Being in the Himalayas, we have challenges myriad to confront. The problem is that we are so dangerously used to not thinking beyond the present.
The recent magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Fukushima in Japan and a massive flood in Uttarakhand, India are wake-up calls for a country like ours.
Bhutan sits on one of the most seismically-active zones on earth. As a mountain country, high up in the Himalayas, glacial lake outburst floods, caused by the failure of dams containing a glacial lake, are a danger looming and increasing by the day.
Nothing can give us a better perspective of our development initiatives than the Covid-19. Plans had to be reviewed and activities restrategised. That means we had to spend more where a little less could have been adjustable. We are talking about compromise.
Covid-19 is the challenge facing us today but we are almost getting on top of it what with extra focus the world is giving to the development of science, medicine, and technology. But, for a country like Bhutan, can we forget or decide to unsee the reality that is sure to strike us, much more powerfully than the Covid-19?
We have given priority to disaster management, but the way we are looking at the challenges that we will have to confront, is deeply worrying. Adhocism has crept in and is threatening to dig into the heart of the Bhutanese society.
In this respect, earthquakes, floods and other natural calamities will be by so much benign when they come. Disaster management should mean much more than just a government department in a ministry. We must build a culture of looking ahead and preparing for the worse.
EquIP, a study conducted jointly by the World Food Programme, the UK’s Newcastle and Durham universities, and our own disaster management department, has found that the understanding of earthquakes risks is limited in Bhutan. Research shows that Bhutan does not have any study on the past or future earthquakes. That means impacts from the “potential” earthquakes are entirely unknown.
We aren’t even talking about the more common and preventable forest fires and flash floods.
In the face of global warming and rapid change in climate, building a robust and responsive disaster management system should be a national priority. In every sense, this is a race against time.