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Loss of lives by flood and landslide disasters by avi13765

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									                           “Strategies for Disaster Management in Nepal”

                                                                                                                      Lekh Nath Pokharel

Nepal is one of the disaster prone country in Asian region, because of its geo-physical
condition. The geo-physical situation is the main factor that causes natural disasters in
this country. Every year, landslides, floods, fire, thunderbolt, avalanches, windstorm,
cold-wave, GOLF and epidemics and various other natural and man-made disasters cause
the loss of thousands of human lives and the destruction of physical property worth
billions of rupees. Thus, Nepal is facing an acute problem from natural disasters. The
Ministry of Home Affairs has initiated various efforts to mitigate the impact of natural
disasters.
The following table shows past disasters scenario of the loss of lives by flood and
landslides disasters, from 1983 to 2002.


                          % Loss of lives by flood and landslide disasters
                    120

                                                                                                                                                                98
   Percentage (%)




                    100
                                                                                                 88

                    80


                    60     51
                                                       44                                                                                         44     47
                                  39                                 40
                    40                   30                                 34
                                                                                                                      29
                                                21            21                                               23                   23
                    20                                                                                                                     14
                                                                                   10                   6                    7
                                                                                          5
                    -
                           1983

                                  1984

                                         1985

                                                1986

                                                       1987

                                                              1988

                                                                     1989

                                                                            1990

                                                                                   1991

                                                                                          1992

                                                                                                 1993

                                                                                                        1994

                                                                                                               1995

                                                                                                                      1996

                                                                                                                             1997

                                                                                                                                    1998

                                                                                                                                           1999

                                                                                                                                                  2000

                                                                                                                                                         2001

                                                                                          Year                                                                  2002




The Ministry of Home Affairs has initiated various efforts to mitigate the impact of
natural disasters. The Natural Disaster (Relief) Act, 1982 is a milestone in disaster
management. The Ministry has taken some concrete steps towards improving disaster
management situation in the country.

As mentioned in the Natural Disaster (Relief) Act, a high level Central Disaster Relief
Committee headed by Home Minister is constituted to carry out rescue-and relief
operation at the time of disaster. Moreover, the Central Committee formulates disaster-
related national policies for disaster management and sets standard norms of relief
assistance to be given to disaster victims either in cash or kind.
The Department of Narcotics Control and Disaster Management was established to
strengthen the response capability of the government on February 16th, 2001.

According to the Act, His Majesty's Government may give orders for the implementation
of relief works in disaster-affected areas to any concerned agency to undertake any one or
all of the following works. The authority under the guidance of the government can go to
the extent of closing down any governmental or non-governmental offices and other
institutions in disaster areas if it becomes necessary. It can also prohibit any activities in
the disaster area that may hinder smooth flow of relief works.

In this connection, the authority also decides the employees of governmental or non-
governmental offices or institutions for deputation in the calamity-hit area. In times of
need the concerned agency also evacuates the people from disaster-affected area to the
area of safety.Besides these tasks, the authority also collect necessary food grains,
clothes, medicines, construction materials and other items from governmental, non-
governmental offices, institutions and individuals and distributes it to natural-disaster
victims. Likewise, the concerned body also constitutes aid groups and sends them to
disaster areas and takes necessary security measures for the safeguard of the life and
property of the common people.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is the focal agency that co-ordinates the activities of
disaster management at the central level in the country. It helps the government to
formulate national policies and implements programmes on natural disaster preparedness
and mitigation, conducts immediate rescue and relief works, collects data, disseminates
information and mobilizes funds and resources for disaster victims in calamity-hit areas.

It has its network throughout the country to cope with natural disasters. The Regional
Disaster Relief Committee was constituted last year in five-development regions to carry
out rescue and relief operation and to coordinate between the District Disaster Relief
Committee and the Central Disaster Relief Committee.

The Regional Administrator chairs the Regional Disaster Relief Committee and seventy-
five Chief District Officers are responsible to respond to any disaster that occur in their
respective areas. The Narcotics Control and Disaster Department carries out 'pre',
'during' and 'post' disaster activities as well. Primarily, the main strategies of the
government for disaster management are to carry out rescue and relief works in disaster-
affected areas, work towards the reduction of the loss of life and property, mitigate the
sufferings of the people, control and mitigate natural disasters, develop hazard maps,
rehabilitate disaster victims in coordination with the related agencies, arrange funds and
resources to relieve the disaster victims, carry out disaster awareness campaign by
conducting trainings and publications, coordinate with the non-governmental agencies,
to collect and analyze disaster data, and disseminate information, among others.

The Ministry of Home Affairs prepared a National Comprehensive Plan on Disaster
Management in 1996. This plan emphasizes the improvement of national capacity for
disaster management and institutional structures. The plan also focuses on hazard
mapping, risk assessment, rehabilitation of the victims and the reconstruction of damaged
infrastructures, vulnerability analysis and so on. As the objectives of the plan are very
wide, keeping in view resource constraints, it may take a long time to attain all the
objectives and needs timely revision for the full implementation of the task.

The following are the main problems in disaster management in Nepal:

Lack of public awareness; In Nepal 54 percent of the total population are literate. So lack
of the mass education is a hindrance for mass public awareness. As majority of
population are illiterate, obviously many people are unaware of disaster management.
Because of the lack of public awareness, prevention and reduction of natural disaster has
not been effective.

Very remote and difficult Geo-physical condition of the country; Not only illiteracy and
public awareness but also the remoteness and very difficult geo-physical situation of the
country have been obstacle for prevention and reduction of natural disaster. Due to the
remote and difficult geo-physical condition it is very difficult to carry out relief and
rescue operation effectively during the time of disaster.

Mass poverty and remote rural area; Mass populations are below the poverty line and 90
percent of the total population lives in rural areas. Therefore due to the mass poverty, the
people are not financially capable to support the disaster victims. On the other hand due
to the remote rural areas it becomes very difficult to approach or reach to the disaster
victims in their times of relief needs.

Poor road infrastructure and transportation facilities; 90 percent of the total populations
reside in rural areas. Most of the rural areas have no access of motor able road. Even in
those areas where there is a road network, the roads are very poor condition that makes
relief and rescue operators very difficult to launch any program. Even there are many
more villages in the country, which are located in remote area behind the giant and
difficult high hills. It might take several days to reach there.

Lack of communication facilities; As already mentioned above most of the people live in
poor and rural areas where people have no even been able to fulfill their basic needs.
Therefore, it obvious that there is no facility of communication like telephone and
facsimile. Thus in case of disaster it takes several days to get or collect the fact and
figures. As a result it is late to launch a relief and rescue operation.

Absence of clear-cut job description; There is no clear-cut job description of the
concerned disaster management agencies in Natural Calamity Relief Act, 1982 especially
in respect of rehabilitation and resettlement work. Rehabilitation and resettlement work
will be very important for disaster victims.
Shifting the responsibility and indifferent behavior; As a Natural Calamity Relief Act,
1982 does not clearly define the roles, functions and responsibilities of various disaster
management agencies except Ministry of Home Affairs. Now and then some agencies
hesitate to bear their responsibility. Often some agencies try to shift their responsibility to
others.
Lack of cooperation and coordination; It is obvious that there is a dearth of cooperation
and coordination among the various disaster management related agencies due to which
the disaster victims suffer. As a result of it, the victims sometimes do not get immediate,
efficient and effective relief and rescue services.

Lack of dialogue and mutual understanding; Due to the lack of dialogue and mutual
understanding among the disaster management agencies sometimes duplication of relief
work occurs where as sometimes no agencies are available for relief work. Now and then
time lapse occurs in relief and rescue operation.

Poor data collection and dissemination; For want of logistic support and efficient and
well-trained manpower there is no proper data collection and dissemination. Sometime
the figures are inflated, exaggerated and sometimes go un-reported. Untrained staff is
also problem for an effective disaster management. Disaster management needs quite a
lot of technocrats. But the bureaucrats are doing most of the disaster management job.
Therefore clear-cut division of work according to the qualification, disaster management
experience and specialization and ability is to be done.

Budget and recourse constraints; For want of sufficient budget and other recourse
materials, relief, rescue, rehabilitation and resettlement program could not be launched
effectively. It can be easily imagined how difficult it will be to manage relief and rescue
work with lack of sufficient budget for the whole country.

Absence of clear-cut avenue for external assistance; Natural calamity Relief Act, 1982 is
quite silent towards the procedure of fundraising from external sources. No mention has
been made as to which agency is responsible and what should be the process and
producer to request and call for external assistance. Being a developing country, Nepal
needs assistance and support of all international communities and friendly nations.

Weak technology; As hazard mapping, vulnerability assessment, risk analysis and early
warning system are still at primitive stage in Nepal, it is evident that the technological
aspect is very weak. Hazard mapping, vulnerability assessment and risk analysis are, in a
way, non- existent in Nepal. Expect weather forecast, early warning system has been
introduced for the first time in July, 1997 only in Tso Rolpa Glacier Lake with a master
station, 2 units of GOLF Monitoring warning system, 19 units of GOLF sirens and 3
units of early warning relay stations.

People are fatalistic and introvert; Many illiterate people rural people are fatalistic and
introvert. They do not believe outsiders. It is a Herculean task to convince the people
about something. Therefore, it might take quite a long time to raise public awareness
under these circumstances.

Disaster accepted as an act of God; Still there are a number of people, especially illiterate
one, they think that natural disaster is an act of God and is beyond the control of human
being. They do not believe in the prevention and mitigation program. In this situation it
might be a problem to launch natural disaster reduction and prevention program as it
takes quite a long time to convince them.

Mainly Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) are capital city based; The above-
mentioned fact and figures prove that Nepal is a rural country where majority of people
are illiterate. At this juncture, it is very necessary to convince the people at the rural and
illiterate community level. For this task Non Governmental organization (NGOs) could
play a vital role. But unfortunately most of the Non Governmental organization of Nepal
is stationed capital city of Nepal at Kathmandu Valley. Few of Non Governmental
organization go to rural community and work for them. Therefore Kathmandu phobia and
only paper work of the Nepalese Non Governmental organization is in fact a very big
problem for all such as the kingdom, the Government, the donors and the people.

No warehouse and store relief and rescue materials; As there are no any warehouses in
different parts of the country to store relief and rescue goods. Sometimes the relief and
rescue goods could not be made available to the disaster victims in time.

Measures to Solve the Problems ;

Despite of the various problems, appropriate policy measures could help to solve the
problems. As public awareness is one of the vital problems in managing the disaster in
Nepal, it is felt necessary to work at increasing the literacy rate. Moreover, disaster
management course should be included in the school and university curriculum. It is also
necessary to train schoolteachers, selected students, women leaders, health workers and
social workers to educate others in measures to prevent or mitigate the natural disasters.
Such types of programmes may convince people to believe that natural disasters are not
an act of God. To attain all this, there is the need of the strong political determination,
pragmatic policy formulation and quick decision-making. Moreover, active people's
participation is also very necessary. On the other hand it will be better to include disaster
management component in the development plans and programs of concerned agencies
for the effective implementation of disaster mitigation programs.

In order to prevent inappropriate construction of buildings, the building code should be
strictly implemented. To prevent duplication of relief works and the lack of cooperation,
it is needed to establish mutual understanding and frequent dialogue between the focal
persons. It is felt necessary to amend the Natural Disaster Relief Act, 1982 and formulate
the Natural Disaster Relief Regulations whereby the role, functions, duties and
responsibilities of all the disaster management related agencies could be specified so that
no agency could ignore or shift their responsibilities.

Conclusion;Certain natural factors like rugged and fragile geophysical structure of the
country, tall peaks, high angle of slopes, complex geology, variable climatic conditions,
active tectonic processes and human components like unplanned settlement, increasing
population, weak economic condition and low literacy rate lead to both man-made and
natural disasters. Apart from these reasons, the lack of coordination, resource constraint,
the lack of technical manpower, the lack of public awareness, very remote, rural and
difficult geo-physical situation of the country and the absence of modern technology also
hinder disaster relief operation in the country. Disaster management is a difficult and it is
multidisciplinary task. Disaster happens all of a sudden. Thus, the suddenness of a
disaster and its destruction, especially during a very serious natural disaster, it becomes
very difficult to cope with a normal administrative set up and limited funds and
resources. In view of the above situation Nepal is facing a number of severe problems a
better cooperation and coordination among various disaster management related agencies
supported by strong political commitment and quick decision is expected for effective
disaster management and mitigation work.

Last but not the least, Despite different problems and limitations, however, it is a matter
of satisfaction that Nepal is gradually making progress in disaster management. Being a
developing country, Nepal lacks sufficient resources to provide adequate assistance
to natural disaster victims. Mainly, reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes have
had to suffer due to such resource constraints. Nevertheless, despite very limited funds
and resources, the effort of the Department of Narcotics Control and Disaster
Management is on to cope with natural and man-made disasters. Taking this in view
disaster management component should be incorporated in all development plans of the
country. The country also needs support and encouragement from all quarters to
strengthen her capabilities in natural disaster prevention and mitigation. In this regard, the
role of various disaster-related governmental and non-governmental organizations in
disaster management is praiseworthy.

								
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