Government, Int’l community commit towards a disaster resilient Nepal

07 Mar 2011

image Government, Int’l community commit towards a disaster resilient Nepal

The high level symposium on Disaster Risk Reduction in Kathmandu brought in a number of high level dignitaries and donors along with the policy makers, technical experts and development partners— organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs in partnership with the United Nations and the United States Embassy to raise awareness about Nepal’s vulnerability to a catastrophic earthquake.

Inaugurating the symposium, Right Honourable Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal stated, “The Government of Nepal is committed to working hand in hand with the national stakeholders and the international community for disaster risk reduction.” 

The working sessions of the symposium focused around three major themes: saving lives-preparedness and response to a major earthquake; mainstreaming disaster risk reduction from local to national level; and engineering safer future-building codes, roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.

Margareta Wahlstrom, the Assistant Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action stated, “Planning is essential with special attention to schools and hospitals along with awareness and public education on natural disasters.” She further added, “The Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved if the disaster element is not considered.”

US Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero stated, “The US Government stands committed to support Nepal and will continue to work together for disaster preparedness. However, it is important to mainstream Disaster Risk Reduction in all Government planning and budgeting with effective coordination between different line agencies. Equally important is the support of neighbouring countries and engagement of the private sector.”

Geologists say it is only a matter of time before a major earthquake hits Nepal's densely populated capital Kathmandu, where 2.5 million people live. Very low building standards, weak infrastructure and the fact that Kathmandu is built on the soft sediment of a former lake bed all contribute to the high risk level. 

Sharing his recent earthquake experience, Robert Parker, Mayor of Christchurch, New Zealand said, “Miracle is only based on good engineering. Proper construction rules, building codes and presence of elected officials at the local level are important factors for saving lives.” 

On the occasion, the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) organized an Earthquake Walk for the high level dignitaries to the old city of Kathmandu valley to give a sense of the vulnerable situation and the huge loss of lives that could occur if an earthquake was to hit the capital in the near future. The dignitaries also visited the NSET supported retrofitted hospital building - the Chettrapati Free Clinic to observe some activities initiated by the community. 

His Excellency Scott DeLisi, the US Ambassador to Nepal emphasized upon the urgent need to implement activities to create a disaster resilient and safer Nepal. 

Expressing his happiness at the excellent support and momentum gained through the symposium especially by the presence of high level guests, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Piper stated, “It is now the time to capitalize on this momentum and turn this into action.” 

In October 2009, a new Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) initiative for Nepal was handed over to the Ministry of Home Affairs by Margareta Wahlstrom. This flagship programme is supported by the World Bank, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, the UNDP, Asian Development Bank, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in Kathmandu. 

The first National Strategy for Disaster Risk Management in Nepal (NSDRMN) was approved by the cabinet in October 2009 that serves as a milestone towards achieving the goal of a `Disaster Resilient Nepal’. 

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Home Affairs, this document was prepared with financial support of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (DG ECHO), UNDP and technical support of NSET.