Friday, 24 September, 2021

Reducing Disaster Risks


Ram Bahadur Shah

Nepal is in the top 20 of all the multi-hazard countries in the world due to its unstable geology, seasonal weather variations, climate change, unmanaged infrastructure development, and risk-insensitive development activities. Nepal is also ranked 11th in the world in terms of seismic risk and 30th in terms of floods and landslides.
More than 500 disasters occur every year on average in Nepal. Disasters like landslides, floods, earthquakes, fires, cloud-burst, glacial lake outburst floods have been adversely affecting Nepal’s physical, humanitarian, socio-economic aspects.

Thus, it needs to focus on disaster management. Disaster management is the logical way of dealing with disaster. It can be taken as the management of resources and responsibilities to lessen the impacts of natural hazards and environmental disasters. We are primarily focused on rescue and rehabilitation rather than risk reduction and mitigation. Thus, we should walk with every step of the disaster management cycle to mitigate existing or possible adverse environmental impacts.
The constitution of Nepal has envisioned the policy of warning, preparedness, rescue, relief and rehabilitation to mitigate risks from natural disasters and has included disaster management as the power of Local Level, the concurrent power of federation and province and concurrent Power of Federation, Province and Local Level. Policy and legal provisions including National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy, 2075, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, 2074 and Regulation, 2076, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Strategic Plan of Action, 2018-2030 have been formulated.
Various institutions like Natural Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, National Emergency Operation Center have been established.
The effective implementation of the prevailing policies and legal frameworks and the active role of the concerned authorities are the needs of the present day.
Currently, Nepal has been facing various problems. Multiple hazards are battering the country with the loss of lives, property and infrastructures. People have badly been affected by the disasters. Poor disaster-resilient development, lack of disaster risk identification and mapping, unplanned and excessive exploitation of natural resources, lack of disaster management information system, absence of adequate investment in disaster risk reduction and management in all sectors, lack of efficient and adequate human resources, equipment and relief materials for emergencies can be taken as the major causes.
Nepal is ranked fourth in terms of vulnerability to climate change impacts. Department of Hydrology and Meteorology has also been forecasting a warmer and wetter climate in the future. To mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce disaster risks are the major challenges of the present day. Along with the consequent disasters, COVID-19 Pandemic has been added.
Currently, we are facing the two major crises Covid-19 pandemic and the flood. Disaster risks can increase the pandemic, so we have to be sensitive in reducing and managing risks to flood and other disasters. We can deal with the crises and disasters by learning lessons from past experiences.
Flood is devastating the communities placed in the different regions of the county and causing consequent loss of human lives and physical, economic, social, cultural, and environmental loss. The riverside scattered settlements have appeared as the major problem. Safe resettlement of citizens living in riverside scattered settlements is one of the significant challenges. It must be taken into consideration by the concerned authorities. Our focus should be on flood & landslide pro-regions. Emphasis should be placed on the 'Build Back Better' concept in post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation.
In the days to come, Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Disaster Risk Assessment (DRA) must be carried out effectively. Adequate investment in disaster risk reduction is the need of the present day. Disaster risk reduction funds at federal, provincial and local levels should be established and managed. An integrated disaster management information system (DMIS) must be operated.

We can increase awareness on risk reduction in the communities by including disaster-related courses and topics in the curriculum of schools and colleges and skills development training programs. It is better to make the non-state actors like the private sector, NGOs & INGOs, cooperatives, communities etc. active. The partnership and collaboration could be alive. Disaster Relief Committees at various levels should be mobilised actively and effectively. Local levels are the immediate service providers, so their institutional capacity should be strengthened. It needs to focus on increasing involvement in scientific research and access to modern technologies.
It is essential to develop and strengthen infrastructure, human resources, capacity, modern equipment and technology required for effective response. The ICT must be utilised in disaster risk reduction and management. Effective implementation of the Building Code plays a vital role in reducing possible risks to the earthquake.
Various Disaster Relief Committees at the Federal, Provincial and local levels could be utilized in saving people from the risks. A culture of intergovernmental coordination and cooperation can be adopted while working on disaster management at federal, provincial, and local levels. Strategic storage of rescue and relief materials should be maintained up to the local level. Life and non-life insurances, social securities, and other methods could be promoted. Needy people must realize the State's presence.
Disaster risk reduction and management is the need of the hour. It is essential to focus on disaster risk-sensitive planning and development. There is no alternative to sustainable development. Our efforts must be oriented for resilient Nepal that is protected from disaster risks.

(Shah works at Gorkhapatra Corporation)