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More than three years after the enactment of the Disaster Management Act, we hear that we do not even have an emergency operation centre. Why we do not have an instant command centre yet, we would like to know.

The centre is a critical component of disaster management system in the country. What has taken us too long to establish one for the benefit of our nation and the people is indeed wonderful.

Lack of fund is an excuse by far inadequate.

We spend close to a million on each entitled position in the country, on the members of parliament in particular, and even more in some cases.

Yet, building a strong and effective disaster management system in the country is a costly affair. People need reasons stronger than shortage of fund.

Devolution of power and capacity-building should go down to the grassroots. Only then will Department of Disaster Management (DDM) have any purpose to stand as an institution with a vital mandate to protect the citizens from calamities natural and man-made.

Spending “fair amount of resources” in bolstering community-based disaster risk management throughout the country, as home minister said recently, could be a pride for any political government, but not for the people in the backwaters of this country who haven’t practical experience and equipment required for real time disaster situations.

The nation hasn’t forgotten how in 2009 seven boys in Chukha lost their lives thirteen hours after rescue mission was launched. Our disaster management system has not improved by any measure since then, it seems.

In the age of climate change and global weather instability, natural disasters are bound to occur more frequently than we would like to see them overwhelm us, to say nothing about accidental mishaps every now and then. How prepared are we?

Some major earthquakes have occurred in the recent memory of this nation. Lives and properties worth billions have been lost. Still we do not even have an emergency operation centre.

Bhutan sits on a major seismic zone in the Himalayas and changing climate is posing increasing threat to the lives of people. In the mountains, ice is melting fast, and lakes are growing ominously. Another glacial lake outburst flood could ruin the lives of the communities living along the major river systems.

Perhaps we are getting our priorities wrong. Developing guidelines and training a few selected people in the dzongkhags to deal with disaster events will not help. What we need is a strong department with effective emergency operation centre to address immediate national requirements.

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