Unified preparedness to fight disasters


In an effort to alleviate the precarious situation created by the lack of a unified preparedness and response strategy to disasters, the government is planning to formulate a National Disaster Response Framework in the next two months.

The proposed framework will delineate responsibilities of all agencies involved in disaster response and strengthen activities at different stages of any disaster like the standard time to reach the site for rescue, providing required support and calling emergency meetings at concerned ministries for updates on the disaster scenario. Besides strengthening response mechanisms during disasters, the framework will also deal with preparedness and mitigation strategies to help vulnerable communities prevent and cope with disasters.

The construction of an alternative runway at the Tribhuvan International Airport in case an earthquake strikes the Kathmandu Valley and the existing runway is damaged, the collection of portable cross-over bridges in case of they are damaged during disasters with security forces and retrofitting schools and vital private and public buildings are some activities in the tentative 34-point work plan under the proposed disaster framework, said Pradip Koirala, under-secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Similarly, the government is also planning to establish a separate disaster response force, a unit trained to deal with disasters with the Army and the Police administrations. In the present context, security personnel from both the Army and Police are involved at times of disasters but there is no specialised unit.

‘Urgent need to set up disaster mgmt agency’

What is the current disaster management scenario in the country?

Nepal has made tremendous progress in recent years in addressing disasters and related risks. But much more needs to be done. The delay in endorsing the Disaster Management Act and the establishment of a National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has been a huge disappointment for many of us. Both these proposals have been drifting around successive governments and then the parliament without a formal decision and a sufficient sense of urgency. The government does not have enough fully dedicated civil servants to deal with disasters and its related issues. 

What is the relevance of NDMA to the country? 

There is an urgent need to establish an NDMA as a powerful agency that can convene all concerned partners, including the government, NGOs, international bodies and donors, on one platform and work effectively in the risk reduction sector. Political instability makes this task more difficult in Nepal. Political will and stability in the country are crucial. Other South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and India have made great progress in the disaster management sector through the strong commitment of their governments and other concerned partners. For instance, in Pakistan, the NDMA is working effectively towards disaster

management. India has recently launched a major Tsunami

Early Warning system, all examples of the progress being made in the region.

Three years since its initiation, what changes has the Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium (NRRC) brought in the national disaster discourse? How has the NRRC incorporated community-based disaster risk reduction strategies?

The NRRC is considered a good example globally of how the government, the international community and other concerned authorities can come together to work on disasters. Since its initiation in 2010, about $80 million have been raised and we have set ourselves a goal of $150 million by 2015. Ten years ago, annual investments in disaster risk reduction were around five million dollars. Next year, investments are expected to rise to about $40 million. Under the NRRC, five flagship programmes for disaster risk reduction (DRR) have been identified. Flagship Four deals with Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDR) and different partner organisations and government agencies are working in this sector. Communities are the first responders to any disaster and require the skills and resources to help themselves mitigate, prepare and respond to such disasters. The CBDR aims to strengthen the capacity of local communities by providing training and technical and financial resources. We expect to help around 25 percent

of the total VDCs in the country that are considered as most vulnerable to different natural hazards. So far we have secured funding for around 500 (of our target 1,000) VDCs.

Why do you think the development communities are reluctant to provide aid to DRR activities?

Historically, DRR activities have been seen as the business of the ‘emergency’ community and the development community has been slow to engage in these efforts. While humanitarian aid is very short-term, development aid can engage in long-term efforts like retrofitting hundreds of schools and hospitals and ensuring the enforcement of building codes. Around one billion dollars worth of development aid comes to Nepal each year and more of this needs to be dedicated to

DRR work. In this context, the NRRC acts as a bridge between emergency humanitarian aid and long-term development aid to help Nepal deal more effectively with disasters.

Posted on: 2012-12-27 08:22