News & Insights

Responding and Adapting to Crises: Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure


Crises, such as natural disasters, conflict and the most recent global pandemic, shatter the reality of people in affected communities. From disaster relief to rebuilding communities, infrastructure and livelihoods – Cardno helps return lives back to normal.

Infrastructure is greatly affected by crises, and there is an immediate need to safely assess, plan, and begin the rebuilding process. The World Bank projects that the damages sustained to physical infrastructure due to natural disasters cost low- and middle-income countries US$18 billion per year. It projects another US$391-647 billion in economic disruptions to national economies and households.

Cardno has decades of experience in managing quick and effective response and recovery measures from disasters. Following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Aceh-Nias, Cardno’s team monitored over A$1 billion in contracts awarded to rebuild bridges, roads, irrigation and drainage infrastructure. Between 2011-17, we rapidly deployed over 250 civilian experts across more than 20 countries to support recovery efforts to resolve conflict and natural disaster.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals call for ‘quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure … to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.’ Cardno recently completed the UK-funded Research for Community Access Partnership (ReCAP), which worked across Africa and Asia to improve access to services and economic opportunities among the rural poor through infrastructure improvement.

Kalinchok, Kuri Village, Nepal

ReCAP invested £21 million across 252 national and regional research projects – with close to £26 million in co-funding from partners. Over the life of the programme ReCAP has strengthened the evidence for more cost-effective and reliable approaches to building and maintaining sustainable and inclusive transport services, and has used research to influence policy and practice.

Cardno’s work supports response and recovery efforts after climate-related natural disasters through infrastructure planning and development that integrates climate change measures. Across developing countries, Cardno has deployed certified structural designs in infrastructure work to withstand environmental disasters, such as earthquake and flood resistant structures. From 2011-2017, we used a community-based construction approach to build 2725 schools in Indonesia, providing classroom space for over 175,000 students. By establishing and following international best practice and standards in construction, these schools were among the few buildings to withstand the recent earthquake in Lombok, and were used as a community site to shelter and aid in recovery efforts.

We work with affected communities to understand their needs. This rebuilding process demonstrates that well planned, designed and delivered infrastructure work can achieve much more than construction outcomes, greatly affecting and improving the lives of people.

Since 2015, we have been working with the Government of Vanuatu to rebuild 120 km of roads and bridges that had been affected by the devastating forces of Cyclone Pam – a category five cyclone and the most intense tropical storm to hit the South Pacific Ocean. This critical infrastructure serves as a lifeline and connection across the island, and is key for economic recovery.

Celebrating the completion of the Government Primary School Matahau, Tonga

In February 2018, Cyclone Gita damaged a 109 of the total 150 schools across Tonga – impacting 23,000 students. Cardno’s Pacific Resilience Project repairs and reconstructs the damaged school buildings. At the dedication of two new schools rebuilt under the program, the Australian High Commission to Tonga commented:

"These new classrooms will be much more conducive for effective learning, and their constructions create and boost local economic activities, employment, and again it is particularly valuable as the world suffers the economic effects of COVID-19.” –⁠ Mr Adrian Morrison, Australian High Commissioner to Tonga

COVID-19 Response

As the impact of COVID-19 manifests globally, Cardno has responded to the global crisis. Our response had two central drivers – staff safety and preparedness, as well as program integrity and continuity. In March, as borders were first beginning to close, we successfully relocated more than 400 advisers and their dependents to safety in under 72 hours, while initiating safety protocols for staff remaining in location. 

Our locally engaged project staff provided the means to coordinate local responses to pivot and adapt, as needed, while retaining critical programmatic operations. This was underpinned by our corporate offices in Kenya, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, which provided the global resources necessary for real-time, on-the-ground project support, and to serve as critical points-of-contact to our stakeholders and beneficiaries who were coping with the crisis.

Our teams swiftly adjusted field-based operations across 90 countries. We deployed program continuity plans throughout our projects, assessing social and political vulnerabilities, threats and opportunities, and calculating how to adapt to meet those needs.

On the Indonesia-Australia Partnership for Infrastructure (KIAT) project, Cardno worked with the Government of Indonesia and Ministry of Public Works and Housing to respond to COVID-19. This included developing decision-making and scenario plans for budget reprioritisation of infrastructure works.

At a practical level, KIAT has developed protocols and communications for the construction sector to ensure safe work practices. KIAT is working with the Directorate of Water Supply to help local governments in their immediate response for reliable and safe water supply, by developing chlorination guidelines and procedures to improve water quality and reduce the transmission of water-borne diseases.

Cardno’s teams have adapted to provide infrastructure relief and support at the community level – particularly to the most vulnerable populations. In Uganda, on the Cities and Infrastructure for Growth (CIG) project, Cardno is supporting vulnerable communities in the most densely populated areas in Kampala. CIG has provided personal protective equipment and shelter to some 900 market vendors, as well as public sanitisers and sanitation facilities, benefiting as many as 2000 people in informal settlements. This is a continuation of our efforts to safeguard the most-vulnerable people as part of broader urban planning efforts.

Similarly, on the Support for National Program for Village Development program, our team has worked in villages and municipalities throughout Timor-Leste to deliver 150 water tanks for public handwashing facilities. The facilities are being installed along main roads and other public places, and is coupled with COVID-19 prevention messaging emphasising health and hand hygiene.

Looking ahead

No one person is able to predict the full impact that natural disasters and crises will have on communities around the world. Resilient infrastructure minimises the impact and disruption natural disasters, climate change and other crises have on livelihoods, health, education and well-being.

While natural disasters are generally localised, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the sheer scope of facing a crisis at an international level. The crisis has forced us to rethink resiliency to be wider-reaching and global, to account for future pandemics or the far-reaching impact of climate change. Investment in sustainable and resilient infrastructure will help sustain these shocks at a global level, and minimise impact globally.

Cardno’s experts in infrastructure, environment and international development provide the expertise to mobilise and respond to global crises, assisting affected communities around the world. Beyond response, we are also looking ahead. We help governments and communities plan and design infrastructure and public works that will be able to sustain natural disasters and ensure the provision of essential services during times of crisis.

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