Planning: The education ministry and Paro dzongkhag administration recently endorsed the first and model disaster management and contingency plans.

The Disaster Management Act requires all ministries and dzongkhags to have their own disaster management and contingency plans.

The plans were the outcome of a project ‘Comprehensive disaster management project for the education sector’ funded at a cost of USD 0.45 million through the DiPECHO project of Save the Children Bhutan Office.

These plans will enable the ministry and schools to respond better to future disasters and remove potential risks to lives and properties.

The 21-month project that ended last month also drew out a disaster risk reduction programme for monastic schools in Dechenphodrang, Sangchoekor Shedra, Kila Nunnery and Phochu Dumra lobdra.

Using the knowledge and experience gained through this project, the disaster management department has plans to support replication of the planning processes of the education disaster management and contingency plan and the Paro dzongkhag plan.

The project recorded and published the entire process with clear steps and recommendations to help standardise disaster management planning processes in other sectors and dzongkhags.

A total of 209 principals and school teachers were trained on disaster risk reduction in their schools.

The education secretary Karma Yeshey said that a lot remains to be done.

School buildings should be constructed according to strict construction codes, however, there are old school structures built before the implementation of the building codes.

“So we don’t know if they can withstand any future earthquakes,” he said. “We need to consider all these things and integrate them with the softer components so that we’re able to withstand all aspects of potential disasters.”

While many CBDRM (community based disaster risk management) have been carried out this is the first one to result in a concrete outcome, the DDM director general Chador Wangdi said.

The disaster management and contingency plan has provisions for prevention, mitigation and preparedness. It also includes maintaining emergency stockpiles including procedure for its release, replenishment and distribution, efficient response and relief during disasters, and budget projection for the implementation of the plan.

Mock drills should also include decision makers able to make the right decisions in the event a disaster strikes, it was pointed out at a daylong workshop in Thimphu.

Lessons learnt during the implementation of the community based disaster risk management and the plans was that the quality of such activities in the schools and dzongkhags depend on monitoring, technical and financial support.

The participants emphasised the need to further strengthen the linkages between the school, community, dzongkhag, ministry and the national coordinating agencies.

The study as part of the project found that schools were more prepared than the communities around them.

There is also a strong need to conduct widespread sensitisation at all levels of the plans.

It is also proposed to include disaster risk reduction in the school curriculum by supporting a review of relevant subjects.

The other future activities are to initiate development of relevant and age-appropriate materials and training of Early Childhood Care and Development and special education needs centres, among others.

Tshering Palden