As the world commemorates the UN International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR) today, it has transpired the country is still stuck with the outdated Disaster Preparedness and r=Relief Act (1991) following new information indicating the revised law now existing as Disaster Risk Management Bill will not be tabled in the current budget sitting of parliament.
While the Sendai Monitor, an online reporting tool for the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) targets shows the country has made significant progress in submitting some key reports including the development of blueprints such as the National Resilience Strategy (NRS) and the Disaster Risk Financing Strategy, DRR experts suggest without updated legislation it will be difficult for the country to register significant progress in reducing disaster-induced economic losses, deaths and damage to critical infrastructure.
Civil Society Network for Climate Change national coordinator Julius N’goma said the speedy passing of the law will facilitate the country's steady navigation on the recovery path following the increased intensity and frequency of disasters such as floods. The Covid 19 disaster has even made things worse for the country to handle multiple disasters, said Ng’oma,
“CISONECC has always supported this advocacy course for speedy approval of the DRM. At least getting to the Chairpersons of the Parliamentary Committees with a particular focus on the Budget and Finance Committee to ensure there are calls within Parliament for this bill to be tabled. From our recent meeting (September) with these people, they seem committed to calling upon DoDMA and Ministry of Justice to expedite the process and they were equally baffled the bill had to die down before presenting in the last years budget sitting” said Ng’oma.
Commissioner for disaster James Chiusiwa confirmed drafting of the bill was finalised and described the delay as a blessing in disguise as it may have provided an opportunity to factor in other emerging issues which could not have been part of the new law including those related to the management of health hazards such the Covid 19.
“ We are basically overhauling the whole act because the current disaster preparedness and relief act is response-oriented and does not take into account different aspects of disaster risk management so the new law is going to be a bit more comprehensive. I can indicate that currently we have a disaster risk management bill which is ready to be presented to parliament for passing and the bill has taken into account all aspects of disaster risk management that is disaster prevention, mitigation, response and recovery,” said Chiusiwa.
Among other things, the new law has provided for the delineation of high-risk areas, creation of different committees and clusters and the establishment of a special fund for disaster risk management to help in the broader management of disaster hazards.
Chiuiswa said: “ There are some people that are already staying in such areas and the new law will provide that such people can be relocated but that will be after the zoning has been done because then it will empower relevant institutions including DODMA and will be able to get these people because these areas where they are staying now will have been zoned as not fit for human settlement”
“ There are some people that are already staying in such areas and the new law will provide that such people can be relocated but that will be after the zoning has been done because then it will empower relevant institutions including DODMA and will be able to get these people because these areas where they are staying now will have been zoned as not fit for human settlement”
At the heat of the Covid 19 court cases, Judge Kenyata Nyirenda punched gaps into the current disaster law as it fell short of addressing the covid 19 hazard related issues in tandem with other supporting laws such as the Public Health Act which is also outdated and currently under review.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala asked for more details to trace the matter.
For his part, Chairperson of the parliamentary committee on natural resources Werani Chilenga believes Parliament should have time to look into such an important law after passing the budget and promised to follow up on the matter.
The Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) has warned the country may experience floods as a result of the normal to above normal rainfall seasonal forecast which essentially implies more rains for the country.
This year’s IDDR commemorations have a special focus on Target E of the Sendai Framework which seeks to “Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.”