On disaster preparedness again

An earthquake and a lake outburst flood on the same day could be a rare coincidence. But it did happen on Sunday, June 28. And Bhutanese are worried.

If the memories of glacial lake outburst flood and earthquakes are fresh in the Bhutanese mind, the April earthquake in Nepal has reminded us that the region is not safe. The great Himalayas, on which both Nepal and Bhutan are located, is a young mountain region. Therefore, we are on a fragile ecosystem. We are easily shaken- physically and mentally.

When we felt the tremors on Sunday morning, many thought that the prediction that a massive earthquake is due in the region was coming true. Fortunately, it measured only 5.6 on the Richter scale and no damages were reported. It did serve as yet another reminder that the region is not safe from the vagaries of the nature.

To repeat the cliché, we cannot prevent natural disasters. It is not in our hands. But we can be prepared. From the momentum that is picking up, we are on the right track. Disaster management is becoming more important and every shake or burst would convince decision makers to priortise preparedness.

It would be a humanitarian crime if the government does not priortise and priortise immediately, the need to prepare. The reminders are coming thick and fast and we would be a fool or irresponsible if we do not heed to the warnings. We always say that we learn from others’ mistakes. The Nepal earthquake has shown us enough lessons. If we do not pay heed, we would be fools to caught off guard.

The good thing is that several heads of relevant agencies are meeting frequently to discuss strategies.  We have now several committees to work on disaster preparedness. Yesterday, World Bank experts presented its first-hand experience from the Nepal earthquake on the need for emergency communication planning in the country.

We cannot forecast earthquake or GLOF forget preventing them. But what we can do is prepare to minimise damages to life and property.

Communication plays a critical part. A lot of ideas were shared on how we could be prepared. Some comes with huge cost. But nothing is costlier than lives and the relevant authorities should be able to convince the government to be prepared. We have experienced that our mobile communication is the first to get overwhelmed during a disaster. That will be a total breakdown in terms of providing crucial services.

A lot of suggestions were made. It is up to the relevant agencies and the government of the day to follow up. Disaster preparedness will not gain much political mileage, but if lives and properties are saved, people will remember a government who focused on preparedness.

Natural disasters have become a reality. The warnings are becoming clearer by the day. Preparedness should now be the top national priority.

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