Underway in Thimphu is a workshop on river flow/flood forecasting and early warning systems.

Experts from Bhutan and abroad are looking at the tools that the country is using to deal with disaster incidents.

Bhutan has come a long way in terms of coping with natural disasters. From a small unit in its early days, we now have a National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM).

Development must, however, walk with the demands of the time.

Our river systems have early warning systems, some of the most sophisticated, according to some officials. Is that enough, however?

Early warning systems are good but we have a lot more to achieve by way of sophistication in this age. There is always this familiar national narrative—shortage of resources. There are other challenges too.

Resource shortage is there perhaps because we are getting our priorities wrong. We are a small nation and we can manage our resources and capacities well.

NCHM’s importance has to be understood in a new light. 

As a mountain and landlocked country, we are facing the impact of climate change at the rate that is becoming very serious. And, it will only grow.

Let’s imagine a GLOF along the Punatsangchhu basin. There are early warning systems all right. But if our people do not have the knowledge of the extent of possible damage in the event there is a GLOF, how prepared are we?

Our disaster management system is yet to develop impact-based forecasting.

Climate is changing and temperatures are rising. GLOF is becoming almost a regular event in the country. The problem with natural disasters is that no level of preparedness is good preparation.

We have legislations, frameworks and contingency plans in place. We have trained and sensitised people on the impending dangers. But we need to look beyond. 

If we cannot estimate the extent of danger that can visit us any day, we aren’t prepared. Professionals responsible are feeling handicapped.

Conferences and workshops so must devote less time on our present and past. We often somehow lose ourselves in the maze of grand visions and ambitions that come from someplace else with heavy names. Visions and ambitions are important, yes, but we must know what they are.

If the professionals and offices related to disaster management are not able to push for better preparedness, it is their fault. If the government does not see the urgency today, it is sad.

So, where are we?