Nepal | January 17, 2021

EDITORIAL: Plan for disasters

The Himalayan Times
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In the absence of scientific database, the government has been unable to formulate disaster mitigation plans at all levels

Nepal is among the highly natural disaster-prone countries in the world because of its steep terrain and fragile mountains, resulting in heavy landslides and flash floods during the rainy season. Besides earthquakes, landslides, floods, lightning, wildfires and storms are other common natural disasters that render many people homeless every year, causing huge loss of lives and property as well as damage to the physical infrastructure. Billions of rupees are required to mitigate the risk of the natural disasters and to build them back better. It has taken more than five years to rebuild the private houses and public infrastructure destroyed by the 2015 earthquake that also left more than 9,000 people dead, rendering more than half a million families homeless. The rebuilding process is still going on, though. Such a large number of people would not have been killed had the government strictly implemented the building code in the urban and rural areas. Therefore, a natural disaster risk reduction plan is more important than carrying out the rebuilding plan, which requires resources to rebuild the damaged infrastructure.

Following the 2015 devastating earthquake, the federal parliament passed a law in 2018, enabling it to form the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Authority under the Home Ministry to work on natural disasters across the country. As per its rules-2019, the local disaster management committee, district disaster management committee and provincial disaster management committees have already been formed. The local levels will submit their reports to the district disaster body, which will prepare its integrated report on the natural disaster and submit it to the provincial body. The provincial bodies are required to prepare their reports and submit them to the national-level authority. The provincial bodies are required to submit their aggregate reports on natural disasters within 40 days of completion of the fiscal year.

After the provincial bodies submit their aggregate reports to the authority, the authority will prepare an integrated national-level report, which will be a useful document in formulating natural disaster mitigation plans at the local, district, provincial and federal levels. The data of the final report will also be shared with the international organisations helping Nepal in natural disaster mitigation plans. In order to make all the bodies more effective and efficient, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration recently urged all local levels to prepare their annual disaster reports including the mitigation works that they carried out and submit them to the higher level at the earliest. Once the national level report is prepared, it will give a clear picture about the vulnerable areas of the country from the natural disaster point of view, and the three tiers of government will be able to carry out their mitigation works. In the absence of scientific database, the government has been unable to evacuate and relocate the people from the landslide and flood-prone areas to safer locations on time.

However, the most important thing is to well-equip the authority with resources to deal with natural disasters.

Power corrupts

In what is a mockery of the prime minister’s pledge not to tolerate corruption, a report by Transparency International shows that corruption has increased by 58 per cent in the past one year. The report ‘Global Corruption Barometer — Asia 2020 — is based on a public opinion survey of thousands of people and reflects the general perception about the incumbent government. Going through the report, it looks as if corruption is widespread, with everyone from the people and organisations related to the Office of the President or the Prime Minister, parliamentarians and local level officials engaging in it. Quite a few big wigs in the government, including the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, have had to quit for seeking kickbacks from big contract deals.

The report reveals that the local governments are particularly corrupt in the eyes of the public. At a time when there is growing disenchantment with the costly federal system, the corruption being seen at each of the tiers of the government does not augur well for institut6ionalising federalism in the country.

Elections should not be seen by the people as a legitimate means for party members to engage in willful corruption.

A version of this article appears in print on November 26, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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