“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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