The 2015 earthquake woke up Nepalis to imbibe many lessons, including for those government and non-governmental organizations that had long been talking about earthquake preparedness. The event rendered clear the country’s readiness and capacity to cope with a mega-disaster.
“We saw people dying in front of our eyes, and we still couldn’t save them because we lacked proper equipment and knowledge,” says Radha Krishna Shrestha, Chairman of Ward 6 in the Shankharapur Municipality, Kathmandu district. “We had been talking about disaster preparedness for so many years prior to that. But when the earthquake actually struck, neither the government agencies nor community members were sufficiently equipped to respond.”
Chairman Shrestha is hopeful, however, that things are changing for the better. “That disaster taught us a great deal about the need to be prepared, not just for earthquakes, but for all kinds of possible disasters including fires, floods, landslides, even traffic accidents and electrocution.”
Those lessons have borne some fruit: A number of initiatives are now in place to better prepare for similar disasters in the future.
One significant example of this is the recent endorsement of the Disaster Management Act by the government of Nepal, representing a much-awaited leap forward in terms of strengthening disaster resilience in the country. Guided by the Act, local authorities are also stepping into gear.
A clear result of this new commitment has been the formation of ward and municipal-level Disaster Management Committees (W/MDMC). Amardip Sunuwar, an official at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, says that these committees are designed to bring together people from different walks of life to discuss disaster management and come up with concrete measures to improve upon their existing capacities to prepare for and respond to disasters, with a view to minimize loss of life and property.
“The committees will engage in mapping disaster risks and hazards in a given area and create detailed profiles of the same,” Sunuwar says. “This will enable preparedness and response mechanisms to be tailored according to an area’s particular vulnerabilities.”
After the 2015 earthquake, the need for better disaster mapping in order to manage and mitigate risks while putting in place an effective response measure has been made abundantly clear.
It was precisely in this vein that the Promoting Resilient and Sustainable Urban Growth by Augmenting DRR Capacity of Local Authorities Through Active Private Sector Involvement or PRAGATI project, with funding from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), has been coordinating with local government authorities to set up MDMCs in two municipalities of Kathmandu Valley—Changunarayan and Shankharapur. The project is being executed by a consortium of three organizations—Dan Church Aid (DCA), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO)—with local implementing partners in the form of Friends Service Council Nepal (FSCN) in Changunarayan and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Centre (NDRC) Nepal in Shankharapur.