Sherab Lhamo

Paro International Airport has successfully concluded the inaugural Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) Programme. 

The workshop, held from November 27 to December 1, engaged around 50 participants and addressed various topics, including identifying potential bottlenecks and action measures to swiftly increase capacity during disasters.

The GARD Programme, a global public-private partnership, aims to assist airports in planning for their role as logistical hubs in disaster scenarios such as floods, earthquakes, fires, and landslides. 

The programme also seeks to integrate the airport’s role into national emergency plans.The sessions covered both theoretical and practical aspects, assessing the airport’s maximum processing capacity for cargo and passengers.

Implemented in over 60 airports across 29 countries, the GARD programme prepares airports to function as logistics hubs during disasters by evaluating their capacity to manage surges of humanitarian aid and personnel in response situations. 

The programme involves training airport staff and disaster responders, assisting authorities in developing action plans to enhance response capacity, and guiding response operations at the airport.

UNDP Resident Representative, Mohammad Younus, emphasized the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters, highlighting the critical role airports play as logistical hubs for immediate disaster response and relief efforts.

The programme, conducted by various partners, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme, International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers, lead trainer of DHL Group, Department of Air Transport, Department of Local Governance and disaster management, and Airports Council International Asia Pacific and Middle East.

In Bhutan, where only 20 pilots are qualified to operate in and out of Paro International Airport, recognised as one of the most challenging airports globally, disaster preparedness is crucial due to the country’s vulnerability to earthquakes and floods.

Carl Schelfhaut, Head of the GoHelp Programme for Asia Pacific, DHL, expressed satisfaction with Bhutan’s participation and emphasized the unique challenges posed by the airport’s location. The workshop is expected to significantly contribute to the country’s efforts in establishing a robust disaster resilience standard for its airport.

Disaster preparedness and planning play a pivotal role in reducing the impacts of disasters. Airport preparedness is essential for ensuring that relief goods and supplies promptly reach affected victims.

An airport’s ability to effectively manage the influx of humanitarian aid and personnel is a crucial factor in determining the quality and timeliness of humanitarian assistance.