Seven years on, govt puts essential bill on holdEven as the country is being ravaged by floods and landslides, the government has repeatedly shelved a key piece of legislation designed to strengthen disaster management for the last seven years—highlighting a lack of urgency within the government to deal with the issue.
Even as the country is being ravaged by floods and landslides, the government has repeatedly shelved a key piece of legislation designed to strengthen disaster management for the last seven years—highlighting a lack of urgency within the government to deal with the issue.
This year alone at least 70 people have been killed by floods and landslides, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Prepared in 2009, the Disaster Management bill—vital for strengthening the country’s efforts at disaster management—is still awaiting approval.
“Approving the bill is important for the government and the stakeholders working on disaster management including security agencies, local communities and development partners,” said Ram Chandra Neupane, Chairperson at the Disaster Preparedness Network-Nepal.
In 2009, the Home Ministry promulgated the National Strategy on Disaster Management (NSDRM) that encompasses prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
The strategy was vital for strengthening the efforts towards disaster management, replacing the existing policies and programmes that only provisioned response and recovery after a disaster. However, the NSDRM is yet to be made into law.
The stakeholders have blamed the political impasse and laxity from the Home Ministry, responsible for carrying out consultation with all the stakeholders, for the delay.
One of the key objections from the ministry is the demand from stakeholders for establishing a high-level authority to look after disaster management. At present, the National Emergency Operation Centre under the ministry is responsible for coordination during the time of a disaster.
“But the proposed bill clearly mentions establishing an independent and high-level authority like the National Disaster Management Authority directly under the prime minister that could delineate all works related to disaster preparedness and management and build close coordination with all the concerned bodies including government, I/NGOs and development partners,” said Neupane.
MoHA is responsible for formulating policies and programmes on disaster management and cannot be the one monitoring its own works, argue stakeholders. “The existing centre is ill-equipped with human resource and expertise to deal with large-scale disaster. This shows the need for a high-powered institution,” said Neupane.
Besides, the establishment of the NDMA, the proposed bill provisions setting up proper authorities at all levels—national, regional, district and local—to work on disaster management. Formation of specialised committees on preparedness and mitigation, search and rescue within the security personnel and local communities and coordination with development partners in disaster risk reduction are some of the key components identified in the proposed bill.
According to Yadav Prasad Koirala, secretary at the ministry, the bill would be sent to the Cabinet soon. After the Cabinet’s nod, it will be submitted to Parliament for final approval.
During a parliamentary meeting on Tuesday, lawmakers representing various parties blamed the government’s failure to formulate the much-awaited Act to respond to the increasing risks of disaster.
“The government’s efforts towards disaster management are inadequate. The absence of a proper legislation to deal with disaster management has affected the response and recovery,” said Ganesh Pahari, a CPN-UML lawmaker.