A performance audit report on Disaster Management from 2010-2015 has found several issues like the lack of coordination among agencies, absence of Dzongkhag Disaster Management Committees, inadequate fire safety measures in Dzongs, lack of central data base on disaster management etc.
The Bhutanese in the monthly meet the press asked the Home Minister and other members of the cabinet on what was being done to ensure better disaster preparedness given that Bhutan is a naturally disaster prone country.
The Home Minister, Lyonpo Dawa Gyeltshen said that after passing the Disaster Management Act in 2013 the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) under the ministry has taken a lot of initiative and is doing very well compared to the past.
The minister said the National Disaster Management Authority chaired by the Prime Minister along with members in the form of the Health Ministry, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Education Ministry have gotten together to come up with various disaster management strategies.
He said though nobody would be 100 percent ready for disasters but initiatives like training of Dzongkhag disaster focal persons, establishing disaster management committees in Dzongkhags like Thimphu and Paro in 2015 and now targeting other Dzongkhags and gewogs and other strategies are in place.
Lyonpo said the challenge was that due to limited resources, such initiatives were taking time.
The Prime Minister said that disaster management preparation is very expensive but it has to be done. The PM said that there is a national disaster contingency plan as well as Dzongkhag level plans.
Lyonchhen said there are trained search and rescue teams in every Dzongkhag. He said the problem was that since they were civil servants, as willing as they were, they were getting transferred. He said that during the mid-term review it was decided that while teams will continue to be maintained specific and specialized search and rescue trainings are to be provided to the Royal Bhutan Police fire brigade.
The Health Minister Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that Bhutan has learnt a lot from the Nepal earthquake disaster. He said that though the RAA performance report has pointed out lapses the government has already been putting several things in place.
Lyonpo explained that after coming back from the Nepal the government had several rounds of meetings within the cabinet which is being translated into action. He said the Health Ministry is much more prepared than before with several rounds of meetings with health workers and other actions.
The minister said that a survey had been carried out to see how earthquake proof the hospitals are and where it was not found safe experts have been involved and so programs are being implemented accordingly. Giving one example he said the ramp way at the JDWNRH hospital was being retrofitted to even withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake.
The Minister for Information and Communication Lynonpo D.N Dhungyel relating his own experience a few years ago said that while in Samtse he could not call his son in Thimphu after an earthquake as the lines all got jammed.
Lyonpo said to ensure that essential service provider numbers do not get jammed the ministry is in talks with the telecom companies to lock the numbers of such service providers so that their calls do not get stuck.