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Give DDM its right of place

More than three years after the enactment of the Disaster Management Act, we hear that we do not even have an emergency operation centre. Why we do not have an instant command centre yet, we would like to know.

The centre is a critical component of disaster management system in the country. What has taken us too long to establish one for the benefit of our nation and the people is indeed wonderful.

Lack of fund is an excuse by far inadequate.

We spend close to a million on each entitled position in the country, on the members of parliament in particular, and even more in some cases.

Yet, building a strong and effective disaster management system in the country is a costly affair. People need reasons stronger than shortage of fund.

Devolution of power and capacity-building should go down to the grassroots. Only then will Department of Disaster Management (DDM) have any purpose to stand as an institution with a vital mandate to protect the citizens from calamities natural and man-made.

Spending “fair amount of resources” in bolstering community-based disaster risk management throughout the country, as home minister said recently, could be a pride for any political government, but not for the people in the backwaters of this country who haven’t practical experience and equipment required for real time disaster situations.

The nation hasn’t forgotten how in 2009 seven boys in Chukha lost their lives thirteen hours after rescue mission was launched. Our disaster management system has not improved by any measure since then, it seems.

In the age of climate change and global weather instability, natural disasters are bound to occur more frequently than we would like to see them overwhelm us, to say nothing about accidental mishaps every now and then. How prepared are we?

Some major earthquakes have occurred in the recent memory of this nation. Lives and properties worth billions have been lost. Still we do not even have an emergency operation centre.

Bhutan sits on a major seismic zone in the Himalayas and changing climate is posing increasing threat to the lives of people. In the mountains, ice is melting fast, and lakes are growing ominously. Another glacial lake outburst flood could ruin the lives of the communities living along the major river systems.

Perhaps we are getting our priorities wrong. Developing guidelines and training a few selected people in the dzongkhags to deal with disaster events will not help. What we need is a strong department with effective emergency operation centre to address immediate national requirements.

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One comment

  1. The topic reminded me an interesting lecture on Disaster Management where the speaker mentioned something very unusual…’Have you heard about that great flood mentioned in many books and the preparations made to deal with it!’. It’s totally an irrelevant thing to discuss here; but at the time of a great flood, only a boat can come to our best rescue. But there is not any virtual boat available for communities, politicians and even our officials where we all can take disasters not so seriously. Today’s subject also has reminded me that I didn’t check my First Aid Kit kept at home for a long time and I forgot about the one kept in the car. Many of us don’t even keep one; do we? And it’s not even possible to keep carrying one all the time to all places. But our Disaster Management Departments can’t be like these missing kits where doctors are there in place well prepared, but the institutional instruments are either missing or have rusted away. Disasters may not even give us time to think what right or wrong we have done in the past for divine judgement to fall on us. It always makes sense to be prepared for the worst, but all preparations are always about facing the moment of disaster. If we can stop it in advance, then how do we define disaster? But the system and process of management in place must be perfected for the best results during a disaster.

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