Enhancing Disaster Resilience

May 14th, 2013 | By | Category: Capacity Development, Development and Climate Change, Governance, Government Policies, Information and Communication, Lessons, Nepal, Resilience, Vulnerability

Himalayan Times: Summer monsoon is approaching and South Asia climate outlook has predicted above normal precipitation in Nepal. Recent data revealed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) shows that at least 420 people are killed every year in different disaster events in Nepal. Injuries, disruptions and a range of impacts including losses and damage to properties and livelihoods are not precisely reported due to lack of trustworthy mechanism. The losses of common property resources such as the forests gutted are rarely enumerated and included in the national disaster database.

The fragile landscape escalates the magnitude of hazards and cost of prevention, mitigation and response measures. This situation is compounded by erosive development practices; the negligence of immediate and future disaster risks in day-to-day practices. A number of small but more frequent and widespread hazards have also posed far greater impacts on resources and livelihoods thereby reducing the resilience capacity to sustain stresses and shocks of sudden disasters. The reasons and consequences are known to the authorities responsible for curbing problems albeit they are ignored. Bad governance and working in silos have distanced deeds from the actual needs, preventing holistic thinking for solutions.

Different concepts and approaches are available for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation but their implementation maturity is rare as they are in silos and intermingled with various issues hooked and knocked into them. Much confusion is in policy such as through different documents for the same cause like Local Adaptation Plan for Action (LAPA) Framework and Local Disaster Management Planning (LDRMP) Guidelines. The chaos, however, has been created and aggravated by various actors outside government as well.

It is evident that integration in practice assumes a systematic mixture of components in the main sector of development preference in an appropriate manner. Roads can be a good example to look at in this regard. A road can be a track only. However, the road can and should integrate drainage, retaining walls, breast walls, parapet walls and other many side structures to ensure the life and safety of the road. Moreover, it has divider, zebra marks, traffic lights and signals, signposts, mileage stone, and other small components that provide guidance to safety in operation. Even then, some level of risk is anticipated. So, there is provision of ambulances, highway clinics and repair equipment standby. These all are considered through survey, design and construction. After adding all these structures, again it is a road, a road that well integrates disaster risk reduction without chanting much about it.

Mainstreaming seeks priority to a main objective. Other components join the mainstream like tributaries to make the flow larger, stronger and long reaching. So, development sectors have to consider mainstreaming relevant issues to ensure their sustainability. A sector, therefore, should consider mainstreaming relevant issues in their work. Physical development and natural resource management have to take up DRR and climate change.

But the discourse as it is understood contemporarily on disaster risk reduction and climate change is often misleading. While both are important tributaries of a broader sustainable development pathway, they are perceived as mainstream, more or less separate from development and between each other. Despite their varied scopes, they need to mix up into the development at different stages and have to become integral part of development interventions. For instance, a culture of safety is outcome of good development involving various practices and a range of structures that can be utilized to build up further. It is easier to introduce a safety culture if the societies are well educated, equipped and resourceful supported by good governance.

051912_0221_NepalVillag1.jpgHimalayan Times: Existing concepts on DRR and climate change are rich in jargon; rarely simple and applicable in practice. People need information that would lead to action such as what to do today or tomorrow, on their own and who to consult for required additional support. Most of the DRR and

climate change resilience activities build on development interventions. There are problems, first to be solved by the development such as fulfilment of basic development priorities. Without these prerequisites, DRR and climate change adaptation are very unlikely to be successful as both issues are required to integrate into development policies and actions.

The tragedy of climate change and the DRR in Nepal is that their practice is badly dwarfed, intermingled into various hypothetical approaches and to the worst, the resources are invested much in discussions, workshops and foreign visits instead of taking actions on the ground. The mainstreaming agendas are likely to fade out between alarmist and sceptic opinions such as attribution of non-climatic issues to climate change and hypes at one end and limited public access to funding on the other. Breaking silos and holistic planning could make difference.

Author: Dinanath Bhandari email: dinanathbhandari@hotmail.com

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