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NATIONAL DISASTER PREPAREDNESS DAY: IMPLEMENT DISASTER MANAGEMENT ACT

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Niger Dil Nahar

Thursday, March 28, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

IMPLEMENTATION of Disaster Management Act is vital for Bangladesh. The Act was approved by the Parliament on September 2012 after a long collective effort by the government and development and civil society actors to create a legislative tool under which disaster and emergency management will be undertaken. It has placed mandatory obligations and responsibilities on ministries and committees, and ensures transparency and accountability in the overall disaster management system.

 

The objectives of the Act are substantial reduction of the overall risks of disasters to an acceptable level with appropriate risk reduction interventions; effective implementation of post disaster emergency response; rehabilitation and recovery measures; provision of emergency humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable community people; strengthening of institutional capacity for effective coordination of disaster management involving government and non-government organisations, and establishing a disaster management system capable of dealing with all hazards for the country.

 

The disaster management Act will help in promoting a comprehensive disaster management programme upholding the all-hazard, all-risk and all-sector approach where risk reduction as a core element of disaster management has equal emphasis with emergency response management with greater focus on equitable and sustainable development.

 

Bangladesh is a country with high poverty and disaster vulnerability, and is also recognised across the world as a consistent performer in disaster management. Despite that, Bangladesh had to wait more than two decades to get the DM Act approved. After the super cyclone hit in 1991 with significant death toll, the then government of Bangladesh realised that there was a fundamental need for a disaster management policy and institutional mechanism, but unfortunately did not achieve much success in policy formulation except the draft Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) first issued in 1997. The draft SOD was approved in 2010, and till then it was the only government approved policy document, which did not have much legal value in absence of a Disaster Management Act.

 

Bangladesh has achieved significant progress in terms of institutional reform in the last few months after the approval of the DM Act. In order to reform the institutional arrangement of disaster management, the government has reorganised the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. The Directorate of Relief and Rehabilitation has been transformed into the Department of Disaster Management with a more robust and wider role focusing on comprehensive disaster management, and has been responsible for implementation of the national disaster management related policies and plans at all levels.

 

The draft National Disaster Management Policy has been formulated after consultation and discussion at different levels defining the perspective on disaster risk reduction and emergency management, and to describe the strategic framework and national principles of disaster management, which is yet to be approved by the Parliament.

 

Despite the achievements so far there is much more to be done immediately as far as efficient disaster risk reduction and emergency response at national and local level is concerned. The most important way forward is effective implementation and dissemination of DM Act with proper training and orientation at local level. To achieve this aim, the department of disaster management has been undertaking training and orientation programmes in cooperation with national and international organisations. Continuous training and orientation will be arranged for the disaster management committees at union, upazila and district levels.

 

National Disaster Management Plan was approved long before the approval of DM Act, therefore this plan needs to be revised and redesigned based on the DM Act to provide the overall guideline for the relevant sectors and disaster management committees at all levels to prepare and implement their roles according to specific plans. Apart from that, guidelines for government at all levels need to be developed to assist the ministries, NGOs, disaster management committees and civil society in implementing disaster risk management.

 

A national disaster management research and training institute needs to be created with the objective of undertaking different research initiatives regarding the impact of disaster and climate change and to increase the capacity of the disaster management system. The government may also sign agreements with foreign countries and national and international institutions to undertake disaster management related research programmes for exchange of information and use of space-based technologies.

 

National volunteer groups have to be established with the existing volunteers of Cyclone Preparedness Programme and urban volunteers by the Department of Fire Service and Civil Defense in order to ensure fast response in pre, during and post disaster scenarios. A disaster management fund needs to be constituted both at national and district level through contribution from home and abroad, and any other legal sources including personal contribution from the elites and rich people.

 

There is a specified guideline in the Act regarding declaration of emergency in any disaster affected area, which needs to be disseminated at the local level because the local disaster management committees have been given the provision of requesting the deputy commissioner to declare emergency for a particular disaster affected area. The DM Act has also a provision for rewarding individuals and organisations for their contribution in post-disaster emergency management. The government can also issue specific directives to all mass media to disseminate disaster management related information.

 

Rules have to be formulated to determine the process of requisition of assets, services, vehicles and buildings as required and also for the specified offences, such as creation of obstacles in delivering services in disaster management; violation of government orders relevant to media and coordination groups; making baseless statements and claims; misappropriation of resources; intentional price hike of essential items in the disaster affected area; creation of obstacles in water flow for personal benefit — such as creating salinity and flood, making illegal holes in the embankments etc; disobedience of emergency directives to the mass media and others; failure of government staff to discharge their duty; misuse of position etc.

 

Bangladesh has formulated many policy frameworks like Standing Order on Disaster, Bangladesh National Building Code etc, but there are few successes in implementing them. Bangladesh realised the importance of having DM Act the earliest among the South Asian countries (in mid ’90s), but it took over 20 years to get it enacted. Countries like India and Sri Lanka took Bangladesh as an example and endorsed DM Act and SOD much earlier.

 

Bangladesh Disaster Management Act has placed strong emphasis on the national disaster response coordination group for effective and smooth running of response after a catastrophe, but after the recent tornado we have seen a lot of coordination gaps in the emergency response at local and national levels. So, we should take this into account and give proper attention to the successful implementation of the Act as early as possible.

 

The writer works with Islamic Relief Bangladesh on Climate and Disaster Resilience. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

 

 

Source: thedailystar

 

 


 

 

 

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