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SUSTAINABLE DISASTER MITIGATION: Ecomaterials in Reconstruction Projects in Cuba

By : Fernando Martirena , Andrés Ol

Cuba has recently endured the impact of hurricanes Lili (1996), George (1998), Irene (1999), Michelle (2001), Isidore (2002), Lili (2002), Charlie and Ivan (2004). The provinces of Villa Clara, Matanzas and Pinar del Río have suffered the major damage, basically in coastal towns where thousands of houses have been destroyed, and families displaced from their homes. Tackling this problem proves to be complicated. Decision-makers face two choices: (a) to concentrate the scarce resources - including post disaster aid - on emergency actions to reduce only the damages caused by the hurricane, or (b) to improve in a sustainable way existing houses through better and more efficient material supply. In both cases, the possibility of local production of building materials becomes a crucial factor. The Centre for Investigation and Development of Structures and Materials (CIDEM) has been involved in disasterresponse projects in the area since 1996. The thrust has been the manufacture of ecomaterials such as micro concrete roofing (MCR) tiles, pozzolanic cement CP-40 and hollow concrete blocks, which provide the means to build affordable and hurricane safe houses. These materials are produced on the basis of local raw materials and labour in small workshops based directly in the communities. The widespread use of ecomaterials on the northern coast of Villa Clara province has been a key aspect in decreasing the vulnerability of the houses against hurricanes. The fact that these materials have withstood the impact of various hurricanes without significant damage has drawn the attention of local governments, communities and donors. The presentation of case studies in this paper will illustrate this experience.
Keywords : Ecomaterials, Low-Cost Housing, Disaster, Vulnerability, Risk Management

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