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Why is disaster preparedness crucial to Nepal?

Nepal’s vulnerability to natural disasters demands an effective national disaster preparedness plan.

2022 Nov 01, 12:14, Kathmandu

Landslides and floods have killed thousands and devastated many households in Nepal since the beginning of this year but this is no new story, Nepal is among the most vulnerable regions to natural disasters in the world. This affects millions of people in Nepal.

Horrific reports from the Karnali floods have created an urgent need to develop a prevention plan to save the maximum number of lives and property of the Nepali people. “ We should never forget to apply risk reduction measures before executing developmental works such as building a house, bridge, or road. The safety guidelines should be followed,” says Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, Jwala Pandey. “ Also, there should be region-specific plans for disaster reduction, as different districts of Nepal are more prone to different disasters like landslides, floods, or earthquakes. There should be regular monitoring of disaster preparedness but we lack in developmental planning,” she adds.

According to the World Bank’s study of Nepal, its geo-climatic system consists of heavy monsoons, steep terrain, and remoteness which makes the region prone to floods, landslides, glacial lake outbursts, and numerous waterborne diseases. Natural disasters mostly harm the already marginalized in Nepal. With floods and landslides, the risk of waterborne diseases increases substantially. According to the United Nations country assessment for Nepal, epidemics like cholera take the most lives in Nepal every year. This is mainly due to the contamination of unhealthy water.

However, it is not only floods that are endangering the lives and property of Nepali people. Droughts are becoming more frequent too. The winter months bring a very dry period, especially in the western Terai plains.

Meanwhile, thunderstorms have become a major issue for Nepal as well. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, more than 100 people die every year due to thunderstorms in Nepal. The thunderstorm fatality rate in Nepal is the highest in South Asia with the southern part of the country receiving frequent thunderstorms, especially in the monsoon season.“ In the case of floods early warning systems are in place, and the meteorological department sends SMS to people informing them about the flood risks in their area, but no such system is currently in place for thunderstorms, government has not taken this problem seriously,” says Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, Jwala Pandey.

The disaster risk reduction policy of Nepal is guided by the constitution and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act, 2017 AD. Nepal’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act, categorizes hazards and disasters into “natural” and “non-natural”. Snowfall, hailstone, avalanche, glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF), extreme rainfall, low rainfall, flood, landslide, soil erosion, inundation, storm, drought, cyclone, cold wave, heat wave, lightning, earthquake, volcanic eruption, forest fire or other disasters from natural causes are categorized as “natural disasters”.

However, despite such provisions in the law, the 2020 Oxford policy management study, ‘Disaster risk reduction and management in Nepal: Delineation of roles and responsibilities’ highlights the unclear roles and responsibilities divided between federal, provincial, and local governments.

On the matter, Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, Jwala Pandey says, “In the time of earthquake a blanket approach to relief assistance was followed to provide relief to all people, but now the concept of catering to different people with different needs has arisen. A pregnant woman has different needs to other people, likewise, males and females have different needs.”

 “ Now we have incorporated policies addressing different issues, in relation to disaster risk reduction, but there is a lack of implementation,” she adds.

Experts recommend categorizing disasters occurring in Nepal into groups and dividing the roles and responsibilities of the government levels accordingly. Similarly, local governments must build their capacity to manage large disasters. Meanwhile, the disaster preparedness of the local and provincial governments should be monitored yearly.


Landslides floods natural disasters disaster risk reduction waterborne diseases contamination droughts thunderstorms earthquake
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