Since no authority concerned have made any effort towards furthering the approval of the new Act on disaster management, the Act continues to remain in a limbo, causing inconvenience in management of various natural disasters hitting this Himalayan nation almost every year.
The search-and-rescue and relief operations during the disasters in the country are being carried out as per the very old Disaster (Rescue) Act that was introduced way back in 1982.
Although the draft of the new Disaster Management Act has already been submitted to the Constituent Assembly, it has not seen a single deliberation on it, according to Rameshower Dangal, Chief of the Division of Disaster Management (DoDM) under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Dangal shared that the draft of the Bill for the New Act, which was in tune with the changing times, was prepared so as help mitigate the risks of the calamities. But the process has not gained any momentum yet.
Recalling the hard times dealing with April 25 quake and in its aftermath due to the old Act, Dangal said, “The old Act only permits to call for a meeting of the Council of Ministers for the management of the disaster, there was no any legal provision to call for a meeting in chairmanship of the Prime Minister which caused problems in the execution rescue and relief operations following the latest disaster.”
Lately, the cases of natural disasters have been on the rise. Likewise is mounting the challenges to deal with disaster in absence of pragmatic and effective rules. If we take a sneak peek into period spanning from the last year to the current one, the country bore the brunt of a devastating flood in August last year in the western part of the country, claiming the lives of hundreds of people and displacing thousands. The landslide occurred in the same month at Tinjure in Sindupalchowk district has also caused a huge loss of lives and property.
The wildfire in the forest and human settlement at the Eastern part of the country also reduced hundred of houses.
The April 25 earthquake was recorded to have claimed the lives of around nine thousands people so far while more than 20,000 persons sustained injuries. More than 800,000 houses suffered either partial or complete damages. But none seem to take interest in formulating the new Act on the disaster management.
Lately, voices were raised to form a separate Ministry or an autonomous body to deal with disasters efficiently. But due to the complications at policy-level, such authority would not also be able to deliver beyond the expectation.
Chief of DoDM, Dangal argued that in this situation the formation of a high-powered National Reconstruction Authority would be the most appropriate action. He further opined that since an autonomous body may not be able to coordinate with all the Ministries and the government bodies, a high-powered Department under the Ministry of Home Affairs would function more efficiently.
“Since the Police and Army are to be mobilized for the search and rescue operation during the disaster, the Home Ministry would better play the role of liaison,” he added.
The proposed new Act on disaster management has it that a National Council for Disaster Management could be formed under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister for the effective management of the disaster.
It also has the provision of appointing Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Finance and Agriculture among others as the Council’s Vice-Chairman.
The Council will also comprise the Vice-Chair of the National Planning Commission, the Chief Secretary of the government, the Chief of Army Staff, and two nominated members with their expertise in disaster management. The Secretary of the Home Ministry shall be the Council’s member-secretary.
The Council shall be vested with the authority to approve the long-term policies, plan and programmes for disaster management, Disaster Response and Disaster Recovery.
In addition, an executive Committee shall be formed under the chairmanship of the Home Minister to execute the tasks of disaster management within the jurisdiction of the Council. The Committee shall function as the Chief body for the Disaster Response, devise a mechanism in coordination with the other government bodies and exchange cooperation at the multi-sided, regional and sub-regional and international level in the sector of disaster management.
Similarly, the new Act also has a provision for the formation of the Disaster Risk Reduction Committee convened by the Minister for Local Development. Likewise, another Committee ‘Disaster Recovery Committee’ shall be formed under the convenorship of the Minister for Urban Development. RSS