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Disaster Management in Nepal
Disaster Preparedness Network Nepal

Natural Disaster Relief Act 1982: To Manage Disaster

- By Lekh Nath Pokharel

 

BEFORE the advent of Natural Disaster Relief Act, 1982 A.D. there was no well-structured disaster management policy in Nepal. Prior to 1982 A.D. relief and rescue works were carried out as the social works only. It has already been amended twice in 1989 A.D. and 1992 A.D.

 

Natural Disaster Relief Act, 1982 A.D. defines Natural Disaster Relief Work as any relief work to be carried out in the area affected or likely to be affected by the natural disaster in order to remove the grief and inconvenience caused to the people, to rehabilitate the victims of the natural disaster, to protect the public property and life and property of the people, to control and prevent the natural disaster and to make advance preparation thereof.

 

However, Natural Disaster Relief Regulations could not yet be formulated and due to which Natural Disaster Relief Act could not be fully effective as Natural Disaster Relief Act, 1982 does not describe the duties and responsibilities of all the disaster management related agencies other than the Ministry of Home Affairs. So duties and responsibilities of various other disaster management agencies have to be reflected in Natural Disaster Relief Regulations as each and everything could not be stipulated in the Natural Disaster Relief Act. According to Natural Disaster Relief Act, 1982 there has been a provision for the formation of Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee.

 

Furthermore, there is also the provision of a Relief and Treatment Sub-Committee, Supply, Shelter and Rehabilitation Sub-Committee, Regional Natural Disaster Relief Committees, District Natural Disaster Relief Committees and Local Natural Disaster Relief Committees. Relief and Treatment Sub-Committee, Supply, Shelter and Rehabilitation Sub-Committee shall be activated in the time of very serious and huge natural disasters while Central Disaster Relief Committee and District Disaster Relief Committee are active all the time. Recently, Regional Natural Disaster Relief Committee have been formulated in all five Regional administrators' offices under the chairmanship of the regional administrators.

 

Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee has been constituted under the Chairmanship of the Home Minister in order to formulate and implement the policies and programmes related to the natural disaster relief work and to undertake other necessary measures related thereof. The Central Committee may constitute Relief and Treatment Sub-Committee and Supply, Shelter and Rehabilitation Sub-Committee which provide necessary advice and suggestions to the Central Committee to help execute policies and directives of the Central Committee and operate effectively the rescue, relief and rehabilitation work during a very serious and huge natural disaster. The working procedures of the Relief and Treatment Sub-Committee and the Supply, Shelter and Rehabilitation Sub-Committee may be managed by themselves. However, the functions, duties and responsibilities of the two Sub-Committees shall be as specified by the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee.

 

The Central Natural Disaster Committee plays vital role in disaster management in Nepal. The main functions and duties of the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee are: to recommend to His Majesty's Government to declare the areas affected as the disaster area, to formulate the national policy regarding the relief work including the rehabilitation of the victims and the reconstruction in the areas affected by natural disaster etc. and for the control and prevention of natural disaster and the advance preparation thereof and to prepare the programmes in accordance with the said policy and submit it to His Majesty's Government, to keep the money, food stuff, clothes, medicines, construction materials and other goods received within the Kingdom of Nepal and from outside as aid or donation under the Central Natural Disaster Aid Fund and to send such goods in the affected area, to associate the social organisations in relief work and to coordinate the activities of those organisations, to form groups and send them to area to assist in relief work, to give direction to the district committee and local committee on the matters relating to relief work, to perform the works specified by His Majesty's Government for the execution of natural disaster relief work, to submit progress report of work to His Majesty's Government from time to time.

 

The Committee has formulated some norms for immediate relief assistance to the victims of the natural disaster in cash or kind. The amount and quantity of such assistance may be revised from time to time. According to the present norms specified by the Central Committee, Nepalese Rs. 10,000/- shall be provided as relief assistance to the family of a dead victim. Injured persons shall be provided the facility of treatment in the nearest governmental hospital or health post. Provision of a Central Natural Disaster Aid Fund has been made under the control of the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee. The central fund releases budget to the Fund according to the need and justification for immediate rescue and relief assistance to the victims of the natural disasters.

Formulation of national policies and their implementation, preparedness and mitigation of disaster, immediate rescue and relief works, data collection and dissemination, collection and distribution of funds and resources are vital functions of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It has its network throughout the country to cope with the natural disasters. Each Chief District Officers are the crisis manager at the time of natural disasters as well as he is the chairman of District Disaster Relief Committee.

 

The Ministry of Home Affairs is the key agency for immediate response during disasters and has to play a leading role in managing the natural disasters in the country. Last year, His Majesty's Government of Nepal decided to establish a separate Department for Narcotics Drug Control and Disaster Management to carry out the disaster management activities more effectively and efficiently.

 

MAIN DISASTER CONCERNS IN NEPAL AND A SUCCINCT DESCRIPTION OF THE TYPES OF INFORMATION FOR DISASTER MITIGATION

S.M. Shrestha

 

1.       Background

Nepal is a small mountainous country lying in the lap of the Central Himalayas in south Asia. Three-fourth portion of the country is occupied by hills and mountains together with mighty Himalayas. The terrain of the country is very unique with Mighty Himalayas in the northern part sloping downward in the form of mountains, hills and flat plain called Terai in the southern part. The terrain rises from 60m above mean sea level in the south to the top of the world i.e. Mt. Everest (8,848m) in the north. The climate of the country, therefore, varies from sub-tropical in the southern region to temperate in the north and alpine in the further north. Most of the rainfall occurs during monsoon that starts from mid-June and lasts till mid-September. The unique physiological feature together with the monsoon-rain is the main factor for various disasters such as soil erosion, landslide and flash flood. The fragile geology with dynamic tectonic processes makes the situation even more complex as the kingdom falls within the seismically active zone (Pokharel, 2002). On the other hand, poverty and illiteracy of the people are other human factors causing man-induced disasters in the country.

Every year, particularly during rainy season, the entire nation suffers from natural disasters leading to the loss of innumerable lives and property. The country has experienced great natural disasters in the past like the earthquakes of 1934, 1980 and 1988 and the flood of 1993 which claimed numerous human lives and caused irreparable damages of public property (Pokharel, 2002). This year too, hundreds of people have been killed and huge amount of property damaged by landslides alone.

The deforestation in the Himalayan region has also contributed for the natural disasters like severe soil erosion, landslide and flood in Nepal every year particularly in rainy season leading to floods in the Gangetic plain of India and Bangladesh where thousands of people are reported to be killed every year by flood alone. Besides, tens of thousands of cubic metres of topsoil are washed away by numerous swollen rivers and streams from Nepal and are deposited at the Bay of Bengal every year due to landslides and floods mainly during rainy season. The loss of the ecosystem/biodiversity as a whole is very significant, and it is very difficult to evaluate its loss in terms of monetary value. The main reason for deforestation is due to poverty and illiteracy of the people and largely due to the growth of population in this Himalayan Kingdom.

 

2.       Disaster mitigation measures

The Natural Disaster Relief Act, 1982 of His Majesty's Government of Nepal (HMGN) is the first Act so far that recognizes earthquake, fire, storm, flood, landslide, heavy rainfall, drought, famine and epidemics as disaster (Pokharel, 2002). According to this Act, HMGN has constituted the Central Disaster Relief Committee under the chairmanship of the Home Minister in order to formulate and implement the policies and programs relating to the natural disaster relief work and to undertake other necessary measures thereof. Moreover, the Central Committee prepares specific norms of relief assistance to be provided to the disaster victims of the affected areas in cash and/or in kind through the District Natural Disaster Relief Committees.

 

According to Pokharel (2002), the Ministry of Home Affairs has to work as the apex body in relation to disaster management in Nepal. Formulation of national policies and their implementation, preparedness and mitigation of disaster, immediate rescue and relief works, data collection and dissemination, collection and distribution of funds and resources are the vital functions of the Ministry. It has its network throughout the country to cope with the natural disasters. The Chief District Officers in the districts act as the crisis managers at the time of natural disasters. In 2000, HMGN has established 'the Department of Narcotics Control & Disaster Management' to strengthen the capability of the government in disaster management. It is now the focal agency with regard to disaster management in Nepal. The main responsibilities and functions of this Department are to:

         control and mitigate natural disasters;

         carry out rescue and relief works in disaster affected areas so as to reduce the loss of life and property ;

         mitigate the sufferings of the people;

         develop hazard maps;

         rehabilitate the disaster victims in coordination with the related agencies;

         manage funds and resources to relieve the disaster victims;

         promote disaster awareness campaign through training and publications;

         collect and analyze disaster data and disseminate information.

 

Nepal also suffers from various types of disasters caused by the action of water such as soil erosion, landslide, slope failure, flood, bank erosion etc. In order to mitigate the water induced disasters in the country, HMGN has established the Department of Water Induced Disaster Prevention (DWIDP) in 2000 (DWIDP, 2002). This Department carries out river training and landslide works along with water induced disaster management activities in different rivers of the country.

 

Besides, the Department of Forests and the Department of Soil and Water Conservation both under the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation of HMGN also carry out various activities like reforestation as well as afforestation in the denuded hills, scientific management of the forests resources in the Terai as well as in the hills, soil and water conservation works etc. in order to mitigate natural disasters such as soil erosion, landslide and flood caused by deforestation throughout the country. 

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PO BOx 217, Kathmandu Nepal
Phone: 977 1 4270650

Wednesday 31 March 2004 11:40AM

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