Friday, May 11, 2007

Nepal critically vulnerable to natural disasters

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Nepal critically vulnerable to natural disasters [ 2007-5-10 ]
By A Staff Reporter
KATHMANDU, May 9: In five years until 2005, natural disasters destroyed 38,835 houses, killed 1585 people, affected 16,504 families and damaged property worth US$ 36.2 million, said joint secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs Pratap Kumar Pathak.

Pathak said Nepal was a multi-hazard and critically vulnerable country in terms of natural disaster.
"The government has formulated an act to provide effective public awareness, ensure coordination among different stakeholders and form teams to be mobilised during times of need," he added.

He made these remarks while addressing a three-day regional workshop on "Social Inclusion in Disaster Risk Reduction," at International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIOMD).

During the programme, representatives from different countries stressed on the need to examine how gender equality and vulnerability issues can be reflected and incorporated in the work of disaster management.

They also discussed how women, children, the elderly, the disabled and other marginalised groups can be included when planning and preparing to reduce the risk from disasters.

Manjari Mehata of ICIMOD said gender is about women and men in relation to one another, therefore the fact of being male or female plays a critical role in shaping vulnerabilities and the first response, information and sharing capacities, and access to decision making.

She said the ideology that the male is the bread earner of the family makes it hard for female heads of households to get access to relief, jobs and training often when they have primary responsibility for their households.

"The social structure and biases should be eliminated to increase the participation of women in disaster risk reduction," she said.

Professor Ken Hewitt of Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, said progressive recognition of haphazard planning, social insecurity and vulnerable places should be made to bring improvements in risk reduction.

Deputy Director of ICIMOD, Madhav Karki said such a workshop would act as a key to an effective Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and therefore help in sharing knowledge and bridging gaps for more socially inclusive DRR plans and programmes.

He said mountains, hills and flood plains of Himalayan countries are highly vulnerable areas. Inaccessibility, fragility, slopes and political marginality make some places more vulnerable to the potential disasters.

"All disasters can be reduced and mitigated through human action and ingenuity before the hazards strike us," he said.

During the workshop, three books were launched. They are: Gender Matters: Lesson for Disaster Risk Reduction in South Asia, The Snake and River Don't Run Straight and Local Knowledge on Disaster Preparedness in the Eastern Terai.

The first book provides a synthesis of key finding from literature aiming to help practitioners understand how and in what ways natural disasters have different impacts on the sexes. Furthermore, it dwells on what can be done to integrate a gender perspective into disaster preparedness and management works in the South Asian context.

The other books illustrate the concept and extent of local knowledge in two-disaster prone- Chitral in Northern Pakistan and the Terai belt of Nepal and describe a framework for collection and analysis of related knowledge.


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