Disaster risk reduction and management in Nepal: Delineation of roles and responsibilities

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Authors: Dinanath Bhandaril, Sanchita Neupane, Peter Hayes, Bimal Regmi, and Phil Marker

Executive Summary

Background and study scope

Nepal’s current landscape of disaster governance is guided by its Constitution (2015 AD) and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act (2017 AD). The spirit of the Constitution suggests that local governments shall do as much as they can on their own, and where they cannot, provincial and federal governments shall provide back-up or lead disaster risk reduction and management. Despite these provisions, it is unclear how roles and responsibilities are shared between the federal, provincial and local governments.

For this reason, the DRRM National Council tasked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) to propose a legal draft on the “delineation of authority, responsibility and accountability between federal, provincial and local levels according to the nature, intensity and scale of the disaster.” The Policy and Institutions Facility (PIF), a component of DFID’s Disaster Resilience Programme, is responding to this call from MoHA and providing technical assistance to carry out this study.


This study depicts the outcomes of a review of concepts, policies and practices through academic analysis and interdisciplinary reflections; consultations with 28 local government leaders and bureaucrats in Nepal about existing DRRM practices and capacities; and consultations with experts. The findings will be further validated during workshops and technical meetings with DRRM actors at all levels of government.

Key recommendations

1. Categories of disasters: For practice, disasters can be categorized into 4 levels (0 to 3). The categorization helps to delineate roles, responsibilities and authority between government levels.

2. Decision making: Establishing disaster categories and determining the impact of disasters is insufficient to provide adequate guidance to help delineate government roles, responsibility, and authority. Local government reserves the right to request external support if they cannot respond to a disaster. Local governments must build their capacity to manage larger disasters. This decentralized mandate should be endorsed through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA).

Local and provincial government should review their capacity yearly while revising their disaster preparedness and response plan to adjust their qualitative and quantitative criteria, their indicators and update their minimum capacity targets and institutional capacity. The NDRRMA should review disaster category criteria and indicators periodically.

3. Jurisdiction: All governments must have more defined jurisdictional roles and responsibilities and should be held accountable. Incentives should be introduced to hold all them accountable for achieving established targets, such as performance grants.

4. Consideration of extensive and limited disaster risks: As Nepal is at earthquake risk, it is recommended to delineate differentiated roles and responsibilities between local, provincial and federal governments based on this risk for different DRRM actions. Hazards of limited scope need to be assessed for their potential impact. They then need to be assigned to specific agencies at different levels.

5. Consideration of combined capacity and differentiated responsibility: While actions may be conducted through local government generally, such activities should be guided by a vision of collaborative national capacity.

The federal government role ultimate responsibility is to mainstream DRRM and establish harmonized policies and institutional support systems. Federal agencies are responsible and accountable for Level-3 disasters and need to provide demand-driven support to the provinces and local governments. Federal government should hold residual responsibility of coping with unprecedented hazards, such as COVID-19. Federal agencies must assume responsibility for seismic, meteorological and hydrological monitoring systems and advanced forecasting and early warning systems.

Provincial governments should manage Level-2 scale disasters without federal support, must collaborate with federal agencies for Level 3 disaster management, must support local governments preparedness activities and backstop disaster response efforts. They should rapidly assess the disaster impact and recommend to the federal government whether to declare a localized or province-wide emergency. They are accountable for providing overall guidance to local governments on their capacity building.

Local governments should be responsible for having enough resources and logistics facilities in anticipation of Level 0 and 1 disasters. They must prepare to manage Level - 2 and 3 disasters by themselves before external help is able to reach them. They must develop the capacity to assess immediate relief needs using nationally endorsed tools and methods. Finally, they ought to establish and manage relief distribution points and manage databases of vulnerable populations, vulnerability profiles, and disaster risk profiles.

There should be differentiated responsibilities between rural and urban municipalities and sub-metropolitan and metropolitan jurisdictions. Standard operating procedures would enable a more systematic disaster response. Municipalities must seek technical support from their federal and provincial counterparts for hazard mapping, risk monitoring, risk reduction, and mainstreaming DRR into development. They must immediately inform concerned actors of any disaster incidents. Municipalities should take early action, based on early warning systems provided by the province or a federal agency.

6. Intergovernmental and inter-agency coordination and collaboration: Coordination and collaboration between governments is vital for the delineation of roles, responsibilities and accountabilities on DRR.

As mentioned in Japan’s ‘wide area support system’, municipalities must collaborate, as sister municipalities, to share and combine resources so that the unaffected municipality can assist the impacted municipality.

The NDRRMA must coordinate with relevant federal ministries and departments to enhance capacity such as: monitoring, forecasting, or search and rescue. It ought to develop and strengthen a national disaster database system and maintain a disaster information management system. To ensure inter-agency collaboration, the NDRRMA must facilitate existing coordination and collaboration mechanisms, such as: humanitarian cluster groups etc. Finally, it must facilitate and operate the national early warning system.

The CDO’s role and responsibility to mobilize federal and provincial resources to help local governments is crucial (e.g. security personnel mobilization). The capacity of the District Emergency Operation Centre (DEOC) is key for disaster management coordination.

Coordination and collaboration with Nepal’s development partners, UN Agencies, intergovernmental organizations, and INGOs, private business and corporate sectors and civil society organizations is vital to the disaster management agenda. This falls under the federal government’s jurisdiction.