But challenges remain. It is, therefore, important to ensure that the newly built and better-quality infrastructure will be maintained and operated properly so that they serve the people for years to come.
Bricks and mortar are not the end but part of the means to achieving the ultimate goals of public health, education, transport accessibility and safe drinking water. Additional financial resources and trained personnel will be needed to operate and maintain these facilities. And continued support from provincial and national governments will be needed to ensure the reconstruction efforts endure. Moreover, building partnerships with the private sector could help introduce better know-how, reduce costs and optimize operations.
People's livelihoods have been rebuilt along with the infrastructure. But dealing with the human, economic and physical losses that the disaster caused will take time. Many people and small businesses, especially farmers, had to borrow money to help rebuild what was lost in the quake.
As if a major earthquake was not enough, the disaster-hit areas have since been battered by storms and floods. As such, some people and businesses struggling with debt find themselves slipping even further down the economic ladder. There is room for developing innovative risk transfer mechanisms and insurance schemes to help individuals, private enterprises and the public sector to better cope with the consequences of natural disasters.
These market-based mechanisms can help share the burden, expedite transfer of funds, especially to individuals, and adequately allocate risks and the cost of rebuilding to individuals, the private sector and the government. They can also help divert investments from high-risk areas by applying higher premiums to floodplains, and quake- and landslide-prone areas.
The World Bank is a proud partner of the Chinese government in the post-disaster reconstruction efforts. We have witnessed great accomplishments in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi. The reconstruction approach taken after the Wenchuan quake has taught us a number of important lessons that we will share with other countries and projects.
First, it is very important to have strong and pro-active leadership at the national level to coordinate national and international support in disaster-hit areas. The government has provided that leadership and, in the process, implemented a wide variety of complementary and reinforcing policies to help direct investments and support recovery efforts.
It is important, too, to work closely with local governments and agencies, which are ultimately responsible for maintaining the investments and operating the facilities.
The memory of that day, as it should, will remain with us for a long time to come. But three years on we have cause to celebrate, to celebrate the rebirth of one school after another.
Paul Procee is the project manager of World Bank's Wenchuan Earthquake Reconstruction Project and a senior infrastructure specialist and disaster risk management coordinator for China. John Scales is China transport coordinator, World Bank Office, Beijing, and was the task team leader of Wenchuan Earthquake Reconstruction Project.