Exploring land governance in post-disaster: a case of
Reshma SHRESTHA, Arbind
TULADHAR, Jaap ZEVENBERGEN, The Netherlands
This paper was presented at the FIG – ISPRS workshop International
Workshop on Role of Land Professionals and SDI in Disaster Risk
Reduction: In the Context of Post 2015 Nepal Earthquake in
Kathmandu, Nepal, 25-27 November, 2015. The focus of this paper is on
analyzing the land governance in informal settlements during
reconstruction phase of post-disaster periods.
Land is the fundamental element for shelter, protection, livelihood and
early recovery from disasters such as earthquakes, floods and
landslides. The effects of these disasters have direct consequences for
the social, economic, legal and cultural life of the people surviving
these disasters. These consequences can lead to human, structural and
financial losses. The land issues are pertinent in terms of human
vulnerability because land policies, and laws in access and allocation
of land determine vulnerability of human beings during natural hazards.
In this context, land governance – referred to as policies, rules,
processes in access and allocation of land- plays significant role on
the pre-disaster as well as post-disaster settings.
The informal settlement is often considered as the outcome of weak land
governance and it becomes more pertinent in the post-disaster settings.
Basically, the proliferation of informal settlement as well as increased
risk of vulnerability of existing informal settlements is often seen in
the post-disaster context. Providing adequate shelter (after disaster)
remains one of the intractable problems in international humanitarian
response, particularly, in urban settings with tenure complexity such as
multiple occupancy, informal tenure, and tenancy. However, these also
create an opportunity to incorporate informal settlement in formal
settings in the context of “Build Back Better”. Within this context, the
focus of this paper is on analyzing the land governance in informal
settlements during reconstruction phase of post-disaster periods. The
method applied is based upon the desk research reviewing various
literatures in the cases of Haiti earthquake 2010 and Gujrat earth quake
2001 in relation to land issues in post- disaster periods particularly
in informal settlements. The comparative analysis of case studies shows
that land governance plays a vital role in ”Building Back Better” which
basically indicates towards reducing vulnerability in future disaster.
The paper concludes with key lessons learnt in the context of land
governance and ”Building Back Better”.
Land issues are always relevant to the effectiveness of the humanitarian
assistance to the disaster phases. In pre-disaster as well as
post-disaster phases, land is a sensitive and contextual issue.
Nevertheless, in the different phases of disaster i.e. preparedness,
relief, recovery and reconstruction, land is a fundamental
requirement. The scholarly literatures often indicate that that
access to land, allocation of land and land tenure security is a
critical factor while building resilience and reducing
vulnerability in post-disaster settings (Charoenkalunyuta, 2011). Usamah
(2013) has shown that there is an overlap of resilience and
vulnerability in the community where the strong social facts such as
social capital, social cohesion and social network exist. A community
such as an informal settlement can have coping capacity with reduced
vulnerability because of their social aspects. However, lack of legal
access to land and tenure security plays a significant role in the
social, economic and cultural resilience of the people in the
post-disaster phase in the context of reducing vulnerabilities.
Land governance plays a vital role in the post-disaster humanitarian
response to building resilience of vulnerable groups. Land governance is
about determining and implementing sustainable land policies and
establishing a strong relationship between people and land (Enemark et
al., 2009). It is about rules, process and structure through which
decisions on access to land, land rights, land use and land development
are made and implemented by reconciling the conflicting interests
(Deininger, Augustinus et al. 2010). It is also about the power play on
access to and use of land as reflected in the rules and regulations
(Deininger et al., 2010; Palmer et al., 2009a).
Informal settlements are the outcome of weak land governance in access
and allocation of land to the vulnerable or marginalized groups. When
referring to informal settlements, various meanings and characteristics
such as slums (Huchzermeyer and Karam, 2006), shanty towns (Lloyd,
1979), squatter settlements (Willis, 2009) come up. Slums are
characterized by the lack of basic services and durable housing
conditions, insufficient living spaces and sanitation, insecure tenure,
poverty and exclusion (UN-HABITAT 2005). Shanty towns are characterized
by low quality buildings made out of materials (such as corrugated
irons, plastic, and cardboard), lack of proper utilities. Squatter
settlements resemble the physical characteristic of slums and shanty
towns but they lack legal land ownership documents. The lack of legal
recognition of these settlements hinders the reconstruction phase after
an earth quake disaster (Doberstein and Stager, 2013).
The “Building Back Better” concept is considered as a guide for the
reconstruction phase of a post-disaster period. This concept is limited
not only to the physical improvement of the infrastructure but it is
equally applicable to the social, economic and cultural resilience as
well. The disaster creates opportunities to reconstruct the cities and
various international donors are active to support the reconstruction.
However, as highlighted in (Fitzpatrick, 2007), weak land governance
hinders the alleviation of the aftermath effects in informal settlements
blocking improvement of their shelters and livelihood. In contrast,
Birkmann et al. (2010) have also mentioned that the aftermath of a
disaster can create windows of opportunity to change either positively
or negatively. Within this context it can be said that there is an
opportunity in the aftermath of disaster to tackle the issues of tenure
security in informal settlements.
In this study, land governance elements are used to understand the
impacts of post earthquake disaster phases on the reconstruction
of informal settlements with the aim to explore the land governance
issues of informal settlements in post-disaster settings.
We have adopted a case study approach to explore how land governance can
have an impact in the reconstruction phase after a disaster. The cases
of Gujrat Earthquake, which occurred in 2001, and the Haiti Earthquake,
which occurred in 2010, are considered. The cases are selected based on
earthquake hazards and countries having issues of informal settlement in
the pre- and post-disaster settings. The land governance elements are
extracted from Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) (Deininger et
al., 2011) and the elements of building back better are extracted from
“Build Back Better” framework conceptualized by Wilkinson and Mannakkara
(2014). The units of analysis of the cases are the land governance
elements. Figure 1 shows the methodological framework of this paper.
Fig. 1: Methodological Framework
The secondary sources are used to collect the data of the cases. “Google
Scholars” was used to search the scholar articles, where as simple
“Google Search” was used to search for the reports of multinational,
bilateral organizations. The key words like “Haiti Earth Quake”, “Gujrat
Earth Quake” together with key-words like “informal settlement”,
“squatter settlement”, and “post-disaster” and “land tenure” were
applied in the search strategy. The types of documents used for the case
studies are scholarly articles, reports by USAID, UN-Habitat, World
Bank, IDMC Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The following
documents have been used for the case studies:
- For the Haiti case study (Bramante and Raju, 2013), (Blake, 2015),
(Myers, 2014), (Sanderson et al., 2014), (Clermont et al., 2011),
(Hooper, 2015), (Frederique, 2011); (McCallin et al., 2015)
- For the Gujrat case study (Fitzpatrick, 2007), (Mukherji, 2010),
(Mukherji, 2015), (McCallin et al., 2015; UNISDR, 2010) ; (McCallin et
al., 2015); (Jigyasu, 2002)
3. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
In this section, the theoretical perspective of land governance in
post-disaster settings and its impact on informal settlements are
described. The contexts of the land governance framework and build back
better (BBB) are given below.
3.1 Land Governance in the context of urban informal settlements
The main issue concerning land governance in informal settlements is
about the provision of land rights and security, about curtailing the
growth of informal settlements and about balancing conflicting interests
of various actors in solving land issues for low-income housing (Palmer
et al., 2009b) . The various studies show that the weak land governance
in regulating the land market for the low-income population is the
driving force for the proliferation of informal settlements. Despite the
failure of the land market, the lack of proper land use plans and the
failure of appropriate implementation of land use plans are the causes
for allowing settlements in vulnerable zones such as flood plains, fault
lines, coastal zones etc. Further studies in the policy aspects have
revealed that lack of clear policies related to land for informal
settlement has generated a tolerant attitude of a government towards
informal settlements. In the long run, the settlements exist for decades
due to the powerful influences of the social networks and social capital
of the informal settlers strengthens (Shrestha, 2013). As a result, the
settlers get socially recognized although the legal legitimacy is weak
(Shrestha et al., 2014).
As regards the tenure security of informal settlements, the settlement
tends to have de facto and perceived tenure security (Van Gelder, 2010).
The de facto and perceived tenure security are basically developed when
the physical upgrading of informal settlements takes place. Similarly,
the increased social capital and social network enhance the perceived
tenure security. In reality, the settlers or communities build their own
social norms and rules in the settlement areas. Indeed the social norms
and values play a vital role in the land governance of informal
settlements (Shrestha et al., 2014).
The elements of Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) which was
developed by the World Bank (Deininger et al., 2011), provide the basis
for evaluating the tenure security in informal settlements. The
institutional and legal framework and land use plan are those elements
that determine tenure security of informal settlements in a holistic
manner. The indicators developed in LGAF on the institutional and legal
dimension such as recognition of a continuum of rights, enforcement of
rights, restriction of rights, clarity of institutional mandates can
help to assess land governance in informal settlements.
3.2 The land governance of urban informal settlements in post-disaster
The studies related to the disasters revealed that the informal settlers
are the vulnerable groups in the aftermath of a disaster. The land
policies and laws that exist in pre-disaster settings play a vital role
in providing shelter and reconstruction. The lack of policies to
recognize land rights of informally occupied land affect humanitarian
response. The humanitarian response of rebuilding the infrastructure and
shelter on land without well-defined land rights will lead to conflict,
delay and an increase in costs (USAID). The lack of policies to
recognize a continuum of land rights (Augustinus, 2010) in order to
provide land tenure security of disaster for the affected informal
settlers results in their displacement. Allowing the involvement of the
civil society groups to create an inventory of the socially recognized
rights is important in effective reconstruction efforts and building
long-term resilience for disaster affected informal settlers and
The resilience of the community is defined as the coping capacity of
disaster-affected people in terms of the environmental, social, economic
and legal dimensions. The environmental resilience of the affected
community can be achieved by timely land use restriction and
implementation of land use zoning that prevents the informal settlers to
settle back in the environmentally sensitive zone in the aftermath of a
disaster. The social and economic dimension of resilience can be
achieved by involvement of the community in resettlement projects in
such a manner that it ensures their shelter needs and incorporates
livelihood and sense of well-being. The legal dimension of resilience
includes the mechanism to incorporate informal land tenure arrangement
into secure land tenure for e.g. the use of technical provision of
storing and preventing land occupancy records collected in community
level reduces the disaster related risks and response in the wake of the
disaster (Mitchell 2011).
3.3 Conceptualizing “Building Back Better” in land governance of
The concept of “Building Back Better” (BBB) aims to improve recovery and
reconstruction practices. The concept first emerged during the
restoration after the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster (Wilkinson and
Mannakkara, 2014). It is based on the norms that quick restoration
without including risk reduction aspects that can further replicate and
worsen the existing vulnerabilities. Kennedy et al. (2008) and Lyons
(2009) pointed out that rebuilding in the aftermath of a disaster without mitigating measures replicates the same
vulnerabilities that existed prior to the disaster. The examples
include: the non-adherence to design and construction regulation for
buildings and infrastructure, insufficient focus on the livelihood
aspect and; neglecting vulnerable communities like informal settlements.
Moreover, the authors, namely, Mitchell (1999), Lewis (2003) and
Kijewski-Correa and Taflanidis (2012) indicate that the reconstruction
and recovery period following a disaster poses an opportunity to address
and rectify vulnerability issues in the communities. When BBB is linked
with land governance in informal settlements it creates an opportunity
of proactive interventions such as implementation of land use zoning,
regeneration with application of land readjustment in the
post-earthquake phase in Japan, in developing land for low cost housing
to prevent new informal settlements. Similarly, it creates an
opportunity for reactive intervention as well such as recognizing the
informal settlement in the formal legal framework by in situ upgrading
following the risk reduction norms. Land rights recognition based on the
continuum of land rights (Augustinus, 2010) and adaptation of pro poor
approach (Zevenbergen et al., 2013) can contribute to do so.
Various guidelines aligning with the BBB concept are available and
reflect land governance aspect. Several guidelines proposing the BBB
concept in reconstruction operations have been developed. These
guidelines at international level are “Principle for Settlement and
Shelter” by United Nations Disaster Relief Organizations, “Hyogo
Framework for Action 2005 -2015” and “The Sendai Framework for Disaster
Risk Reduction 2015-2030” by The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk
Reduction, “Rebuilding for a more sustainable future: as operational
framework” by Federal Emergency Management Agency’s, “Sustainable
Recovery and Reconstruction Framework” by World Bank. Similarly there
are national initiatives such as the “Post Tsunami Recovery and
Reconstruction Strategy” by the Government of Sri Lanka, New Zealand
Christchurch earthquake recovery authority’s “Recovery Strategy”
(Wilkinson and Mannakkara, 2014). These guidelines consist of land
governance elements, such as land use plan to reduce disaster risk, land
use restriction in vulnerable zones such as flood prone zones, fault
zones, land development with provision of disaster resilience
infrastructure, such as width of access roads , open spaces,
buildings following appropriate building norms. In addition to the
physical aspect, BBB also reflects to the socio-economic resilience and
also the good governance principle such as equity, participation,
transparency (Wilkinson and Mannakkara, 2014).
As a part of BBB in the reconstruction phase, the informal settlements
might not be incorporated as they are not legal entities. Most of the
government intervention focuses on the formal settlements. In certain
settings, funds to rebuild a house are only released if formal land
documentation can be supplied. This is always a challenge and is
unrealistic in areas where land tenure was informal (Zevenbergen et al.,
2015). The disadvantaged groups who lack security of tenure are
particularly vulnerable to disasters. The study of Usamah et al. (2014)
on the vulnerability and disaster resilience of informal settlements
state that social aspect like social capital, social network play a
vital role in coping capacity during and after a disaster. Despite
social resilience they are often affected by disasters due to lack of
legal resilience and the relative consequences of disasters are also
greater for them. Therefore, the issue of informal settlements is
equally important and should be incorporated in the context of BBB.
4. DESCRIPTION OF CASE STUDIES
In this paper we consider two case studies that relate the situations of
land issues in informal settlements in the reconstruction phase of post
disaster. These two case studies are from Haiti Earth Quake of 2010 and
India Earth Quake of 2001.
4.1 The Haiti Earth Quake
In January, 2010 an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck Haiti near
its capital of Port-au-Prince. Within a week of the earthquake, hundreds
of informal camps were erected across Port-au-Prince by persons
displaced by the earthquake, termed internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The earth quake killed an estimated 230,000 people across Haiti with
approximately 375,000 dead or injured in Port-au-Prince alone (Bramante
and Raju, 2013).
4.1.1. Land issues and informal settlements
Prior to the earth quake disaster of 2012, Haiti did not have a national
land policy to guide access or allocation of land. Nor was there a clear
legal system for registration, occupancy, ownership and transfer of
land. This makes it difficult to recognize land rights of informal
settlements that exist for the longer time. The rights of land owners on
their land that is occupied by informal settlers are unclear, especially
owners with incomplete documentation and inherited land that was not
properly subdivided. The mechanism to cope with this problem has been
individual negotiation with the people who have seized their land rather
than challenging them through the judicial system. However, in the
aftermath of the disaster in 2014, the situation became more critical.
The land owners themselves became more vulnerable, when land owners lost
legal document or heirs lack proof of documentation for land rights due
to the deaths of legal land holders. There was no security for the plot
which was left by the landowners unoccupied for the timebeing. The
unoccupied plots were informally encroached upon (Blake, 2015).
Furthermore, the informal settlers often remain at their homes even when
it is dangerous to stay in that place during a disaster, fearing they
might lose their land. And without security of tenure, their homes are
often rebuilt in a way that cannot withstand earthquakes (Myers, 2014).
Within a week after the devastating earthquake, hundreds of informal
camps were erected across Port-au-Prince by persons displaced by the
earthquake, termed internally displaced persons (IDPs). Approximately,
105,000 homes were destroyed and around 85,000 homes were damaged which
resulted into nearly 1.5 million people dropping into IDP camps
(Bramante and Raju, 2013). The spatial analysis of IDP camps conducted
by Bramante and Raju (2013), reveals that most of the camps are located
near the city centre, close to the airport and in higher areas as
displaced Haitians fled there to have easier access to international aid
and be safe from further effects of the earthquake, like tsunamis or
slope failure. According to McCallin et al. (2015), 1.1 million IDPs
were living in camps ten months after the disaster. Two years after the
disaster, the IDPs population was 500,000 and in early 2015 it decreased
There was a draft shelter strategy to convert the IDP camp into a
transitional shelter before stepping into permanent housing. In the
transitional phase the aim was to provide the affected people with a
secure, safe, private and dignified shelter for the duration until
permanent housing could be reconstructed. The shelter process failed due
to lack of proper technical feasibility assessment of type of the
transitional shelter as a result of which it ended up as an object
rather than shelter process. Due to the unclear processes and policies
there was a delay in providing transitional shelters termed as
T-shelters. By the time the T- shelters were available for deployment
many camps had been allowed to densify and ‘solidify’ themselves. The
settlers of the camps had already created their economic activities
ranging from the beauty salons to internet cafes to food stalls. This
self-created economic resilience left the camps to turn into permanent
shelters (Sanderson et al., 2014). According to the International
Organization for Migration, as of December 2014, an estimated 21,218
households, or 79,397 people, remain homeless in 105 camps scattered
throughout metropolitan Port-au-Prince and the region (Blake, 2015).
This indicates that IDP camps converted into informal settlements.
One of the greatest institutional concerns in Port au Prince was the
lack of clarity on land titles, lack of reliable government land
records, and lack of evidence of ownership with the occupants and also
there was no alternative mechanism to identify genuine claims.
Therefore, land availability and ownership has become a large hindrance
to the reconstruction. The land issues particularly include: proving
land ownership where documentation has been lost or competing titles
exist, rebuilding transitional shelter (T-shelters) on private land with
negotiated land rental, eviction notices on camps by land owners,
presence of camps on land allocated for other purposes, progressing
camps into semi-permanent structure, land issues of informal settlements
(Clermont et al., 2011). Besides land tenure issue, the lack of land use
zoning and regulations also hindered the reconstruction phase. As
indicated in the studies of Hooper (2015), there was a diversified
spatial preference of different actors such as government, international
and national NGOs, bilateral development agencies and private developers
in long term housing construction in the aftermath of the disaster. The
institutional weakness and lack of proper land use plan and zoning have
triggered the various actors to act according to their own logic and
preference of housing site selection. According to McCallin et al.
(2015), the institutional weakness, such as lack of leadership in
guiding reconstruction effort, clear roles and responsibilities in
various government agencies, lack of a coordinating national agency and
policy framework, had seriously effected the activities of international
respondents such as USAID, World Bank, UN- Habitat. This has led the
international agencies in defining the minimum standards and operational
priorities. Moreover, the informal settlements are seriously impaired in
the implementation of humanitarian reconstruction standards.
International organizations like the British Red Cross (BRC) were
actively engaged in providing shelter assistance to people affected by
the disaster. The land tenure issue made the actions of BRC less
effective. However, some temporary measures were feasible, such as
paying rent to land owners for three year periods or negotiating with
land owners for extended land usage. The BRC implemented a neighborhood
plan when landowners were able to prove their ownership. The informal
settlements that lacked legal documents could not become the real
beneficiaries. To get the support for reconstructing their houses, the
land owners themselves approached the organization. The clearing of the
rubble and preparing of the pieces of land with clear land titles has
been the mandate for land owners. The land rights issues were beyond the
control of NGOs and there was no access to land related databases. An
overall implication of the lack of clarity on land titles, lack of space
to build infrastructure and legal hurdles in providing any services with
a semblance of permanence, is that all intervention programmes
took place in a piece- meal manner lacking national recovery of the
country (Clermont et al., 2011).
Several years after the occurrence of the disaster, land
governance has become the critical factor that hinders the
reconstruction phase (Myers, 2014) . When the importance of land tenure
and land rights issues in the reconstruction phase was realized, the
Haiti Property Law Working Group (HPLWG) was formulated in June 2011 in
partnership with the Architecture for Humanity and Habitat for
Humanity with support from the Digicel Foundation (Frederique, 2011).
The mandate of this working group was to create a series of manuals in
order to assist users like international and national agencies and the
private sector in reconstruction phase of the aftermath of the disaster.
In this regard, the first volume of manual “How to Guide for the Legal
Sale of Property” was published in January 2013 and was formally
endorsed by Government of Haiti. This guide provides legal procedures
and land rights in an accessible manner. Similarly, the second volume
“Securing Land Rights in Haiti” was published in March 2015. This manual
is intended to provide a legal blue print for addressing the rights of
property owners and informal settlers (Frederique, 2011).
4.2 The Gujrat Earth Quake: 2001
On 26 January 2001, an earthquake of 7.7 on the Richter scale hit the
Indian state of Gujarat. The epicenter was located in the Kutch
district. The earthquake killed more than 20,000 people (Mukherji,
2015). The various cities (Anjar, Bhachau, Bhuj and Rapar) of this
district turned to rubble. The city of Bhachau was close to the
epicenter and suffered the worst devastation with more than 2000 people
killed out of 35000 population (McCallin et al., 2015).
4.2.1.Land issues and informal settlements
The Gujrat State Government is responsible for land issues and its
administration in land governance (Fitzpatrick, 2007). Prior to the
1990s, the state of Gujarat state had a policy to distribute land
tenure, called “Sanad”, to the settlers occupying the land informally.
“Sanad” is a type of tenancy title by which the state confers the right
of occupancy to a squatter on a piece of public land. This title is
non-transferable, meaning that, they are not allowed to sell that land
to a third party. Still in a small city in Gujrat like Bachhau, not all
the informal settlers have “Sanad”. The rationale behind this was that
communities who have political back up had the support to put forward
their land tenure case while the communities not having any political
support were left behind. The city of Bachhau was designated as an urban
area in the 1990s, which caused administrative changes in land tenure
decision, i.e. the power of decision has shifted from the local level to
the District Collector’s Office. However, at that level there was less
preference in the issuing land tenure and was stopped. As a result, the
informal settlements were left without any type of occupancy
documents (Mukherji, 2010).
In the aftermath of the disaster, reconstruction was not permitted only
until planning and zoning of risk sensitive areas was completed and a
building permit was given almost two years after the earthquake occurred
(Fitzpatrick, 2007; Mukherji, 2010). The Government tried to relocate
some villages. However, after having met with resistance from the land
owners, the government initiated owner-driven reconstruction rather than
contractor-driven reconstruction (Jigyasu, 2002). The Government then
introduced the program to provide financial assistance to the land
owners to rebuild their houses. Since many people lost their land titles
and ownership certificates along with other documents and there is no
electronic register for land titles, the alternative evidence via
documents such as electricity bills, telephone bills are accepted during
reconstruction phase. However, the programme was less favorable to the
marginalized groups like the renters and the informal settlers (UNISDR,
2010). Due to unfavorable policies, most of the long-term renters in
Bachhau became informal settlers on public land after the earthquake
The housing recovery policy for the informal settlers who had an
occupancy certificate was unclear. It lacked clear guidelines on how and
on what basis financial assistance would be made available to the
informal settlers. The policy stated that the destroyed squatter houses
(built with foundations and walls made of mud or burnt bricks with
cement mortar) would get financial assistance at the rate of 2,200
rupees ($52) for every square meter of built-up area with a maximum
limit of 55,000 rupees ($1,294). Moreover, shanty units (small, crude
dwelling without a foundation and typically made of mud, thatch,
cardboard, or tin sheets) would get 7,000 rupees ($165) as public
assistance. Yet the policy did not specify a number of aspects of the
plan, e.g., how local authorities would verify long-term squatters, what
the definition was of a squatter house and a shanty unit, or whether the
newly established seismic safety building codes would apply to squatter
houses. Not surprisingly, the lack of adequate guidelines to address
squatter needs created much confusion during the execution of the
housing recovery programme (Mukherji, 2010).
Realizing the complexities of policy, the local NGO “Unnati” made an
advocacy for the housing rights for informal settlers. The NGO was able
to take local authority Bacchhau Area Development Authority (BhADA) on
board in its advocacy. BhADA is an agency appointed by the Gujarat state
government to implement and coordinate urban development and housing
reconstruction in Bachhau. The rationale behind the agreement of BhADA
was that the city consists of more than 40% of informal settlers and
that the city was not the administratively centralized capital city and
also a politically less sensitive city. The NGO together with BhADA were
successful in negotiating the housing assistance. Hence, the informal
settlers with tenure were eligible for an assistance amount from 60,000
rupees to 100,000 rupees ($ 1,428 to $ 2,380) depending upon the housing
damage and the construction type (masonry or reinforced-concrete unit).
Further, BhADA together with NGO forwarded the alternative of land
tenure arrangements by incorporating the documents like Bachhau ration
card. Then household with ration cards became eligible for housing
assistance of 55,000 rupees ($ 1,309). Further, the study of McCallin et
al. (2015) had mentioned that the involvement of citizen support cell,
Nagrik Sahyog Kendra (NSK) in collaboration with BhADA and the Gujrat
State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) were able to regularize the
land tenure of 1,300 out of 1,767 families on the basis of their proof
of residence in Bhachau. The regularization of land tenure made them
eligible for financial and technical assistance in rebuilding their
house as per earthquake resistance building norms.
Similarly, the study of Balachandran (2006) shows how the Environmental
Planning Collaboration (EPC) had adopted various methods and instruments
which address BBB elements. During the reconstruction phase of the Bhuj
city, the key activities like mapping property, preparation of a city
level development plan to mitigate vulnerability, the development of
urban infrastructure and supporting the community initiative planning
had been conducted. It also revealed that the proposal of the
development plan consisted of the allocation of land for social
infrastructure such as hospitals, parks, educational buildings, shopping
facilities to serve for low-income groups such as informal settlers.
Moreover, it was mentioned that there were special provisions for
informal settlements in the policy packages for the earthquake victims.
However, the study does not mention how the land issues related to
informal settlements were tackled in the reconstruction phase.
5. CASE ANALYSIS IN CONTEXT OF LAND GOVERNANCE OF INFORMAL SETTLEMENT AND
BUILD BACK BETTER
The analysis of the cases is conducted to explore the land governance
elements and its impact on informal settlements. The LGAF elements like
recognition of a continuum of rights, enforcement of rights, restriction
of land use rights, clear institutional mandate and participatory land
use planning and zoning are applied in analyzing the case studies. These
land governance elements of informal settlements are found to be
relevant in the context of BBB.
Recognition of a continuum of rights: The Haiti case study shows that in
the aftermath of the disaster, the NGOs and INGOs could not act
effectively. The lack of a clear land ownership situation is most often
a critical factor in the informal settlements. Due to unclear land
rights and lack of alternative provision of land ownership documents
that recognize the settlements, the international agencies like BRC
failed to provide better shelter assistance. In contrast, the Gujrat
case study shows that there exists alternative form of tenure
arrangement like “Sanad”. However, the implementation of a continuum of
land rights does not exist. Due to the lack of occupancy document in all
informal settlements the NGO like “Unnati” was unable to provide shelter
assistance to improve the houses. “Unnati” together with BhADA lobbied
and succeeded in changing the criteria for land tenure and also NSK
together with BhADA were able to regularize the land tenure in one city
Bhachau but the issue seems to be tackled at city scale only. Both cases
do not reflect any group rights recognition in informal areas.
Enforcement of rights: Realizing the importance of land rights and
tenure security of informal settlements in the reconstruction phase for
risk reduction, the case study of Haiti shows that there is an
initiative to develop a guide line that recognizes and enforces the land
rights. In Gujrat case, it was revealed that documents like “ration
cards” have been adopted to prove their residence and their land rights.
However, it also reveals that a workable mechanism to enforce land right
rights of informal settlements is important to improve the settlements
in a better way.
Restriction on land use rights: The Haiti case does not reveal that
there was any land use restriction in the aftermath of the disaster. The
informal settlers sit on land though it was vulnerable because of fear
of losing access to their occupied land. On the other hand, IDP camps
remain for a longer duration with commercial activities starting in the
camps. While, the Gujrat case shows that a building permit was not
allocated till the risk reduction land use plan had been implemented.
However, there were no clear rules that applied to informal settlements
about following building norms while using the land for shelter purpose.
Clarity of institutional mandates: The weak institutional framework is
the main problem in the Haiti case which had created conflicts during
the reconstruction phase. The lack of institutions and clearly defined
roles of government as well as international development agencies in
tackling land issues especially in disaster affected areas seriously
affected humanitarian response. This effected the informal settlers more
severely. To overcome the weakness in existing institutional aspects
such as planning rules, building rules in informal land or for informal
settlers, the development agencies took the initiative in defining
minimum standards and operational priorities. Following the Gujarat
case, it was revealed that there was a strong institutional framework
compared to Haiti. The Gujrat State Disaster Management Authority
(GSDMA) was the leading governmental body. In the reconstruction phase,
GSDMA in collaboration with the local authority and the civil society
had initiated tenure regularization in order to facilitate a technical
and financial response in building houses.
Land Use Planning: The Haiti case study revealed that no land use
planning and zoning was adopted in reconstruction phase. The
informal settlers stayed in a hazardous location due to fear of
dislodgement from the occupied land. However, the Gujrat case shows that
there was immediate restriction in reconstruction till land use zoning
was completed. Further, there was a participatory approach in developing
the city level plan of Bhuj city. It was also revealed that the planning
proposal consisted of special consideration for informal settlements in
terms of providing physical, and social infrastructure. The detailed
study of regularizing informal settlements by spatial planning has not
yet been reflected in the case study. However, it provides reflection
that the initiative in the aftermath of the earthquake has incorporated
the BBB elements.
6. KEY LESSONS LEARNT BASED ON CASE STUDY AND OTHER RESEARCH
The following key lessons learned are provided based on the theoretical
framework and results of the above two case studies. In the case studies
the elements of land governance in informal elements are explored and
analyzed in the context of BBB. In the case studies, especially in the
Haiti case, it seems that the elements of BBB were not applied, whereas
in Gujrat case, the actions towards BBB are reflected.
Poor land governance increases vulnerability to a disaster in the
The weaknesses in the institutional aspect which fails to recognize the
land rights of informal settlers during pre-disaster phase result in a
severe back log in the humanitarian assessment in the post disaster
phase. Most of the displaced groups who lack land tenure documents wish
to return to their land as soon as possible because they fear
dispossession and loss of land. Government intervention may not include
the informal settlements in the risk reduction infrastructure and
disaster risk assessments. The building by laws, land use regulations do
not apply to those settlements which are not legal entities. This
might prove to be a hurdle to the key category of the BBB
framework which consists of risk reduction by improving structural
design and land use planning (Wilkinson and Mannakkara, 2014).
Access to land and clear land tenure is pre requisite to Build Back
Another key lesson learned is that clear land tenure and access to land
becomes important in the post-disaster phase. During the after math of
the disaster, various actors and donor agencies were found to be active.
This in fact creates opportunities to fulfill the category of community
recover. As mentioned in the BBB framework by Wilkinson and Mannakkara
(2014), besides physical upgrading social recovery and economic recovery
of vulnerable groups is equally important. However, due to lack of clear
tenure the recovery and reconstruction measures cannot be executed. This
is reflected in both case studies. Hence, tenure security creates
unfavorable situation for donor agencies to build permanent and better
shelter, preserving social structure. Moreover, lack of legal documents
creates a barrier in using a land or a house built on that land as a
collateral in financial institution which ultimately distracts the
settlers from economic recovery (De Soto, 2000).
Institutional weakness is a key hurdle for land governance and BBB
The third lesson learnt from the case studies is that a lack of strong
state authority creates a critical barrier in the humanitarian response
in different phases after a disaster. As it is reflected in the Haiti
cases, the lack of strong leadership in the post-disaster phase left
many international development agencies that were deployed for
humanitarian support in confusion. In this aspect various agencies
followed various norms. Whereas in the Gujrat case, it was revealed that
there was an institutional back up like the Gujrat State Disaster
Management Authority (GSDMA) on a state level and the Bacchhau Area
Development Authority (BhADA) on city level. The NGO and Civil society
activities were conducted in close coordination with the government
A non-government actor plays a significant role in addressing weak land
The fourth lesson learnt from the case studies regards the role of
non-government and local authority. The NGOs and civil society play a
vital role in overcoming pre-disaster existing weak land governance
institutions. As it is reflected in both case studies, the INGOs, NGOs
manage to define alternative approaches to generate relative land tenure
in order to provide shelter assistance to the informal settlers. As
highlighted by Doberstein and Stager (2013), the funding aid from
international donors needs to be applied in the risk reduction approach.
Investments in the informal settlements that lack legal tenure security
do not reduce vulnerabilities. It is shown in the case of Gujrat that
there are no clear guidelines regarding the application of building
codes during the reconstruction of shelters in the informal settlement.
However, the donor agencies find the method to overcome existing
weaknesses in institutional aspect. In fact most of the organizations
work within a restricted time frame which creates a barrier for them to
wait until there is improvement in land governance institution
(Fitzpatrick, 2007). Furthermore as highlighted in Haiti’s case, the
international organization has a significant role in improving the land
governance of the country by bringing various stakeholders on board. The
management of various stakeholders to solve conflicting interests is
also a key factor in BBB framework as highlighted by Wilkinson and
Mannakkara (2014) and this can be achieved with improved land
Though weak land governance has effects on the different stages of the
post disaster phase, our study basically focuses on the reconstruction
phase of the post disaster phase. The analysis of our case studies
reveals that informal settlements are a disadvantaged group in
post-disaster settings. The weak land governance restricts the
opportunity to building back better in informal settlements. Though the
social aspects play a vital role in the coping capacity of informal
settlers and lessen the social and economic venerability to some extent,
lack of a clear legal framework creates hurdles in bouncing
towards a less vulnerable community. The examples of less vulnerable
communities are: residing in less vulnerable zones, technical support in
adopting earthquake resistance building norms and the opportunity to get
financial assistance to rebuild their house etc.
The key lesson learned from this study draws in the conclusion that to
reduce vulnerability for future disaster – the basic norms of BBB
- the land governance for informal settlements need to be enhanced by
strengthening the institutional dimension of land governance as well as
implementing a land use planning tool with participatory approach on
cummunity level. While strengthening institutional dimension, the
pro-poor approach of land recording and continuum of land rights need to
be defined in land policies and rules to restrict elite groups as
The authors like to acknowledge the Netherlands government fellowship
program (NUFFIC), Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth
Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente and Kathmandu University
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Tenure Journal. 1
Reshma Shrestha is a Ph.D. candidate in Department for Urban and
Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), and
She has a position of Assistant Professor at Kathmandu University,
Nepal. Her M.Sc.
thesis focuses on the principle of good governance, but her Ph.D.
research interest lies in the
theory of governance and land administration system focusing on land
Dr. Arbind Man Tuladhar holds a PhD degree from Delft University of
Delft), and is currently working in Department for Urban and Regional
Planning, Faculty of
Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University Twente
as Asst. Professor.
Currently he holds the positions of visiting Professor in the fields of
Land Administration at Kathmandu University (Nepal) and Changa’n
University (China). His
current research focuses on the fields of land governance, land tenure,
land management/ land
administration, climate changes, system modelling and development,
national and municipal
information systems including 3D modelling and spatial data
Prof. dr. Jaap Zevenbergen holds a PhD degree from
Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and he is currently working in
Department for Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Geo-information
Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University Twente as a Professor in
land administration and management. Currently his main research relates
to innovative, pro poor land tools within the Global Land Tool Network
(GLTN). He sits on the International
Advisory Board of GLTN on behalf of the international training and
research institutions. He
also co-chairs FIG WG 7.2 on land, disaster and climate change.
Mrs. Reshma Shrestha
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation of the
University of Twente
7500 AE Enschede
Tel. +31 (0)53 4874564
Fax + 31 (0)53 4874400
Web site: www.itc.nl
Dr. Arbind Man Tuladhar
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation of the
University of Twente
7500 AE Enschede
Tel. +31(0)53 4874312
Fax + 31(0)53 4874575
Web site: www.itc.nl
Prof. Dr. Jaap Zevenbergen
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation of the
University of Twente
7500 AE Enschede
Tel. +31 (0)53 4874351
Fax + 31 (0)53 4874575
Web site: www.itc.nl