loan given for reconstruction and recovery was reduced to 154.43 million dollars of which 92% was allocated to the housing and commercial units reconstruction. This means in total 70% of the loan was absorbed for housing reconstruction and not for other developmental recovery programmes (HFIR 2012; the World Bank 2010). The project appraisal conducted by the Sustainable Development Department in the World Bank (2010), published in 2010 lists the reoccurring problems as the following:

Several factors affected the implementation of the project, for example: (i) due to the imposition of financial sanctions by the US, Special Accounts denominated in US$ had to be switched to Euros which resulted in delays in disbursements and limited the ability of local firms to submit bid securities; (ii) multiple UN sanctions discouraged potential bidders from outside Iran, thereby limiting the pool of competitive bids leading to increased project costs - because of the heavy reliance on local bidders, the quality and timeliness of many of the works also suffered; (iii) because of UN sanctions, the Bank put in place additional system to screen purchase of equipment (specifications had to be reviewed against a list of prohibited items and entities identified by the relevant UN Resolutions) thus adding another layer of clearance contributing to delays when this process was first introduced; (iv) decision by the Bank not to extend the closing date of the project left some activities incomplete and under-funded, and as a result the government had to approach other donors (i.e. Islamic Development Bank) to fill in this gap; (v) the inability and reluctance of airport authority to allow contractors and workers to enter into the airport premises due to security reasons caused delays that ultimately resulted in dropping from Bank financing activities related to the Bam airport; and (vi) because of an acute shortage of telecommunication specialists in the Bank, at the time, difficulties were encountered in preparing tender documents to import complex modern electronic equipment (New Generation Network) system.

(The World Bank 2010, p. 7)

This appraisal rates the performance of the Bank as moderately unsatisfactory with moderate risk to development outcomes; it also rates the performance of the borrower moderately satisfactory with an ‘excellent’ rate for the performance in housing and commercial unit reconstruction by HFIR. The Bank links it with the previous experience in reconstruction of HFIR.

Furthermore, despite positive responses from international organisations, the Iranian government could attract only 130 million dollars for the reconstruction stage from international organisations, a fraction of the total 1.8 billion dollar costs of the reconstruction. Some financial promises made immediate after the earthquake were not delivered by either foreign governments or international organisations after the emergency stage passed, similar to other disaster cases. Another problem, as it was documented later by HFIR (2012), was that there was not any organisation or institution responsible for an international talk with the countries and international organisations within the humanitarian movement after a disaster. According to the report by OCHA Financial Tracking Service (FTS), and on the basis of information provided by donors and appealing organisations, the total international aid to Iran for the Bam earthquake was 130,225,462 dollars (FTS n.d.). Intentional aid was mostly spent during the emergency and early recovery stage or reconstruction of schools and hospitals, whereas the total cost of reconstruction reached 1.8 billion dollars (FTS n.d.; HFIR 2012). Years later a member of the Office of Reconstruction Affairs (ORA) (cited in HFIR 2012) provides a comparison between Iran and Indonesia: after the Indian Tsunami, Indonesia needed 8 billion dollars for reconstruction and was able to absorb around 7 billion dollars from international donors. The Indonesian government created a council independent from the government consisting of local trustees and through this could attract more financial help for reconstruction (HFIR 2012).

4.9 NGOs in Bam

One of the distinct characteristics of the Bam earthquake was the extensive presence of national and international NGOs after the earthquake. Following the declaration of the disaster openly and the request of Iranian government all UN-related agencies, e.g. UNDP, OCHA, UNICEF and so on, and the well-known international NGOs such as Oxfam and Caritas went to Bam. It was unlike previous disasters that where Red Crescent and a few number of international organisations were able to help at the emergency stage. During the reconstruction and recovery stage a number of 116 national and international NGOs became engaged mostly in public services, for example, the reconstruction of schools and educational buildings, health centres and sports facilities. The representatives of the government introduced those NGOs to the reconstruction executive body, MHUD or other governmental organisations in charge of rebuilding the above amenities for further coordination and allocation of sites. Allocation of sites was coordinated with and reflected in the ‘Strategic and Structural Plan for Bam’, that was being prepared concurrently, to integrate activities. For housing reconstruction, HFIR directed those interested NGOs to rural areas, where the number of houses could be delivered by the NGO matched with the number of houses in the village that required reconstruction. In urban areas, such NGOs were linked with vulnerable groups, e.g. families that lost the main breadwinner, or families with disabled members (HFIR 2012). In these cases based on an agreement with HFIR, the NGO and acted as the representative of the family for following up the house reconstruction for the family and finance the construction (member of HFIR, interview 2013). For example, Caritas helped vulnerable groups such as those with spinal cord injuries (Caritas, n.d). The reason for such an approach was that giving a number of urban houses to a NGO for reconstruction required setting justifiable criteria for selecting those houses (member of HFIR interview 2013). An example of agreement between HFIR and the ADF Foundation in Turkey for reconstruction of 213 houses (dated 13/02/2004) shows that in such cases IFIR had to introduce vulnerable families to the NGO which acted as the representative of the beneficiaries for follow-ups of the reconstruction of their house within the housing reconstruction process and fund the construction operation.

The Bam incident also saw the emergence of local NGOs immediately after the earthquake and each took initiatives for specific groups during early recovery and afterwards up to the present. According to Ekhlaspour (2009) NGOs in Bam were mostly involved in social affairs and improving the livelihood of the most vulnerable, e.g. women and children. Some locals tried to heal their own grief through helping others. An example is the founder of a local NGO, Hamrahan-e-Bam (Friends of Bam). He lost his whole family, namely wife, children and extended family, in the earthquake and recognised that to coping with his own grief required helping others (founder of a local NGO after the earthquake, interview 2013).

4.10 Dynamics of Different Approaches to Temporary Accommodation

Initial decision in the aftermath of a disaster influences the later stages of reconstruction. Therefore, decision makers should think about the potential longer-term effects of their decisions, for example the provision of temporary accommodation for people while reconstruction of the permanent homes is carried out. Temporary housing links emergency shelters to the permanent houses and is a distinctive stage to the reconstruction process (Johnson 2007). The Bam example provides an interesting case for (a) ignoring people’s lifestyle during the provision of temporary accommodation, and (b) respecting people’s wish and the longer term effects of decisions made about temporary housing.

Camp compounds were quickly erected, using prefabricated units, on a roadside between Bam and Baravat that is a main international transit road from east to west of the country. Figure 4.9 shows a compound Initial decisions on temporary housing in Bam was taken without taking the local people’s lifestyle and culture into account, and in fact was an easy answer to providing accommodation for homeless people. Many of these prefabricated units were part of the international aid which came to the region as ready-made units. Each unit was 18–20 m2 and had water, electricity and air conditioning. Each compound had shared sanitary services (HFIR 2012).
Fig. 4.9

Initial temporary accommodation in form of camp compounds.

Source HFIR (Reprinted with permission)

However, disaster-affected people did not welcome to the idea of living in camp compounds. They preferred to return to their yards and live by the remains of their own houses rather than move to officially run camps. Locals and their representatives in town council raised various complaints, such as safety issues; inconsiderate to the local social norms within that girls and women would not leave their allocated units to use public toilet services, and potential future damage to the town after removing these camps. These camps also became a heaven for numerous outsiders who descended on the Bam area immediately after the earthquake, claiming to be disaster-affected Bami (Ekhlaspour 2009). Esmaeili, head of the Bam Town Council echoed people’s demands in a consultative workshop, 3 months after the earthquake (March 2004):
  • Prioritising erection of urgent temporary housing of people in their own yards;

  • Discontinue erection of temporary camping compounds;

  • Installation of temporary habitable structure within the garden houses such that the building of permanent houses would not be hampered;

  • Concurrent erection of boundary walls for each site to provide safety and protection for families in their own yard (Esmaeili 2004).

People’s demands were considered, and the provision of temporary accommodations saw a shift towards erecting prefabricated units for households in their own yards. This change of approach on temporary accommodation in Bam played a significant role on the overall outcomes of the Bam reconstruction. As Fayazi and Lizzaralde (2013) conclude it facilitated the recovery process and positively influenced community resilience. It in fact created opportunities for beneficiary households to increase their social capital by settling in their own communities, sharing their understanding of reconstruction realities and their experiences, while having close relationships with local organisations and other participant organisations (ibid). In autumn 2004 when the housing reconstruction process commenced, families had already moved to their own yards and lived in their individual temporary accommodation, which indeed became a permanent investment for many of the applicants’ families. Figure 4.10 shows temporary accommodation in form of in situ individual units.
Fig. 4.10

Individual in situ temporary housing what was people wanted.

Source HFIR (Reprinted with permission)

Design guidelines for reconstructing permanent houses requested to consider these supposedly in situ temporary accommodations. They were seen as the subsidiary supporting space for family lives even after the completion of permanent houses. The reason was to compensate the gap between the large size of the houses before the earthquake (around 200 m2) and small size of reconstructed houses (80 m2)—according to Armanshahr the consultancy company prepared the Bam master plan just before the earthquake and the structural-strategic urban plan after the earthquake. These 24–32 m2 ‘temporary’ accommodations proved to be permanent assets for many families to meet a variety of household needs. At the time of this research, in 2013, a considerable number of ‘temporary’ accommodations still existed and functioned, wherever the size of the yard was big enough to keep the permanent house, temporary accommodation and palm trees. Figure 4.11 illustrates an example of this.
Fig. 4.11

The old temporary houses in many cases still exist in the yard and are in use for the household needs.

Photo Arefian 2013

The new approach to the provision of temporary accommodations also played a role in changing the future construction scenarios in Bam. As will be discussed later, living in their own construction site whilst their permanent house was being built in the same site in reality entailed all family members observed the reconstruction process of their own houses, and they were in direct contact with contractor, engineer supervisors, construction workers, and at some point they even could help on this. As this research explores this was influential on the outcomes of housing reconstruction programme and the way it changed previous norms in the Bam area. Those massive camp compounds for temporary accommodation were removed one by one. Some had become places for antisocial behaviours and removing some of them occupied by outsiders proved to be a battle for local management and reconstruction management (members of provincial government, and Bam and Baravat municipalities, interviews 2013).

4.11 Recovery Approach

The literature review showed reconstruction as an agent for physical recovery is an important platform that potentially can be beneficial for psychological and economic recovery and people’s livelihood (Davis 2007). Reconstruction also creates an economic boost for the area. Thus, depending on the extent of destruction and intensity of construction and developmental projects and programmes are undertaken, thus it provides an opportunity for blending and addressing people’s livelihood and economic recovery (Alexander 2002). The Bam case provides an example of how that opportunity was used or missed to assist the economic recovery.

From early days steps were taken for the stimulating economic recovery in already-recognised sectors and to boost the local businesses. Bam also became a great marketplace for construction workers, contractors and service-based businesses. For the longer-term physical recovery the Steering Committee quickly divided the tasks of overall reconstruction with related organisations. With the financial help of government, international agencies, Iranian expats, local and international NGOs and foreign governments numerous projects on schools, hospitals, mosques, libraries, infrastructure, and recreational facilities and so on were carried out.

As the regional agricultural centre, one of the most important economic resources in the area was palm grove production. Recognising the importance of the palm gardens special attention to those gardens and repairing qanats became a major priority for various governmental organisations, non-governmental ones and international agencies. Reports show that, although the earthquake damaged the irrigation system the palm grove production was not stopped, thus creating hopes among many families who still could rely on their agricultural incomes. Before the earthquake, according to Tierney et al. (2005), 80% of palm garden irrigation system relied on 64 qanats, out of which 30 were damaged. It is reported that 22 qanats out of the 30 were repaired by May 2004. Many of the families (inside or outside the urban areas and villages) owned or worked in palm gardens while they might or might not have another formal job (e.g. Tierney et al. 2005; Khatam 2006; UNDP 2004).

The earthquake also, as Fallahi and Arzhangi (2011) report, destroyed 90% of small businesses and shopping centre structures, including the Bazaar. This affected the livelihood of people who relied on small businesses and services. Recovery of small businesses started quickly after the earthquake by fencing and allocating prefabricated units and containers with the help of the governor, municipality and reconstruction executive body, HFIR. Interestingly such prefabricated business units quickly spread throughout the city and mainly at the edge of main and/or commercial streets. They provided all services and shops, from clothes to beauty salon, from hairdresser to bakery, to electrical equipment and to lawyers’ offices. Real-time observations by me and others in 2004 and 2005 suggest ‘Life goes on for the residents of Bam. Shops and stalls have already started business’ (Lateef 2004, p. 164). Figure 4.12 shows an example of those small businesses.
Fig. 4.12

Example of working small business and shops in 2005.

Photo Arefian 2005

Employees at service sectors in Bam, as Khatam (2006) states, were less vulnerable to social instabilities and economic disruption as they still benefited from stability in their employment and were able to return to their jobs. This included around 26% of the workforce including military personnel.

And finally, the reconstruction period as the major step for long-term recovery created a job market both for construction industry related industries and service providers. As a member of HFIR explains (interview 2013), in order to boost the local economy distribution of construction material was only allowed through local shops and businesses. A construction Bazaar was formed. Wholesale traders of construction materials exhibited in the construction Bazaar but they had to set representative arrangements with local business for selling and distributing their products. The government provided low-cost loans for setting up construction material production workshops and factories.

However, neither reconstruction policies nor such initiatives addressed low skilled labourer and unemployed youth at the beginning. According to Khatam (2006) unemployed people, especially youth and low skilled labourers, are the ones who suffer most from the disaster and statistics indicated 20% unemployment within the area. As a number of researchers and observers point out (e.g. Meskinazarian 2011; Tierney et al. 2005) many of local workers felt marginalised at the early stages of reconstruction as they did not meet the criteria to work as local contractors or skilled labourers. Since outsider contractors did not recruit them, they became drivers, serving the numerous operational organisations in the field, e.g. Setads and consultancy companies. As will be discussed later, such approach towards local contractors and construction workers changed during the implementation phase. Training courses were later arranged for local contractors and construction workers in order to help them receive the licence for contractor works (member of HFIR interview 2013; local contractor interview 2013).

Interestingly, although there was the above hindrance, many of operational organisations organically recognised the value of local knowledge for their services, for example, knowledge about neighbourhoods and residents. Many organisations including my own architectural consultancy employed local youth, e.g. for technical assistance or office-based tasks, providing informal training for their local employees. It appears that such approach not only provided employment during reconstruction period it also had longer-term impacts. During this research, I came across two engineers and an architect who during reconstruction worked for those organisations as unskilled trainees. After the reconstruction period, each decided to pursue his university degree and continue in such disciplines, now working at the municipality, Engineering Organisation and the Bam branch of HFIR.

Meskinazarian (2011) and Khatam (2006) indicate that although a number of initiatives for economic recovery were introduced the overall longer term recovery prioritised the physical recovery to the livelihood of people. Thus long-term recovery leaned towards construction projects, and not systematic planning and programmes for increasing people’s livelihoods and job opportunities for unemployed youth and low skill labourers.

The lack of comprehensive planning and programmes to systematically address all groups’ livelihoods for the longer-term recovery in Bam is obvious. However, it must be noted that around 30,000 people soon after the earthquake moved to the earthquake affected area, claiming to be Bami in search of opportunities as reported by Ekhlaspour (2009). While Ekhlaspour refers to them as the rural poor of the larger region and links them to the lengthy drought in the region in years prior to the earthquake, there is no detailed data on them. But they are most likely among the ones complaining about unavailability of jobs in Bam. By the same token, it is possible that many of non-genuine Bami applicants received small temporary business units. At the end of the reconstruction period removing many ‘temporary business units’ proved problematic. Municipalities could only remove the majority of the units in 2011 and 2012 after 7 years.

However, the reconstruction of permanent business premises encountered problems and negatively affected the recovery of small businesses. Reconstruction of permanent shops and small businesses had to follow the same procedure as the housing reconstruction process. Each shop owner could receive grants and low-interest loan for reconstruction. The amount was based on the shops’ floor area before the earthquake. Fallahi and Arzhangi (2011) in their research on business continuity after the earthquake found a lack of data and legal issues became of two major challenges for reconstruction of Bam. The lack of data meant that there was no sufficient data on small businesses and shopkeepers desired to receive more from reconstruction funding. Another Reconstruction of shops also was linked with the implementation of the city’s urban development plan that proved problematic. This will be discussed in the next section.

4.12 Reconstruction Within the Context of the Urban Development of Bam

A destructive disaster is seen as a disruption in development path of the area; recovery and reconstruction help to overcome this disruption so the disaster-affected area will be returned to its development path again. There is a spectrum of a seeing reconstruction as a window of opportunity to deliver radical changes to more pragmatic ones that acknowledge that in any situation there is room for improvement. Moreover, there are questions on how and to what extent a developmental approach could be linked with reconstruction. The case of Bam provides an illustrative example for such debates, as it took a positive but pragmatic approach for linking reconstruction and development.

Various presentations and documentation by the HFIR members and Office of Reconstruction Affairs, ORA, state the Bam reconstruction, as a whole, had a developmental approach (e.g. Alizamani 2012; Joodi 2010; Havaei n.d.). Although they do not explain what they mean by ‘developmental approach’, given their presentations it appears that they refer to strategising the reconstruction, previously discussed. Their focus also is on housing reconstruction, its objectives and practical considerations, as well as, to some extent, the revised urban development plan that set the roadmap for the future of the disaster-affected area. They highlight the contemporary international disaster discourse and lessons they learned from previous national reconstruction experiences, providing three propositions:
  • A reconstruction without developmental approach was not acceptable because it would have been a repetition of what had happened before and what had collapsed during those 12 s of the Bam earthquake.

  • An idealistic ambitious reconstruction that required radical changes in people’s lifestyle, lengthy operational period and was disrespectful to available resources was not deliverable.

  • A reconstruction is an opportunity to re-think about the development of the area and address previous shortfalls and problems, and have a longer-term plan aligned with regional and national development (ibid).

Thus, the third proposition for the reconstruction of Bam was selected: an opportunity to enhance the development of the area and address existing shortfalls, whilst eliminating undeliverable and idealistic objectives (Alizamani 2004). This approach was optimistic yet pragmatic. According to this view, the Bam reconstruction activities as a whole would have an enabling role for the destroyed area to overcome this massive disruption that occurred in the city’s previous developmental pathway alongside other parts of the country (Joodi 2010). A member of ORA uses the following metaphor of a patient to explain:

Imagine there is a patient with chronic heart problems. He just had a car accident, resulting to his broken hand and severe wounds. What do you do as his medical doctor? Will you undertake operation for his broken hand, wounds and heart at once? Or you treat his wounds and hand, and then look for solution for his chronic problem?

(member of ORA)

The Bam case provides valuable examples of operational challenges and opportunities of the enabling role of urban reconstruction, and linking it with routine urban development processes. In Bam the underlying socio-economic dynamics of such reconstruction which in fact was the speedy implementation of the city’s urban development plan prolonged business recovery. Long-term business recovery—linked to the reconstruction of shops and independent business premises—was strongly linked to the implementation of the new Bam urban development plan, called ‘Strategic and Structural Plan for Bam’.

The Strategic and Structural Plan for Bam that was approved in October 2004 was, in fact, a revised version of the recently approved detailed master plan of the city that was adjusted to the post-disaster situation. The old master plan followed the fashionable trend of master planning across the country and widening roads for prioritising cars. Similar to the old master plan, the new Plan suggested a number of commercial roads to be widened to assure the capacity of these roads for the longer term view of the city. The Plan also reflected on damages to the urban fabric and included dispersed recovery projects by NGOs and others. It also introduced additional urban design guidance to reflect the core principles of the Bam reconstruction (Armanshahr 2004). The preparation of this new urban development plan was undertaken in parallel to reconstruction activities, with coordinating meetings and on hand advice for the reconstruction when questions arose.

In practice, such proposal for widening commercial roads meant that all shops and businesses premises at the edge of these roads required a setback from their previous building lines. This, in turn, meant the municipality as the implementer of the Plan had to financially compensate the shop owners. The amount of this compensation became a source of dispute between business owners, the town council, municipalities and government. The total allocated fund for the purpose was $200,000 for Bam and $80,000 for Baravat that was based on initial estimations. However, the town council pushed the government towards higher amount of total budget and increased financial compensation for each case (at some cases reaching to $12,000 for an individual case) as the town council saw this fund as a source of income for disaster-affected residents. Consequently, the allocated funds became insufficient to cover all the affected businesses. Uncertainty and inconsistency in financial compensations meant many business owners were reluctant to do the requested setback in the hope of receiving more financial compensation but neither could they reconstruct their permanent business premises. Such issue delayed prolonged overall business recovery. Finally, as minutes and presentations at the BAUC show, the Bam Architectural and Urbanism Council intervened in December 2005 and ruled that no road should be widened (BAUC and HFIR 2005).

Such challenges are linked to the fact that reconstruction, which is urgent, short-term and fast pace in nature, should deliver urban development plans, which are long-term and slow pace towards an ideal vision. The implementation of such visions exceeds the responsibilities and scope of reconstruction. As a member of ORA reflected on the challenges of implementing urban development plans during a limited time of reconstruction:

Our professionals and consultancy services should understand that urban development plans in post-disaster reconstruction is different than the ones in normal situation.

If in normal situation an urban development plan should be implemented over the course of 20 years for example, in reconstruction we are on a fast pace to do so.

(member of ORA)

Moreover, the devastating extent of physical destruction in Bam meant that almost all other non-residential and non-commercial buildings required reconstruction, for example 130 schools, two hospitals, and all mosques. Like other reconstruction cases, there were also new/promised non-residential public or private sector projects, many of which were sponsored by national or international donors. The Plan was flexible enough to embrace generous proposals by donors. Notably, those projects also are part of the developmental path of the disaster-affected area. They not only influence the physicality of the city but social aspects, and business sense of the people because they bring fresh ideas to the disaster-affected area. The Bam earthquake, like other devastating disasters, attracted national and international attention for undertaking avant-garde projects and programmes, compared to pre-disaster status quo. Such projects enhanced the vision for Bam as a regional centre for the surrounding area within the Plan. Examples of such projects include a music centre by veteran Iranian musicians in the memory of a famous singer—Iraj Bastami—who died in the earthquake, and the child-friendly neighbourhood project funded by UNDP. A local teacher reflects on this:

Office buildings are now new, modern and cleaner (than before the earthquake). Previously we had only one traffic light in the city, Imamzadeh Asiri, and no one cared about it. Now we have more traffic lights. Imam Khomeini road became a boulevard and is wider. Bam now represents a more developed city. We have a well-equipped sport stadium now that we didn’t have before. The Education Organisation Office didn’t have a conference venue before. Now its new building has a big conference venue. It is very good. We have a number of reception venues for celebrations (weddings and ceremonies) whereas previously there were only Azadi hotel and Arg-e-e Jadid hotel. Our houses are not as big and a number of wedding reception venues throughout the city exists.

They (the Bam municipality and town council) brought a funfair park here but it is useless. They bought equipments but they are not used as they were second hand. It does not even have a roofed space for the children’s playground.

There is a big library now. Universities before offered a few subjects but now there are more subjects.

(local teacher; italic from author)

Such non-residential projects too had to respect the overall core principles of the Bam reconstruction set by the Steering Committee on safeguarding the architectural identity of the old city and building earthquake resistance buildings. In this regard, the Bam city reconstructed area presents interesting examples of construction projects for schools, mosques, universities and governmental offices. However, one must recognise there is a core difference between developmental projects undertaken by a single organisation and participatory programmes from a complexity perspective. For the former the single organisation is one big client or investor with its own professional team; but in the latter participatory programmes are a portfolio of large number of individual projects and their local clients. Those single organisation construction projects are undertaken by informed clients and skilled professional teams on design and construction, whether to be small or large scale. Those projects are not are not similar to large-scale housing reconstruction when the housing reconstruction programme is to embrace people’s participation. The challenge for the housing reconstruction was how to embed such optimistic but pragmatic developmental improvements into the housing reconstruction process that was supposed to be based on individual reconstruction cases, driven and administrated by the owners or beneficiaries. The reconstructed Bam, more than 10 years after the earthquake, shows the aforementioned core difference as it represents a two-folded picture of reconstruction. Such widespread finely finished construction projects contrast to modest houses and the existence of uncompleted house structures and some roads that the municipality still has not completed.

4.13 Conclusion

This chapter examined how the strategy to reconstruct the Bam area was directly linked to local historic importance and Bam being a unique traditional garden city, prompting new discussions on the importance of safeguarding historic traditional urban characteristics that Bam was famous for. Simultaneously the Bam case directed general consensus towards shortfalls in safe construction in the housing sector at both local and national levels as compulsory seismic codes were not applied and enforced in practice and such a shortfall was not detected. The practical lesson of the advantages of engaging beneficiaries within reconstruction of their houses was proved.

Repair of qanats, facilitating creating marketplaces for local businesses and requesting construction material producers to partner with local businesses for distributing them were among the steps for economic recovery in recognised sectors. However, such considerations did not extend to the unemployed or low skilled labourers to enter the job market, although the reconstruction period created a big construction market. Since local knowledge was organically appreciated by some organisations they recruited local youth.

Despite involvement and overall arrangements of international agencies, there were contradictory practical problems for the delivery of key developmental projects. Bam exemplifies prevailing international politics and relations prior to disaster influence the deliverability of post-disaster development key initiatives that might be promised immediately in an aftermath. It is the local people and the already disaster-affected area that misses out as a result of such hypocrisy.

The initial approach for temporary accommodation ignored the social norms and created unease for Bami people. Reflecting the people’s request to return to their own sites and live there while their house was to be reconstructed, was an important change of approach by HFIR. This proved more socially acceptable temporary accommodation and also, as the future showed, it had a long-term positive impacts as will be discussed later.

The Bam reconstruction was an optimistic yet pragmatic effort within the contemporary debates on linking reconstruction and development policies and processes. It tried to link urban reconstruction and developmental visions together. In practice, challenges included limited financial resources, the short-term reconstruction time span and the difference between immediate and long-term priorities for fully implementing ambitions activities with longer-term visions of the urban development plans. Too many changes in the existing reference documents of urban development plans, in turn, might prolong the overall recovery, for example short-term business recovery as it causes more uncertainties.

New large or small projects and programmes implemented by single organisations for physical recovery are part of the developmental path of the area. They bring fresh ideas and stimulate further development. However, they are less complex than participatory programmes, which have developmental objectives. A participatory reconstruction programme must bring various strategic and practical considerations together and create a reconstruction process for ordinary people. This research focuses on the latter, specifically the participatory housing reconstruction programme in the Bam urban area, examining how it tried to embed such optimistic vision into the sociotechnical delivery system of the programme.


  1. 1.

    The Kerman Engineering Organisation (KEO) is the province branch of the National Engineering Organisation in charge of qualifying and regulating engineers and application of the National Building Codes in construction industry, established in 1992.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Silk Cities, The Bartlett Development Planning UnitUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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