Disaster Risk Management

Sep 24th, 2014 | By | Category: Climatic Changes in Himalayas, Nepal

vignetteThe Himalayan Times: Every monsoon season, floods and landslides wreak havoc across the country and our effort is limited to responding after a disaster hits. The recent Jure landslide (rock avalanche) compelled us to think proactively about disaster risk management. This clearly shows we are very poor in disaster preparedness measures. The Kanchanpur flood in the Far-West; flood and landsides in Makawanpur district; flooding in Morang, Saptari, and Rautahat districts; and inundation problem in Banke district are some other examples of the disasters that have hit the country this monsoon season. Because of diverse topography ranging from high Himalayas to lowland plains and its fragile geology, Nepal is highly prone to a number of hazards such as floods, landslides, fires, extreme weather happenings and many more. If we are exposed to multi-hazards, then to map such risk and prioritize it through empirical study is crucial. In several places, risk mapping has been prepared; however, it is found that there is a lack of proper dissemination of such findings. Several studies recommend the translocation of settlements as an option but the government is not proactive to address the issues. Risk sensitive land use planning would be the best solution to reduce the risk and save lives and livelihood.

The Ministry of Home Affairs shows that on an average one disaster more than two persons die every day and around 2% of GDP is lost every year due to disasters in Nepal. Despite being responsible for only 0.025% of total Green House Gas emissions in the world, Nepal has been disproportionately affected by the adverse impacts of climate change. A recent publication from Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment reveals that the economic loss from climate change is equivalent to 1.5 to 2% of GDP per year and is much higher in extreme years, rising to 5% or more. A study done by UNDP revealed that the economic structure of the country continues to be dominated by the primary sector with agriculture and agro-processing sectors contributing 40 percent of the GDP where 75 percent of the population remains dependent on the climate sensitive agricultural sector for livelihood and sustenance, with a per capita income of US$ 140. This shows that Nepal is affected by adverse impact of both climate change and frequently occurring disasters where people’s dependency on climate sensitive sectors further worsen the livelihood situation.

Unfortunately, no initiative has been taken to address the challenging issues of disaster. The National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) of Nepal has proposed a number of projects to combat the impacts of climate change. In the meantime, the government has endorsed climate change policy in 2011 to proactively address the issues of climate change; however, there is the challenge to mobilize the climate change budget to community level. Similarly, Nepal is a signatory to Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA; 2005-2015) to timely address the disaster management issues. In line with HFA, the Government of Nepal has endorsed National Strategy for Disaster Management in 2009 and is now focusing on the programme in the name of Disaster Risk Reduction Flagship Programme in consortium with donors and development partners. Additionally, the parliamentary good governance and monitoring committee has recently asked the government to bring a new Bill on disaster management to replace the 32-year-old one.

Some questions arise. Why is there no progress in reducing disaster loss and its risk. Why is there no sustainability in climate and disaster management interventions? And what are the barriers to build a risk resilient society? Government and development partners know that there is duplication while preparing Local Disaster Risk Management Plan (LDRMP) and Local Adaptation Programme of Action (LAPA), but the government seems reluctant to curb such duplication because the budgetary mechanisms in these headings are different. Climate change is the concern of Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment whereas disaster management is the responsibility of the home ministry. But it seems there is a gap of coordination to integrate these issues. Another overlooked issue is social protection. Only talking about the climate and disaster management is worthless.

Hence, to integrate these components, concerned government bodies should sit together for proper policy and budgetary mechanism, setting up clear baseline compatible with the target of Millennium Development Goals. There should be an understanding of the structural root causes of poverty for particular people, permitting more effective targeting of vulnerable groups to withstand vulnerability to multiple shocks and stresses. Synergies and linkages between academicians and practitioners from across the three disciplines should be strengthened to increase understanding, co-ordination and good practice. In a nutshell, if we really want to build a risk resilient society disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and social protection component should be treated in an integrated way.

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