Involvement of Private Sector in DRR

         

INVOLVEMENT OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR IN DRR

 

Will we continue to fetch charity from private organizations during disasters or engage them as a shareholder for disaster risk reduction? Time has come to unlock the immense potentiality of the private sector to contribute to DRR and to make them resilient in order to develop a resilient community. Policies at national and global level have visualized the role and potential contribution of the private sector in the field of DRR. But at least in Nepal, this process has yet to get off the ground.

 

Nepal is highly prone to a variety of natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, fires and many others. Besides the tragic loss of people’s lives, these disastrous events have a severe impact on the country’s socio-economic structures. The estimated loss of property due to the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015 added up to 7.1 billion USD, one million Nepali were pushed back into poverty and over half a million homes were destroyed. The impact assessment revealed that the majority of all deaths were caused by collapsed buildings, and that the poorest people were affected the most. These alarming facts show that Nepal was not sufficiently prepared, although it falls in the top 20th list of the most multi-hazard prone countries in the world. But not only buildings fell apart. Statistics show that two years after a major disaster strikes, a high proportion of businesses in the country collapse. It is more important than ever to build an environment that is more resilient towards such disasters, because it is only a matter of time until the next will happen.

 

Most of the disaster funding in Nepal focuses only on immediate relief. Yet it is crucial to develop new strategies and innovative activities that increase the country’s disaster preparedness in the long term. Otherwise, a tragedy of this scale will repeat itself eventually. Great potential for enhancing disaster preparedness lies in the resources and expertise of Nepal’s private sector, as for example businesses. Through their direct relationship with the community, but also their management skills and financial resources, private stakeholders prove to be ideal candidates for implementing disaster risk management strategies.

 

Disasters have a severe impact on people; they destroy property, supply chains and assets, and lead to a loss of market shares. This means that disasters directly and indirectly affect businesses and other private institutions. Their engagement in disaster risk reduction can thus play an important role to reduce these losses, and even more improve their own resilience and continuity. It is a social responsibility as well as a business opportunity they have to take in order to create not only a resilient community but also a stable economy.

 

But how can the private sector get involved? In fact, there are many ways for a company or any other private institution to contribute to disaster resilience; whether they provide educational trainings, donate their products or help raising awareness on the issue. As in the case of India, the company TATA steel provides trainings for masons in safe construction methods and material. It is a 5 day training in which experts explain construction processes and give examples, and the masons can learn to apply their new knowledge in practical activities. In Uttar Pradesh alone, around 10.000 masons were trained. The initiative was then adopted by the government of India to be replicated in other provinces. Through TATA’s engagement and collaboration with the government, safer building standards could be adopted in large parts of the country.

 

On a global level, Siemens – an international multi group concern – sets a good example by contributing to sustainable development in the areas they operate. Besides delivering humanitarian aid after natural disasters, they also provide technology and education programs in order to increase the local community’s resilience. One of their projects focuses on water technology, in which they distribute water filtration systems. They are easily transportable, so they can even reach very remote areas. Through this technology as well as technical trainings for local people, the supply of potable water is ensured in many regions including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

 

These examples show that the private sector can play a vitally important role in averting the damages of disasters and reducing the risks of communities as well as their own. Both TATA Steel and Siemens benefit from their engagement. Through their initiatives, they improve their product publicity and their image – they clearly differentiate themselves from competitive companies. By supporting communities in their areas of operation, they furthermore reduce their own risks and ensure the continuity of their businesses.

 

Nepal still lacks such success stories, as its private sector has mostly been active in direct disaster response. Involvement in DRR is not yet a core activity of the majority of the businesses and institutions, but first projects that incorporate DRR strategies and innovative activities are being initiated. As for example, Nepalese Mobile Service Providers (MPS) are seeking new options to create disaster resilient mobile communication infrastructure, such as satellite based communication networks or mobile van towers. They have also agreed to provide platforms for uninterrupted communication during post-disaster through Short Message Service (SMS). Another project – initiated by the UNDP and the Government of Nepal – provides an automated Electronic-Building Permit System (e-BPS), which helps to effectively implement the National Building Code (NBC) and Building By-Laws (BBL). With this platform, members of the private sector who want to construct new buildings can easily check their building’s compliance to the NBC online.

 

But for all that, Nepal is only in the starting blocks for mainstreaming private sector engagement in DRR. In order to motivate private stakeholders to contribute to resilience building, they have to become aware of the many possibilities and benefits that come with their engagement. It will be necessary to build trustful alliances between the private sector and governments as well as other agencies to reach a lasting impact.

 

Marlene Lppman

Intern NDRC Nepal