Nepal is exposed to recurring seismic and hydrometeorological disaster risks. While earthquakes and floods in the recent past have claimed more lives, fires have caused the most damage to assets and investments in Nepal. The Nepal Disaster Report 2019 shows fire caused 94 per cent of the NPR 6.84 billion (USD 57.62 million) worth of disaster-induced damage in 2017–2018. While avalanches and snowstorms occur frequently in the northern high mountain ranges, dry landslides are common in the young mountains and hills, shaken more by recent earthquakes. The situation is aggravated further during the rainy season, when excessive precipitation cause heavy rainfall, inducing wet landslides, floods, debris flow and inundation. Such disasters are more destructive in the southern lowland Terai, where rainfall and accumulated water flows through rivers from the hills, causing massive floods and inundation. Terai, with its hot and humid summer climate, is also home to many vector-borne epidemics and biological disaster risks. Meanwhile, the impact of climate change is increasing the recurrence and intensity of extreme weather and climate conditions.
The unplanned and rapid urbanization, rural-to-urban migration, excessive exploitation of natural resources and infrastructure development efforts negligent of disaster risks and the environment are intensifying people’s vulnerability all over Nepal. While women, children, persons with disabilities and senior citizens are more vulnerable, people belonging to the lowest strata of society, such as the ultra-poor, socially excluded groups, religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, as well as socially discriminated groups such as people living with HIV and AIDS, face the brunt of disasters the most.
Within the new federal structure, Nepal has intensified its efforts to build the capacity of all levels of government to reduce and mitigate disaster risks, as well as to be better prepared for and be able to respond to disasters. Institutional structures, policies and strategies are designed and are being placed at the federal, provincial and local levels for disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM). While response to mega- and wider disasters will be led by the federal and provincial governments, local governments have the role and responsibilities of first responders, as well as for the single-door mechanism to channelize post-disaster response, recovery and reconstruction mechanisms. The capacities of local levels, however, vary widely. While some metropolitan cities, sub-metropolitan cities, municipalities and rural municipalities have developed disaster risk management acts, guidelines, plans and procedures, majority of other local governments have yet to do so. It is, therefore, necessary to boost the institutional structures and mechanisms for DRRM of such local levels, so as to enhance their capacity to protect the lives and assets of people.
The Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act 2017 is a milestone in Nepal for its focus on establishing institutional structures and mechanisms at the federal, provincial and local levels for effective disaster management. The Government of Nepal has endorsed DRRM Regulations 2018, revised guidelines for formulating a Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan in 2019 and endorsed several other legislative and policy instruments. One such important policy instrument is the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) National Strategic Plan of Action (2018–2030), which conveys Nepal’s commitments towards the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) 2015–2030. This strategic action plan has assigned 18 priority actions and 272 strategic activities for the federal, provincial and local governments for reducing disaster risks and making Nepal a resilient State. These strategic activities are grouped as short-term interventions (2018– 2020), mid-term interventions (2018–2025) and long-term interventions (2018–2030).
The local governments can immensely enhance their DRRM capacity and effectiveness in development activities if they are fully familiar with their roles and responsibilities as enshrined in these legal and policy documents. Most of the local levels connote DRRM with relief distribution management only, thereby leaving a gap in broader disaster response management activities. Both rural and urban municipalities need to do the following for effective DRRM in their areas:
(a) Identify disaster risks prevalent and high-risk settlements.
(b) Contextualize and implement the Local DRRM Act.
(c) Form Disaster Management Committees at the municipal and ward levels.
(d) Assign DRRM focal persons.
(e) Prepare Disaster Management Fund Mobilization Guidelines.
(f) Establish Emergency Operation Centres.
(g) Institutionalize emergency operation procedures.
Moreover, the DRRM localization process should also entail the engagement of key stakeholders, as well as the inclusion of vulnerable groups in the different phases of disaster risk management.
It is important to know first what policies and capacities currently exist at the local level for prevention (risk reduction and mitigation), preparedness and response (search and rescue, relief, recovery, reconstruction, rehabilitation), and in minimizing the impact of disasters (mainstreaming inclusive disaster risk management processes and priorities in development activities). This needs and capacity assessment, carried out in six local levels (one metropolitan city, four municipalities1 and one rural municipality), is expected to shed some light on this aspect. This assessment also records the DRRM initiatives carried out by these local bodies with regard to DRRM in their areas. Among these, one municipality (Gorkha) is in Gandaki Province and the rest (Lalitpur Metropolitan City,
Shankharapur Municipality, Changunarayan Municipality, Chautara-Sangachowkgadhi Municipality and Gosaikunda Rural Municipality) are located in Bagmati Province. These local levels were purposely selected to study the situation in the 2015 earthquake-affected areas and to represent the spectrum from metropolitan city to rural municipality, representing widely varying financial, technical, information and human resource capacities.
The assessment has two objectives:
(a) Firstly, to generate the baseline information on the strength, needs and capacity gaps of the selected local levels, namely Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Chautara-Sangachowkgadhi Municipality, Shankharapur Municipality, Changunarayan Municipality, Gorkha Municipality and Gosaikunda Rural Municipality, in DRRM. This information will be used by the “People to People Support for Building Community Resilience through Recovery and Reconstruction in Nepal” (P2P) project for designing and refining its project activities to enhance the DRRM capacity of these selected local levels.
(b) The second and broader purpose of this assessment is to develop recommendations and contribute to the training package on enhancing the capacity of local levels for effective DRR, preparedness and response management.
In order to achieve these objectives, the assessment specifically explores how much the selected six local levels know about the following institutional structures and mechanisms for DRRM and how able they are in making these work:
(a) DRRM governance at the national level: DRRM Act 2017, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
National Strategic Plan of Action (2018–2030) and institutions in Nepal;
(b) DRRM governance at the local level: Local DRRM Act, Disaster Management Fund Mobilization Guidelines and DRRM plans;
(c) DRRM institutional framework at the local level;
(d) Linkages with DRRM institutions at the district, provincial and federal levels;
(e) Preparedness capacity of local levels;
(f) Response capacity of local levels;
(g) Mainstreaming DRR and ensuring inclusion in DRRM;
(h) Disaster risk-sharing, financing and transfer;
(i) Inter-local level cooperation for effective DRRM.
Questionnaires for key informant interviews were developed from the desirable DRRM capacities identified from reviewing relevant DRRM documents such as DRRM Act 2017, DRR National Strategic Plan of Action (2018–2030), Fifteenth Five-Year Plan (2019/2020–2023/2024) (or, simply, “Fifteenth Plan”), the Local DRRM Act and so forth. IOM staff were assigned as enumerators and were trained on DRRM and survey methods. The selected staff pre-tested the questionnaires and, with their feedback, those questionnaires were revised. The enumerators interviewed the information officer, DRR partner organization, the DRR focal person, the engineer and the Mayor or Chairperson. The information from all six local levels were consolidated, analysed and the findings of the assessment are presented under the above headings with recommendations for future capacity-building initiatives. This assessment is presented to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA) for review comments and endorsement. The study, being qualitative and based on limited number of key informant interviews, presents a broad overview on capacity gaps in DRRM and should not be generalized for all local levels. Moreover, the study might have missed more recent updates on DRRM initiatives undertaken by the municipalities as the baseline survey was conducted during the third quarter of 2019.
The Constitution of Nepal has made DRRM a top priority for all three levels of government. With enforcement of the DRRM Act 2017 (amended in 2019), the Government of Nepal has established institutional set-up and accountability mechanisms for this assigned task at all levels. This Act also marks the departure from the hitherto practiced relief-centric approach to the broadbased DRRM approach where each level of government has distinct roles and responsibilities delineated for DRR, mitigation, preparedness and response.
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