Understanding disaster management in practice: With reference to Nepal (2010)

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Nepal, along with three quarters of human population occupying a quarter of the global landmass is facing unprecedented disaster risks. People are being exposed to more frequent and severe hazards becoming vulnerable to the impact of natural physical phenomena and less able to cope. Hazards are increasing in frequency and severity, and their impacts are exacerbated by a series of dynamic processes including population growth, increasing levels of poverty and marginalisation, environmental degradation, poor planning and preparedness and the impacts of climate change. Disaster management in the past has focused on the aftermath of large scale events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods or tsunamis. More deaths, losses and greater suffering is caused by slow onset and creeping hazards such as drought, disease, invasive species and the degradation of natural resources. The cumulative effect of a succession of several small adverse events can devastate the lives and livelihoods of poor people; frequently driving them from subsistence to a state of total destitution. Disasters affect poor countries and poor people the most. According to UNDP, 24 out of 49 least developed countries face high levels of disaster risks. Nepal is no exception. People of poor countries are worst affected by disasters, and they also lack the capacity to deal with the consequences of a disastrous event. Lack of capacity to deal with the aftermath of a major disaster means developing countries are in the mercy of external humanitarian aid which exacerbates the situation, often characterised by food shortages, civil unrest and furthermore creates dependency. Despite irrefutable evidence that mitigation activities can reduce the negative impacts of disasters, developing countries are reluctant to spend money to limit the impacts of an event that might only occur some time in the future time or not. Linking DRR approaches to development can overcome this dichotomy. DRR and development must be coherent. Disasters put development at risk if future disaster risks are not taken into consideration. Hazards turn into disasters where there is a low level of physical and social development. Floods may happen because of the absence of necessary flood management or counter disaster infrastructure such as embankments and drainage channels. Some poorly planned infrastructure development can itself be the cause of disasters such as outburst of dams and collapse of mines. Although external efforts are necessarily driven by the disasters they seek to prevent, local communities should be the major drivers of DRR strategies. They are at the forefront and the first to suffer and respond. Each community should be aware of the hazards they are exposed to, recognise the potential risks and plan interventions to reduce the risk of hazard impacts turning into disasters. DRR should be an integral part of development processes to reduce potential losses and ensure that development gains are sustainable at all levels – local, national and regional.

Language: English
Practical Action, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2010.

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