Impact of Human Activities on Ecosystem

Decentralization and Collaborative Disaster Governance for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Current Trends and Implications

  • SONG Tao , 1, 2 ,
  • LIU Hui , 1, 2, * ,
  • WUZHATI Yeerken 1, 2
  • 1. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
  • 2. College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
*LIU Hui, E-mail:

SONG Tao, E-mail:

Received date: 2023-02-02

  Accepted date: 2023-04-10

  Online published: 2023-08-02

Supported by

The Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA20010103)

The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program(2019QZKK1007)

The National Natural Science Foundation of China(42171180)


The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plays an important role in China’s ‘Belt & Road Initiative’. It is also one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. Considering that decentralized disaster governance has been gaining much attention in the world, this paper systematically analyzes the disaster management system in the CPEC region. Specifically, it compares the national, provincial, municipal and community-level institutional mechanisms for disaster management in China and Pakistan, and then closely examines the current trends of decentralized disaster governance based on a recent round of semi-structured and open-ended interviews in Xinjiang, China and Pakistan. Issues and gaps of decentralized disaster governance were drawn out from the experiences of participation among related stakeholders. We found that although the decentralization of the disaster management system has been the main trend in both China and Pakistan, national and provincial disaster management agencies still play a key role in the disaster relief work. Therefore, the centralization and decentralization of disaster management are not contradictory, but the more disaster governance shifts towards decentralization, the more urgent the consolidation of multi-level (vertical) and broader (horizontal) collaboration becomes. Based on this analysis, we aim to provide insights, lessons and recommendations for the way forward for strengthening disaster management in CPEC. In particular, we summarize different but integrated approaches towards effective disaster risk coping strategies and regional cooperation on disaster management in CPEC.

Cite this article

SONG Tao , LIU Hui , WUZHATI Yeerken . Decentralization and Collaborative Disaster Governance for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Current Trends and Implications[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2023 , 14(5) : 974 -982 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2023.05.008

1 Introduction

Natural hazards and disasters constitute a risk to global sustainable development (Doyle et al., 2014). Their economic and social damage are widespread, as seen in recent disasters such as the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake, Japan’s 2011 Tsunami (Ainuddin et al., 2013) and the 2022 Flood Disaster in Pakistan. Although various disaster management approaches have been utilized by many government agencies to decrease the frequency and severity of disasters, a post-disaster relief approach dominates (Smith, 2013). To identify and avoid possible risks and threats of disasters, many players and agencies across different levels of government and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) need to be involved (Comfort, 1999; Bae et al., 2016; Park and Yoon, 2022). As a result, many individuals and communities have remained vulnerable to natural hazards (Thomalla, 2006).
Against this background, decentralization has loomed large as an important epitome of the disaster reduction paradigms, including a shift from post-disaster relief to a multi-level approach of disaster risk assessment and early warning systems, such as those under the Hyogo Framework for Action (UN, 2005) as well as the more recent Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (UN, 2015). Furthermore, decentralized governance has been widely observed among a vast range of subjects globally (Khan et al., 2022), such as forestry, natural resource mining and management, agriculture, fisheries, environmental pollution, climate change, wildlife conservation, pastures, water resource governance and environmental impacts, in order to prevent disaster risks and achieve sustainable development (Stoler et al., 2022; Bolton and Berglund, 2023). Accordingly, decentralized disaster risk reduction activities have been pursued by many national governments, as well as international studies, which underscores the importance of decentralized disaster governance for effective pre-disaster risk assessment and mitigation. The pattern of decentralized governance across much of Asia since the 1990s has been accompanied by accelerated urbanization, industrialization, globalization and privatization. In these cases, this shift has included a transition away from authoritarian regimes to more democratic forms of government (Miller and Bunnell, 2013). Decentralized disaster governance goes a long way towards building resilience by encouraging communities to play an active role in addressing the challenges regarding such issues as environmental conservation, public service delivery, and others (Miller and Douglass, 2015). In fact, a lot of research has underscored the importance of local disaster management. For example, six different national contexts, Thailand, India, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Korea, were examined in a special issue of Habitat International regarding decentralized disaster governance in the preparation for, and event of, environmental disasters (Miller and Douglass, 2016). These studies reflect a worldwide trend of decentralization in disaster risk reduction (DRR) management, which will lead to more inclusive and effective DRR. However, a study by Vij et al. (2020) in Nepal shows that it is premature to assert that the decentralization process will be able to reduce disaster risk for vulnerable communities. Srikandini et al. (2018) also found that the multiplication of actors involved in DRR negatively affects the ability to conduct DRR. Some scholars have focused on the disaster governance in the Baluchistan, Pakistan and China (Ainuddin et al., 2013; Bragg, 2015; Paltemaa, 2017). It is widely debated whether multiple agencies, as well as a clear and overarching disaster management institution under which local actors can proactively plan and carry out their preparation and mitigation efforts, should be involved in the prevention and relief of compound disasters (Bae et al., 2016). In fact, a great deal of literature suggests that efficient and strong national institutions are still of great significance for embarking on decentralized disaster governance (Jha and Stanton-Geddes, 2013). For example, Khan et al. (2022) demonstrated that the Environmental impact assessment (EIA) was decentralized in Pakistan. To date, less attention has been paid to cross-border areas. Regarding international cross-border projects, an important question for the future evolution of disaster governance is how the vertical and horizontal collaboration can be enhanced in bilateral or multilateral decentralized disaster management systems.
In this regard, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) serves as a good case study for investigating the decentralized disaster governance of such cross-border mega initiatives. CPEC is one of the most significant corridors of China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, announced by Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2013, and it aims to connect Kashgar of Xinjiang in the northwestern China with Pakistan through a vast network of roads and other infrastructure projects. Pakistan and Xinjiang, China, constitute one of the most natural disaster-prone regions in the world, where significant populations and assets are vulnerable to a wide range of natural hazards, coupled with various challenges and considerable limits in response capacity, although CPEC is making great progress in upgrading the basic infrastructure and commerce between Pakistan and China along the corridor.
As we move forward with this new vision of decentralized disaster governance, CPEC will need to systematically review the regional mechanisms of disaster management and emergency response. This paper critically analyzes the institutionalization trend and structures of DRR along the CPEC in the vein of decentralization. It contributes to the bourgeoning scholarship on DRR by highlighting the variegated character of natural disaster governance by combing both top-down and decentralization approaches, and nuancing the theoretical thinking by detailing the case study of CPEC. We then build on these groundings and framings to argue that cross-scalar and multiple disaster governance theories and praxis are urgently needed to more effectively mitigate natural disaster risks. Before the official beginning of this study, we assume that the decentralization as a governance trend has been applied effectively in both Pakistan and China.

2 Natural disaster profiles in the CPEC region

The CPEC region, including Pakistan and Xinjiang, China, is geographically endowed with topographical and environmental extremes. Thus, the region of CPEC is one of the most natural disaster-prone regions in the world.
Pakistan is situated in the world’s hazard belt, and it is subjected to floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, and landslides. With a total area of 796095 km2, more than two-thirds of Pakistan is arid or semiarid, with the west of Pakistan dominated by the Baluchistan plateau. The principal ranges, trending northwest to southeast, include several Himalayan ranges—notably the PirPanjal and Zaskar— leading into the Karakoram Mountains.
Earthquakes and floods are the most frequent types of natural disasters in Pakistan, which also cause serious casualties and economic losses. According to the EM-DAT International Disaster Database, floods had the highest frequency among natural disasters occurring in Pakistan during 1990-2014, which accounted for 46.80% of the total number of natural disasters (Fig. 1). Earthquakes were second, accounting for 15.3%, and the proportions of landslides, storms, and extreme temperature were 14.5%, 12.1% and 9.7%, respectively. The other remaining types of natural disasters accounted for only 1.6%. As shown in Fig. 2, the number of deaths caused by earthquakes accounted for 84% of the total number of deaths caused by all natural disasters, followed by floods, which resulted in 12% of the total number of deaths. At the same time, floods caused combined economic losses accounting for 73% of the total loss, followed by earthquakes and storms with proportions of 20% and 6%, respectively.
Fig. 1 Frequencies of natural disasters in Pakistan during 1990-2014

Source: EM-DAT (Feb. 2015)-The OFDA/CRED-International Disaster Database,é catholique de Louvain Brussels -Belgium

Fig. 2 Mortalities and combined economic losses caused by natural disasters in Pakistan during 1990-2014

Source: EM-DAT (Feb. 2015)-The OFDA/CRED-International Disaster Databaseé catholique de Louvain Brussels -Belgium.

In Pakistan, 25 extreme natural disaster events were registered during 2001-2013, including six landslides, six earthquakes, and a flood event in almost every year. These disaster events cost 80415 human lives, with 74484 fatalities attributed to earthquakes followed by floods (5722) and landslides (209) (Rahman et al., 2015). For example, the 7.7 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Pakistan’s remote south-west province of Balochistan on September 24, 2013, caused hundreds of human deaths, nearly 1000 people were injured, hundreds of houses collapsed, and more than 100000 people became homeless. In summer 2022, the flood in Pakistan covered about two-thirds of the country’s land area and killed nearly 1700 people, and the property damage has been estimated at $30 billion USD. Events such as these have seriously affected the local social economic development and high-quality development of CPEC.
In comparison, the geological disasters in Xinjiang, China mainly include landslides, mud-rock flows and earthquakes, most of which are either small or medium-sized. As for the landslide and mud-rock flow events, 80% of them are caused by rainstorms. According to the statistics from 1995 to 2004, there were 392 cases of landslides (324), mud-rock flows (44) and collapses (14) in Xinjiang. As for the earthquakes, Xinjiang is China’s main inland seismic and earthquake-prone area. From 2005 to 2013, 43 earthquakes occurred in Xinjiang, which included one earthquake over 7.0 on the Richter scale in 2008, and 11 events in 2012. Recently, the frequency, intensity and regional distribution of extreme weather and climate events in Xinjiang have increased, so it is urgent to build up the systematic governance of disaster prevention and mitigation.

3 Disaster risk governance in CPEC: Decentralization and persisting centralism

3.1 Government management system for natural disasters in China and Pakistan

The National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) for both China and Pakistan plays a key role in facilitating the implementation of disaster related mitigation strategies. In China, the Chinese government has established disaster management institutions, mainly including National Disaster Reduction Committee (NDRC), National Leading Group for Climate Change Addressing, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and the Emergency Management Office of the State Council. The NDRC, set up in 2000 and headed by a Vice Premier of the State Council, is composed of 30 ministries and departments, including the Ministry of Civil Affairs, relevant military agencies and social groups. In Pakistan, the national disaster and emergency management of governance is centered on the National Disaster Management Commission (NDMC), which was established immediately after the disastrous Kashmir Earthquake in 2005 and has been operational since 2007 (Bragg, 2015). Military actors are also involved extensively as first responders and as part of the relief efforts. These central agencies in CPEC function as an inter-agency coordination body under the state Council to deal with disaster reduction, as well as related international exchanges and cooperation. When extreme disasters strike, these national central agencies lead, control, coordinate and implement the national disaster response management.
In the CPEC region, the provincial governments serve as the main bodies that deal with the most severe disasters. In China, the Provincial Civil Affairs Department, the branch of NDRC in Xinjiang, the Geological Environment Monitoring Institute and the Geological Disaster Emergency Center in Xinjiang have taken charge of disaster prevention, relief work, and formulating and implementing disaster risk management planning. They also prepare guidelines for local stakeholders on disaster risk reduction. In Pakistan, the entities of NDMC at the regional level take charge of disaster prevention and relief work. Each regional commission, namely Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Commission, Sindh Provincial Disaster Management Commission, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Disaster Management Commission, Baluchistan Disaster Management Commission, Gilgit-Balt- istan Disaster Management Commission, State Disaster Management Commission and FATA Disaster Management Commission, is headed by the chief executive of the respective region, such as the Chief Minister in the case of a province (Rahman et al., 2015).
At the municipal level, the Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs in each Chinese city or region (for example, Kashi City) functions as the frontline organization of disaster risk reduction and response. The lower tiers in the governance system will be the heads of counties or villages, with varying degrees of effectiveness in disaster management. In comparison, this authority is headed by Tehsil and Town Nazims (district chief) in Pakistan, which lead the risk and response operations, and interface directly with communities. Other key players include police officers, fire services, community organizations, traditional leaders and NGOs. The Union Council is significant for allocating resources for local development, but at the same time, it is the lowest tier in the disaster governance (Ainuddin et al., 2013).
Table 1 outlines the institutional mechanism of disaster risk governance in CPEC. National and provincial levels are more powerful than the others (municipal and community levels) in the hierarchy of disaster risk governance both in Pakistan and China. Although a shift towards decentralization in formal policy has been seen in disaster related policies, it is urgent for local authorities, including district, union council and community levels, to manage and mitigate current disasters with a wider reform process.
Table 1 Comparisons of disaster risk governance in CPEC
Level China Pakistan
National level National Disaster Reduction Committee (NDRC), National Leading Group for Addressing Climate Change, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, etc. National Disaster Management Commission (NMDC)
Provincial level Provincial Civil Affairs Department and the branch of NDRC in Xinjiang, the Geological Environment Monitoring Institute as well as the Geological Disaster Emergency Center in Xinjiang Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Commission, Sindh Provincial Disaster Management Commission, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Disaster Management Commission, Baluchistan Disaster Management Commission, Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Commission, State Disaster Management Commission and FATA Disaster Management Commission
Municipal level Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs in each Chinese city; the heads of counties or villages Tehsil and Town Nazims; Union Council

3.2 Current situation and problems with the participation of related stakeholders in the context of decentralization

This section draws on several years of participant observation in Xinjiang projects by the authors in their role as Chinese central and local government planning consultants, as well as a recent round of semi-structured and open-ended interviews in Xinjiang conducted in late 2019 and 2022. In Pakistan, the interviews were conducted in Islamabad, Karachi in 2017 with the assistance of local interpreters, and follow-up key informant interviews in 2019. The interviewees included project managers, villagers, entrepreneurs, traders, teachers, and state officials. Including all types of qualitative data, both primary and secondary data, goes a long way towards a better understanding of disaster management institutions along the CPEC. The primary data are from the analysis of semi-structured and open-ended interviews in Xinjiang and Pakistan about disaster prevention and management. The secondary data include websites of the Chinese National Disaster Reduction Committee, Provincial Civil Affairs Department in Xinjiang; as well as the National Disaster Management Committee in Pakistan, Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Commission, and others.

3.2.1 National and provincial disaster management officials

The results of an analysis of the interviews with key national and provincial disaster management officials indicate a diverse set of perceptions of disaster governance in Pakistan and China. For example, an official of the Chinese National Disaster Reduction Committee (NDRC) argued that “Xinjiang in China, especially the Pamirs and its adjacent areas, are among the highest in the world, with the most complicated geological conditions, harsh natural environment and sparse population. All of these imply that it will need more efforts in monitoring, assessment and prevention of natural disasters in Xinjiang from national management level.” Another researcher from the Geological Environment Monitoring Institute in Xinjiang argued that the provincial disaster related departments are well aware of the significance of disaster prevention and monitoring, however they lack enough funds and employees to engage in related work. The researcher further stated that disaster management work focuses more on disaster relief, while the disaster monitoring and pre-warning system should be set up and improved. As for the Pakistan side, we interviewed several Chinese infrastructure project managers along the CPEC. One of the managers argued that the government staff related to disaster relief, most of whom were from irrelevant fields, were lacking in skilled and technical resources, resulting in poor disaster prevention awareness and ineffective implementation of the disaster policies. Due to the lack of funding from the federal government, disaster related activities have to be reduced. Based on these interviews, it is safe to conclude that the provincial authority has the key role in disaster management, although it is lacking in both technical and human resources.

3.2.2 Municipal and district governments

At the municipal level in China, an interview with an official of the Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs in a city, Xinjiang, showed that the disaster relief work serves as an important part of the Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs. This system features centralized leadership, general coordination, classification management and reliance on localized management. However, one or two officials took charge of the disaster recovery for a whole city. It was also stated that the contribution of local communities to disaster assessment and recovery has been recognized in the municipal government. Indeed, the country or district official needs to balance all the economic and social management work, as well as mitigating disasters, which means that the community needs more funding and human resources for disaster assessment and relief. As for the Pakistan side, there is poor coordination between the district nazams and Pakistan’s NMDC. The district nazams are involved in the post-disaster work, such as repairing damaged houses and crop harvesting. “Although the decentralization trend has been recognized, the municipal and district authority is not functional very well, meanwhile, the collaboration among different scales seems rare”, according to an interview with an official in Pakistan (from an interview in 2017). In summary, the system lacks capacity building at the district and community levels.

3.2.3 Community government

In Chinese urban communities or rural villages, resident committees or village committees serve as the autonomous organizations at the grassroots level. The heads of village committees were interviewed regarding the decentralization of the disaster management institutions by NDRC. Based on those discussions, most of the heads recognized the significance of propaganda and education for disaster prevention and control, but they were not well informed about the latest disaster governance framework. In comparison, the Union Council functions as the smallest administrative unit at the sub-district level, and their heads are named by the nazam. The union nazams are not aware of the disaster decentralization governance that is underway through the Pakistan national disaster management framework. More than ten interviewees in Pakistan mentioned that “they knew the nazam, however the nazam needs to take care of other things most of time, which means that the disaster management is enmeshed in the mundane life, instead of mainstay job” (from an interview in 2017).

3.2.4 Transnational corporations

The employees of a Pakistan project in Sinohydro Resouces Limited (SRL) and the China Railway Company were interviewed. One of them argued that “it had been carried out that several rounds of environment feasibility and disaster assessment analysis before the hydropower projects were started”. He further added that “there should be coordination between Chinese and Pakistan disaster related management departments. It is difficult for transnational corporations to prevent and monitor natural disasters along the CPEC, and most of DRR work needs the efforts of both governments and communities” (from an interview in 2017). Furthermore, it is essential to establish a platform which facilitates the cross-border investment for transnational corporations and incorporates the roles and responsibilities of all related stakeholders.

3.2.5 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

A number of NGOs that are working in disaster related activities in Pakistan and China were interviewed. These NGOs include both international and national agencies, such as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief and the Baluchistan Rural Support Program. An official of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, which serves as a global NGO for the delivery of emergency relief, recalled that “Pakistan lack in enough fund and human resources for disaster emergency events” (from an interview in 2019). After being hit by the flood in 2010, most disaster-affected areas were badly in need of drinking water and disinfection, as well as medical and health relief. NOGs played an important role in disaster relief, so it is urgent to involve the NGOs in disaster management activities and the implementation of disaster institutions. An official from the Baluchistan Rural Support Program, which is a local NGO in response of disaster relief, was also interviewed. He stated that “Pakistan and China should build up a common platform for emergency management by integrating all stakeholders at provincial and local levels. Furthermore, the current departments in Pakistan have resulted in lack of decentralization of institutions at the local level” (from an interview in 2019).
With the vigorous development of charities in China, the number of NGOs involved in disaster relief has increased rapidly. China now has more than 300 NGOs, such as the Chinese Red Cross, China Disabled Persons Federation, and China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA). In 2022, CFPA was renamed China Foundation for Rural Development (CFRD). Throughout the past 20 years, the Chinese NGOs have experienced a transformation from small scale, independent operations with passive response models to the integrated models which are characterized by numerous parties, joint participation and positive responses. In particular, during several natural disasters in China since 2008, NGOs have played an increasingly important role in disaster relief. Taking “Wenchuan earthquake” in 2008 as an example, NGOs made significant contributions in raising funds, rescuing lives, building information platforms, distributing goods and materials, and transporting volunteers. Among the NGOs, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation is involved in three stages of disaster relief work: emergency relief, disaster victims’ resettlement, and post-disaster reconstruction. With strong credibility and the ability to raise money and materials, the donations from China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation for the earthquake disaster area amounted to 300 million yuan within half of a year after the earthquake. In the three years after the disaster, the beneficiary population of the China Poverty Alleviation Foundation’s public welfare projects reached nearly 1.6 million yuan. At the same time, China’s NGOs have also faced many challenges. One of the major challenges is that the current ambiguous conceptualization of the role of civil society actors leaves many resources untapped (Paltemaa, 2017). Another is how to build up the cooperation mechanism between the government and NGOs for jointly dealing with natural disasters. It is worth noting that NGOs should be better involved in decentralized disaster governance.

4 Towards more effective disaster risk coping and regional cooperation on disaster management

In this section, we provide a framework for improving the effective mechanisms of international and regional cooperation on disaster management in CPEC (Table 2).
Table 2 Framework of international and regional cooperation on disaster management in CPEC
Dimension Measure
Integrated transnational disaster management strategy An integrated transnational disaster management center; the transnational center for disaster prevention
Strengthening cross-sectoral and multi-scalar coordination Set up the institutional framework of multilevel (vertical) and broader (horizontal) collaboration; cross-sectoral and multi-scale disaster risk reduction planning; clarify national medium- and long-term goals
Disaster risk zoning at the national and regional levels Natural disaster zoning in the CPEC region; phased planning
Disaster preparedness and mitigation measures Disaster early warning, consultation and information sharing systems, disaster emergency response systems, social mobilization and participation systems
Involving multiple stakeholders in the disaster prevention programs Involvement of governments, enterprises, social organizations and the general public
Combining the bottom-up and top-down approach Combining both community personnel and state governments

4.1 Integrated transnational disaster management strategy in CPEC

The establishment of integrated risk governance is one major aspect of modernizing the risk management system and increasing the capacity of transnational governance. Based on lessons learned from past disaster prevention and reduction efforts, priority should be given to the improvement of both legislation and transnational disaster management institutions. An integrated transnational disaster management center that addresses natural disaster risk management and adaptation should be designed and implemented as soon as possible to provide strong support for the management of disaster risk in CPEC. The transnational center will work with each country to take appropriate measures to identify the disaster risks in its respective territories covering the following aspects: natural and human-induced hazards; risk assessment; monitoring of vulnerabilities; and disaster management capacities.

4.2 Strengthening cross-sectoral and multi-scalar coordination

As nature-related disasters become increasingly cross-regional, both Pakistan and China should intensify their regional collaboration and establish standing organizations for coordinating regional management of disaster prevention and reduction, which would result in an integrated and coordinated cross-regional system of disaster management (Qin, 2015). Besides, multilevel (vertical) and broader (horizontal) collaboration are the preconditions for decentralized disaster governance (Bae et al., 2016). However, this cross-sectoral and multi-scale disaster risk reduction planning approach is currently lacking in CPEC. Particularly in Pakistan, the disaster related agencies are working in isolation and lack horizontal coordination, and overlapping roles and responsibilities are often observed. Adopting synergistic adaptation strategies related to disaster risk management based on local conditions is essential for multi-hazard risk management in CPEC, with the aim of improving social and economic resilience and human development. The disaster policies of both Pakistan and China should create sound synergy between various governmental departments, and between the central and local authorities. Interdepartmental synergy is manifested in the following aspects: An institutional framework of coordination between different sectors and departments; and the actuation of national medium- and long-term goals by the national governmental departments of Meteorology, Civil Affairs, Conservancy, Agriculture, Forestry, Ocean, Water Resources and Health, and others, which can highlight their active responses to the common goals of coping with climate change as well as preventing disasters and reducing their effects.

4.3 Disaster risk zoning at the national and regional levels

One suggestion is that regional collaboration should be implemented based on risk zoning for earthquakes, droughts, floods, forest fires and other disasters. Disaster risk zoning at the national and regional levels highlights the regional differences related to risks, as well as national and regional risk control policies. This involves phased planning with clearly-defined targets and focal areas to provide a scientific foundation for the integrated disaster prevention and reduction practices. Although there is already a “regionalization of natural disaster in China”, completing the natural disaster zoning in the CPEC region is urgently needed.

4.4 Disaster preparedness and mitigation measures

It is necessary to form the synergic and systematical disaster management that is balanced between hardware and software in light of monitoring, early warning and assessment. Disaster management in Pakistan (particularly for natural hazards) mainly focuses on the rescue and relief processes. There is a dearth of knowledge and information about hazard identification, risk assessment and management, and the linkages between livelihoods and disaster preparedness. Moreover, limited disaster preparedness measures are being undertaken. In the case of floods, the members of the federal flood commission meet at least twice during the pre-monsoon period (to devise strategies for vulnerable areas) and post-monsoon (to evaluate the flood period, the viability of risk reduction approaches and the lesson learned for future planning). Thus, there is an urgent need to develop sound methods related to risk management, mainly including disaster early warning, consultation and information sharing systems, disaster emergency response systems, and social mobilization and participation systems.

4.5 Involving multiple stakeholders in the disaster prevention programs

Emphasis should be given to fostering an awareness of the need for accountability at all levels of the governments as it is related to disaster prevention and reduction. This includes involving multiple stakeholders in the disaster prevention and reduction programs based on government leadership and interdepartmental coordination and collaboration. Governments, enterprises, social organizations and the general public should all be involved in the disaster emergency response and relief through optimizing institutional structures and enhancing the functions of all related parties. Moreover, enhancing the mechanisms used by government agencies, social organizations and the news media allows them to jointly launch disaster related programs, systems, mechanisms and educational campaigns; which will shed light on the significance of improving and disseminating disaster prevention and reduction information.

4.6 Combining the bottom-up and top-down approach

Communities have an important role in risk governance. Therefore, community personnel should be trained and institutional preparedness should be developed. Efforts should be made to raise public awareness and build the culture and capacities related to overall disaster prevention and reduction in order to increase the individuals’ awareness of disaster-related risks and a preliminary atmosphere of disaster risk reduction. Detailed standards and guidelines on how governmental and other organizations can publicize organized programs related to promoting disaster prevention should be formulated, which will allow people to improve their first-aid skills and to conduct the required emergency rehearsal activities. In addition, the emphasis is now placed on how the news media publishes public service advertisements related to disaster prevention and first-aid knowledge, and how different levels and types of schools conduct first-aid education programs.

5 Conclusions

This paper has examined the recent trends of disaster governance along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), within which China and Pakistan now show a decentralization trend but the legacy of a strong state role in disaster policy agendas still remains. The case findings of CPEC therefore suggest that National and Provincial disaster management agencies play a key role in the disaster relief work. At the same time, great efforts have been made to decentralize disaster governance, highlighting the roles of municipal governments and the community as the key agents in disaster governance. Besides, the roles of NGOs in disaster management are increasing. Even though the decentralization of the disaster management system has been the main trend in both China and Pakistan, the vast land with a sparse population in Xinjiang, China, and the administrative fragmentation have created many barriers to the practice of polycentric disaster governance.
The disaster governance shifts towards decentralization have spread globally, and they have been codified in the legal provisions in both Pakistan and China. This includes the policy field of disaster management in particular, emphasizing the local community involvement in disaster prevention and mitigation. Besides, cross-border disaster governance needs to work well for international cooperation initiatives, especially for the CPEC region. The experiences of both Pakistan and China are exemplary for acknowledging this missing point, and calling for an integrated and strong disaster management system, from which disaster governance could be successfully decentralized to the local level. In this vein, this paper contributes to the bourgeoning scholarship on DRR by highlighting the variegated characteristics of natural disaster governance by combining both top-down and decentralization approaches, and nuancing the theoretical thinking through the detailed case study of CPEC.
Through our analysis, it is safe to conclude that much work needs to be done for the efficient decentralization of governance in CPEC. In the case of CPEC, it is apparent that the implementation of decentralized disaster risk management is faced with many challenges due to local capacities and resources. Most notably, the decentralized decision making in China and Pakistan has been ingrained into related government policies, while no substantial investments or personnel can be identified and allocated at the local level. This paper then went further by highlighting the challenges and conflicts for decentralized disaster governance at the municipal and community levels in the context of bilateral cooperation. This deeper analysis yielded a paradox: the more disaster governance shifts towards decentralization, the more urgent it becomes to build up the cross-border bilateral or multilateral and multilevel governance systems. At the same time, local participation and actions need more empowerment from the upper levels.
To achieve more effective disaster governance, it is necessary to create an enabling environment which facilitates efficient multi-sector and multi-level initiatives. This requires a coherent legal framework with a strong and regulatory decentralization regime. Clear responsibilities between stakeholders are needed at the local level with shared economic motivations for preventing and relieving natural disasters. Even with sufficient political will, many officials are unsure how to react to disaster management decentralization and there is a need to frame the cross-border disaster prevention and reduction institutions between different stakeholders and politicians at different levels of authority
Finally, we acknowledge that the development in developing countries is dependent on infrastructure and innovative technology. Establishing effective disaster governance along the CPEC is complementary to this, and provides the environment to ensure that the equally important investment in physical works is appropriate, long-lasting and effective. We also recognize that decentralization governance requires change, which is often resisted, and by its nature it involves political debate. Achieving effective disaster decentralization governance cannot be undertaken hastily using blueprints imported from overseas; it needs to be developed to suit the local conditions with the benefit of lessons learned from all over the world.
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