Stung by delays, survivors press for time-bound recovery works

  • Disaster management bill
- Pratichya Dulal, Kathmandu

May 23, 2016-

Frustrated at endless delays in the post-disaster reconstruction process after the Gorkha earthquake of April 2015, the displaced people have demanded that the law governing disaster management set a mandatory timeframe for beginning and completing reconstruction. 

They also want people of the affected areas to be involved in all phases of rescue, relief and reconstruction.

Earthquake survivors were responding to public consultations for enacting a pivotal law, Disaster Management Act, which would set the tone for governing and managing disaster, once approved.

“The affected have to be consulted right from the beginning in order to get their needs addressed properly,” said Rohini Raj Joshi, a quake survivor from Sindhupalchok district. “Even now we are not happy with the model of the house the government is trying to build for us.”

Victims also expressed their disagreement to the policy in the draft Act to relocate people to new places. “As far as possible, we would like to live in our own place with our cattle and poultry that are the only source of our income,” said Babju Kaji Dahal of Ramechhap.

They have also urged the government to ensure that special relief packages are provided to people with disability, pregnant women and lactating mothers. “Deploying a sign language interpreter and providing urine bags to wheelchair users is something we want specifically written down in the bill,” said Raju Basnet, general secretary of the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal.

Legal experts have also pointed out other flaws in the Act, such as different needs of women for separate toilets and sanitary items.

“The Act has taken a blanket approach to all victims, which will not be practical. The needs of the people vary on the basis of their economic and social status,” said Advocate Sabin Shrestha.

The government has assured the victims that their demands will be incorporated in the Act. “These are genuine demands and we will try to ensure they are clearly specified in the new law,” said Rameshwor Dangal, under-secretary at the Home Ministry.

The National Disaster Management Act has been delayed repeatedly since it was first proposed in 2009, six years before the Gorkha earthquake. A top-level National Disaster Management Agency was conceived in the original draft of the bill that would be led either by a Cabinet minister or the prime minister. But bureaucratic interest within the Home Ministry to keep the lucrative portfolio in the ministry and political indifference diluted the original concept, according to experts who floated the original idea.

After the earthquake and bureaucratic paralysis in mounting effective search and rescue, there were renewed calls for a high-level agency with a strong mandate to respond to disasters.

Survivors have provided their inputs to the Natural Disaster Management Division at the Home Ministry, which will then forward it to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs to fine tune the draft. The government has so far relied on the Natural Calamities (Rescue) Act, which was put together in 1983 to deal with all forms of disaster.

Instead of creating a dedicated agency, the Act delegates the task to the chief district officer.

The draft Act also seeks to decentralise disaster management, defining the roles of each tier of the government to provide quick recovery and easing the procurement of emergency tools.

Published: 23-05-2016 08:41

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