Amid criticism it has been slow and ineffective in dealing with deadly natural disasters, Nepal’s government is moving to establish a National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) to orchestrate preparations for and responses to such emergencies.
A spate of natural disasters struck the Himalayan nation this year with lethal effect. In August,landslides in Sindhupal chowk district and floods left 156 people dead, AFP reported.
In October, at least 40 people were killed after they were caught in a blizzard and avalanche along the Annapurna trekking circuit .
Creation of the NDMC is written into the proposed National Disaster Management Act of 2014 that replaces the 1982 National Calamity (Relief) Act. If the act receives parliamentary approval by year’s end, the centre will be housed in the Home Ministry.
“The centre, headed by the home secretary, will comprise of experts from other line ministries and other disaster management experts working outside the government,” Home Ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told Khabar South Asia. “This body will deal with all issues related to disasters including preparedness, rescue, and rehabilitation.”
As a centralised body drawing together representatives from relevant departments, the NDMC is expected to improve co-ordination. It will oversee immediate response to disasters, including distribution of relief and co-ordination of efforts with donor agencies . Additionally, it will make recommendations to the government on reducing disaster risks.
Under plans for the new centre, the Ministry of Local Development will oversee disaster preparations and preparedness, and the ministries of Physical Planning and Urban Development will oversee rehabilitation of disaster victims.
Jib Raj Pokhrel, a professor at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and member of the data-collecting Nepal Centre for Disaster Management (NCDM), welcomed the proposed creation of a dedicated body.
“Since the Home Ministry has multiple functions to look after, it is a good idea to create a separate body comprising officials from both government and outside, together to look after these issues,” Pokhrel told Khabar. “I see the government’s plan as timely and appropriate.”
Also, the government has focused on specialised training for security personnel on how to deal with natural disasters.
The Nepal Army trains soldiers in search and rescue, evacuation, air rescue, mass evacuation and flood control operations. The Armed Police Force (APF) set up a Disaster Management Training Centre (DMTC) for its personnel.
“Besides permanently deploying an APF platoon (50 trained personnel with necessary equipment) in each [of] five development regions for rescue and rehabilitation efforts in case of different natural disasters, we have trained a large number of other APF personnel for the disaster management works,” Additional Inspector General of APF Singh Bahadur Shrestha told Khabar.
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