The ongoing partnership among the government and non-governmental agencies has given a ray of hope to earthquake survivors

Dec. 14, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol:09, No 11, December 11, 2015 (Mangsir 25, 2071

Even as eight months have passed since a devastating earthquake hit Nepal in April, triggering hundreds of aftershocks, and the government has yet to come up with a concrete post-earthquake reconstruction program, several non-governmental agencies have already started long-term recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

However, due to the ongoing fuel and other logistical problems, arising from the political tension in Terai after the promulgation of the constitution, rehabilitation and reconstruction works are becoming very challenging. With winter chill increasing, the agencies are facing greater challenges in reaching out to the victims with necessary supplies and so on.

At a one-day interaction, organized by Association of International NGOs in Nepal Thematic Group Disaster Management (AINTGDM) in consultation with National Planning Commission, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Ministry of Urban Development, participants stressed the need for a more coordinated approach in the coming days.

Various individuals, agencies, donors and media, including the earthquake-affected families, are concerned about whether the humanitarian assistance can reach the affected people. Questions have arisen: Did all supporters meet the minimum standards requirements? Did community participate in the relief planning and making decisions? Was the assistance provided in time? Were the most vulnerable able to get the relief that they deserved or needed? Was the relief assistance appropriate to the local context? 

Joint Secretary Ministry of Home Affairs Rameshwor Dangal, on behalf of the Government, appreciated the contributions of INGOs after the Gorkha earthquake.

“No doubt donor countries and INGOs have supported the government efforts intensively, but it is too early to say who did what. This is the time to emphasize on  the gaps and challenges and how to effectively manage post reconstruction efforts in the coming days,” said Dangal, joint secretary and head of disaster division of Ministry of Home Affairs. “Despite facing many hassles in tax exemption and other issue, INGOs have worked effectively. We need to fill the gap by working together in the coming phase.”

Duplication of work was his major concern. "INGOs should do a mapping survey of who does what, should maintain regular process and follow phase wise action and need demarcation of works. INGOs should go through regular government procedures and those of the stakeholders.

"INGOs should work on a consortium model to do a proper task allocation and try to reduce admin cost. Interagency coordination among INGOs is the key to success and INGOs should do pre-coordination rather than post workshops."

Despite certain level of shortcomings, the experiences of government and non-governmental agencies have shown that coordinated efforts of government and non-government organizations can make a lot of difference in disaster management in the present unstable political context.

International Workshop

The three-day conference on International Workshop on land professionals and Spatial Data Infrastructure in Disaster Risk Reduction in the Context of Post 2015 Nepal Earthquake also passed the Resolutions urging stakeholders to use spatial data infrastructures in disaster risk reduction.

According to a press release issued by the Workshop, the resolution said, "having received presentations during these three days’ International workshop from various national and international experts within the various themes ranging from Spatial planning, SDI development, Responding disaster, Geospatial technology, Professional development, Land administration and management and also having intensive discussion within the mentioned themes, the outcome of the workshop bind into the concrete resolutions which are recommended as the following: 

“There is an emphasis on the importance of land issues to be incorporated in disaster risk reduction. Land is an essential asset that directly supports physical development, social, economic and environmental management. When disaster occurs, there are direct consequences on the physical, social, economic and environmental aspects. Therefore, proper land use plan, as a pre-disaster precaution as well as post-disaster action is necessary for secured settlement to fulfill the norms of 'Build Back Better'," said resolution.  

According to the resolution, proper land management activities like appropriate land allocation, land readjustment and security of land tenure are very important for rescue, rehabilitation and reconstruction in post disaster setting. Therefore, the workshop recommends to the Government to formulate, enact and implement a comprehensive land use policy which specifically addresses these issues.

“The governance issues are prominent in responding to disaster. The lack/weakness of policies and institutional arrangements like overlaps/duplication of responsibility are key hurdles on humanitarian response during a disaster as well as its aftermath. It is often experienced and seen that the policies are rarely implemented effectively and cooperation among the stakeholders is weak. Therefore, there is a recommendation to design a multi-stakeholder and action oriented framework adopting international land governance framework, such as land governance assessment framework developed by World Bank, which ensures clear and crisp action points, clear and shared responsibility among various stakeholders, implementation time line and monitoring system,” said a press release.

The intervention towards vulnerable groups from land perspective is mandatory. The legally, socially or economically disadvantaged groups of people are most vulnerable to disaster leading them towards legally, socially or economically less resilient groups. Therefore, the land administration system should be pro-poor, gender friendly and responsive to marginalized group of people in the society who are vulnerable to disaster.

In this context, the workshop recommends the government adopt the concept of fit-for-purpose land administration and several other tools like Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM), approaches like continuum of land rights and Gender Evaluation Criteria (GEC) developed by Global Land Tool Network (GLTN). These tools can be incorporated in a wider framework suggested by the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure for land, forest and fisheries: in the context of national food security (VGGT) proposed by FAO.

The importance of Geospatial data in the pre-disaster and post-disaster periods is highlighted predominantly. Spatial data on the availability of open spaces for rescue and temporary shelters, identification of appropriate land for safe and secure resettlement of the victim, land use data, vulnerability and risk maps, relocation and readjustment of land for the buildings and other infrastructure are needed for post disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction. The fundamental base of geospatial data, the national geodetic datum has been destroyed due to the devastating earthquake. So, it is essential to reestablish and strengthen the datum with modern 4 dimensional dynamic datum with a network of active CORS stations that can also be useful in studies of seismic activities.

There are several geospatial techniques in positioning, navigation and measurement that may help in prediction and forecasting trends of the disaster, its frequency and potential damages. Various approaches such as Open Street Mapping (OSM) and Crowd sourcing can be adopted for rapid acquisition of geo-information in pre-and-post-disaster scenarios.  Therefore, the workshop recommends adopting appropriate tools and techniques for accurate and timely geo-information acquisition, processing, visualization and dissemination. It further recommends strengthening Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) techniques to facilitate effective and efficient data sharing and use.

Experts argue that capacity development is another most important issue to deal with. There is an urgent need of professionals who can work in pre and post disaster settings. Awareness raising and preparedness are the pre disaster activities and quick response, rescue, and relief in short term and rehabilitation and reconstruction are the post disaster actions to be carried out. Land professionals are on high demand to respond to disasters in various phases of disaster cycle.

The workshop suggests the Government carry out capacity building activities such as academic studies and research, skill enhancing activities, project works and tutorials, experience sharing events such as workshops, seminars, exhibition for continuous professional development of the professions to support DRR in the long term.

It is able to deliver the clear message on role of land professionals and SDI in DRR.

Although the government is yet to come out with post earthquake recovery program, civil society organizations and international agencies have already started to make the post reconstruction work more effective.

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