Handover of fire safety equipment to 5 Municipalities of Kathmandu Valley

20 Dec 2011

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A number of recent reports have underscored that making Nepal safer will require strong first response capacity. In Nepal, every year fire causes significant loss of life and property. Annually there are more than 1500 fires across the country, costing more than 43 lives, and NRs 350 million in damage. Densely populated urban centers are particularly prone to fire hazards.   

Although Nepal has long history of the fire brigade services, its capacity to respond to fire incidents is not optimal. Fire engines are old, equipment is lacking and opportunities for upgrading the skills of fire fighters are limited. Recently, the fire brigade has been restructured and brought directly under the municipality authorities and Ministry of Local Development (MoLD) and it is significant that the Minister of Local Development is attending this event.

Despite the shortcomings of Nepal’s fire-fighting capacity, there are reasons for optimism. First, in 2010, the MoLD approved the Fire Brigade Operation and Management Guideline of 2010 to improve fire preparedness and mitigation in Nepal. In the same year, MoLD with the support from UNDP conducted the study on "Needs and Capacity Assessment of Fire Preparedness in the Municipalities of Nepal". The study identified and recommended enhancing the technical, financial, managerial and institutional capacities in municipalities.

There are also some good initiatives in fire preparedness and mitigation at community level by different governmental and other non-governmental organisations which focus on strengthening the capacity of municipalities and communities.

In the last decade, Nepal’s urban population and infrastructure expanded rapidly and the first high rise buildings were constructed in the Kathmandu Valley. Unfortunately, these signs of development are also adding to the challenges of responding to fires in the valley. Given the scale of need outlined, it is clear that Nepal has much work to do to bring fire services up to national and regional standards. It needs strong technical, financial, managerial and institutional capacities to be built and the cost and contributions required are substantial.

Nepal has its national strategy for Disaster Risk Management, and it is expected, that the new disaster management will soon be enacted into law. The Government of Nepal is committed to making Nepal’s people safer. The report shows that more than 60% of people in Lalitpur and Kathmandu are willing to pay more tax for better fire services - and that there is a demand for these services by Kathmandu Valley residents.

The report outlines that if new fire engines are bought, there are lower cost, more versatile fire engines which can be easily maintained and can access Kathmandu’s narrow streets.  Nepal is fortunate to have a core of professional fire fighters ready to serve, and there are other disaster response organizations that can help upgrade the skills of the fire fighters and fill manpower gaps. So in short, the policy framework and the leadership are there to solve this problem, and technical solutions have been identified.  The need is to find resources and detail the next steps.

Speaking at today’s event, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Piper noted "Given the scale of needs it is clear that Nepal has much work to do to bring fire services up to national and regional standards.  We need firefighting standards. The roles and responsibilities of a firefighter must be clarified. We need an organization mandated to provide fire fighting training. And a physical facility for fire-fighting training." On the other hand, Mr Piper also noted that "the good news is that there is a core of professional fire fighters who are ready to serve. There are disaster response organizations that can help upgrade skills, and fill manpower gaps." "The policy framework and the leadership are there to solve this problem, and technical solutions have been identified.  The need now is to find resources and detail the next steps" he added.

Strengthening municipal fire services is a key activity of the Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium’s plan for strengthening emergency preparedness and response systems, but to date, despite our partnerships we are not on track to deliver in this area. UNDP’s Disaster Risk Management Programme, with support from UK’s Department for International Development and the Bureau for Conflict Prevention and Recovery, has been an active partner along with Ministry of Local Development in providing the equipment being handed over today and in working to produce this report. These efforts are part of a wider, comprehensive disaster risk management programme that aims to reduce disaster losses. Today’s event contributes to an integrated work plan led by the Government of Nepal that aims to link emergency operations centers with first responders in order to help municipalities become disaster resilient.

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