Tag Archives: disaster management

….(Trump) Tribalism In The Face Of Globalization

Published Article: “Environment, Climate Change And American (Trump) Tribalism In The Face of Globalization”, New Spotlight Magazine, NEPAL, 1 September, 2017

It shouldn’t sound an overrated assertion to state that today’s environmental and ecological disasters are basically man-made events which are essentially caused by human activities or to put it more accurately, incoherent activities.

Air, water and soil are being polluted left and right. Many developed and industrialized nations are heavily emitting greenhouse gases day and night. Corporate giants are not performing enough for environmental good in a global scale and rather seem busy lobbying against it.

Very little is being done to manage ever growing garbage, air pollution and toxic wastes. Global leadership lacks sufficient initiatives and local level policies are unable to provide adequate scrutiny as well as control, especially in developing countries. This in turn is causing environmental degradation, climate change and chronic health hazards around the world, hence more diseases, disasters, suffering and loss of lives.

Evolution and Environmental Sustainability

The process of evolution supports the fact that the environmental disruption may drive species to extinction. Humans could be responsible for the extinction of the most of the world’s mammals around 14,000 years ago. Could the Homo-sapiens be responsible for the extinction of twelve other human species which coexisted around the same time?

Plenty of evidence from the past explains that humans had massive impact on environment since the dawn of modern civilization. European colonialism and imperialism caused impacts by treating nature as mere exploitable resource all around the world.

In more recent times, the environment has been greatly affected by the rise of industrialization, with very little sense of nature conservation, sustainable growth and ecological harmony.

Every part of ecosystem is equally important for every species in it to live and thrive in harmony, call it environment if you will. Environmental sustainability comes hand in hand with conservation of ecological systems.

There could be numerous known and unknown factors which help preserve a sound ecological system of which we humans are just a small part. However, we happen to be greatly responsible for the loss of biodiversity, various species, forests and wildlife habitats, causing adverse effects on natural ecosystems beyond the borders.

We consider ourselves to be the most conscious, sane and sensible being on this planet but we have been constantly intervening with the environment and its natural harmony by spreading pesticides, herbicides, chemical wastes and pollutants.

Although, the theory of evolution argues that only the fittest can survive in this competitive world, it should not be forgotten that the competitive world includes nature as well and also for the evolution to take place we should let the environment make the natural selection and not the other way round.

We might be the fittest species on the face of the planet but that surely does not give us the right to disrupt ecological cycles, prevailing here for millennia. Threatening environmental harmony might drive us towards extinction for the nature might choose not to select us after all.

Thus environmental conservation and its sustainability should become our collective core imperative today if we really wish to sustain human species on this planet.

Climate Change Threats

Environmental degradation along with increased rate of global warming gave rise to global climate change, an accumulated result of human activities in just over the last few centuries.

Although the adverse effects of human on environment may not be clearly seen in day-to-day life, the accumulated impact over the time is quite evident. It may not be local, direct or prompt but the climate change effects are showing up in global scale as weather patterns are changing all over the planet, several species are going extinct, ozone layer is depleting, earth’s temperature is rising, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting rapidly, and sea level is rising faster than ever before.

Nepal’s topography and socio-economic conditions make it one of the highly vulnerable countries to climate change induced disasters. Verisk Maplecroft, a global risks advisory organization, published a Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) in 2010 ranking Nepal as the fourth most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change. Recent estimates show that Nepal has already been facing an annual economic loss of 1.5 to 2% of GDP due to climate change events.

According to a report, submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the mean annual temperature projections for Nepal are 1.3-3.8 degree Celsius by the 2060s and 1.8-5.8 degree Celsius by the 2090s.

In the meantime, the World Bank report indicates that the mean annual temperature of the entire globe is projected to increase by 1 to 5 degree Celsius by the end of this century, placing us towards the higher end of the projected range globally.

If we don’t handle them timely and tactfully, climate change threats and its economic impacts certainly paint rather bleak future for Nepal, as agriculture, hydroelectricity and water-induced disasters are going to be of greatest concern for us in coming days.

The negative impacts of climate change in Nepal have been rapidly translating into reduced annual precipitation, decrease in Himalayan ice reserve, drying up of water resources, rapid formation of glacial lakes, receding glaciers, erratic rainfall pattern, increased threats to run-of-river hydroelectricity projects, etc. As a result, increased risk of disasters, in the form of more frequent avalanches, floods, landslides, droughts, forest fires, epidemics, etc., cannot be ignored anymore.

In regards to climate change threats, major proclamations such as, “Climate change is for real” and “Urgent risk mitigation actions are indispensable” are quite consistent globally.

Due to the global nature of the issue, it is impossible to solve the problem by any one nation, organization or a certain group. It requires coordinated participation and collaborative efforts of every possible stakeholder to at least delay, if not stop, our own existential crisis and rescue the planet, we call home.

American (Trump) Tribalism

America, for a long time, had been the largest environmental polluter in the world, overtaken by China only in recent years. It is also one of only few countries, which has not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations global initiative by 192 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In a country with leading global economy where nearly two-third of the population believes that climate change is real and caused by humans, it is sad to see that the US President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order on 28th March 2017 to eliminate Obama’s climate change regulations.

However, his wish to renegotiate the UN climate change accord was immediately dismissed by the countries like France and Germany which have been strong proponent of the issue.

In the winter of 2015, nearly 200 countries, including the US, came together in Paris and agreed upon the environmental emission targets covering nearly 90 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

But now environmental experts around the world are showing concerns that this change of policy in America would make it almost impossible to meet the international pollution targets agreed in December 2015 at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21), an international environmental treaty as per the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992.

Around two years ago, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai City of Japan in 2015) made climate change-induced disasters its highest priority, especially in developing countries.

The decision was made considering the fact that the countries which contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions are the ones suffering greatest threat of climate change worldwide.

Although it seems fairer to focus on mitigating the impacts of climate change in these countries, it doesn’t at all feel encouraging when the so-called global leaders become egocentric and behave with such short-sightedness.

Trump, with deregulation and withdrawal from the COP21 Agreement, hopes to bring coal industry jobs back in the US. He seems to neglect the fact that the country, under the Obama administration, had been gradually creating more and more new jobs in alternative energy sectors, while the coal industry jobs are becoming less and less viable, both environmentally as well as economically.

Unfortunately the President Trump believes that the Paris Agreement empowers some of the other top polluting countries while it hinders American economic growth by crippling its industries. On the contrary, many US Cities, Mayors, States and Company CEOs have long been supporting the cause and are committed to help the US meet the global-emission-targets despite Trump’s withdrawal. The establishment of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (GGGI) program in 2009 was one of such pioneering initiatives undertaken by nine eastern states within the US.

Summary

In the age of globalization, people around the planet, automatically look up to the countries like the US and China and their leaderships to fight borderless disaster threats such as global warming and climate change.

As a global hub of technology, economy and advancements, one would naturally expect that the US would set examples and take progressive steps towards clean power plants, renewable energy generation as well as job creation in these sectors. Nevertheless, the reality on the ground is different.

The recent development in the US environmental policy landscape totally contradicts the above assumptions.

President Trump certainly needs to consider few good lessons from China which recently pledged to invest over US$350 billion in renewable power, expecting to create over 13 million new jobs by 2020.

However, let’s also not forget that we are talking about someone who doesn’t really believe in global warming or its effects on climate. That, quite frankly, is both ridiculous and threatening simultaneously.

The term globalization should imply inclusiveness but the current leadership of the US seems full of prejudices, selfishness and irresponsible acts which completely lack long-term vision and a decent sense of global well-being. This is no less than stepping down to tribalism in the face of globalization and a looming global crisis just round the corner.

Published Article: “Environment, Climate Change And American (Trump) Tribalism In The Face of Globalization”, New Spotlight Magazine, NEPAL, 1 September, 2017

Risk Analysis: Various attributes

Risk Analysis(Photo Source: Google)

Let’s start with a simple example of a gallon of kerosene which probably is only a hazard until we light a match nearby, when we actually make the situation risky for the people and property around. Unsafe working conditions are workplace hazards which, when combined with existing vulnerabilities, may translate into risk for employees as well as businesses. Similarly, suppose an earthquake occurred in a faraway barren land. It basically remains a natural hazard, not taking environment into account for a while, until the shaking extends to a densely populated area making the situation very risky all of sudden.

In the risk examples above, there are both hazard and vulnerability involved. During risk analysis, one works on studying, identifying and predicting various ways in which a hazard, in combination with possible vulnerabilities or exposures, may pose risk to people, planet and businesses. Simply put, a hazard, under certain vulnerable circumstances, may give rise to risky situations. A comprehensive risk assessment approach would provide us insight into the likelihood of hazard occurrence as well as its extent of impact due to various types of vulnerabilities and exposures involved.

In simple terms, risk assessment can be understood as a methodology that makes it easier for us to understand the nature and the extent of a risk. If we could express a risk in quantitative term, it would simply be the product of probability (likelihood of occurrence) and severity (extent of impact) of an identified hazard; natural, technological or man-made.

Assessing the multifaceted nature of risk both hazard and vulnerability should be taken into account. In this regard, hazard assessment and vulnerability assessment would provide a good picture of probability and severity respectively. Further the risk assessment would provide us insight into the nature of hazard, its potential impact and ways to mitigate the risks. In disaster management context, risk assessment is taken as an integrated approach, including hazard and vulnerability assessment, towards disaster risk mitigation and vulnerability reduction.

Hazard assessment estimates the potential impact of a hazard and probability of its occurrence. The assessment process involves past disaster events, historical data, satellite images, geological information, and land use maps, etc. While analyzing the disaster risks, it is also imperative to analyze vulnerability factors which could make the region vulnerable. Vulnerability assessment basically helps to extend the findings from hazard assessment and is an important component of the comprehensive risk assessment process. It involves the study of hazard proneness, socio-economic factors as well as lack of resources.

In the field of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS), often the probability of a hazard is specifically interpreted in terms of its frequency and the severity of hazard is interpreted in terms of fatality, damage and economic losses, the event may cause. After identifying a hazard, it is then compared and analyzed against those interpreted data to predict the likelihood of accident/disaster occurrence and the extent of its potential impact. The idea is to categorize the types of risk involved and prioritize the mitigation measures. Disaster management institutions around the world continue to improvise and use this risk assessment technique in various Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) applications.

Quantitative risk assessment technique often involves plain arithmetic. For example, suppose the population of the Kathmandu valley is 2 million and an average 200 people are killed in road accidents annually, hence the annual risk of being killed in a road accident is one in 10,000 (2,000,000/200). However, this method provides crude data and does not include variables such as the effect of traffic, population, road conditions, etc.

Using statistical analysis, risk posed by a hazard can also be related to other parameters such as, proximity, demography or socio-economic factors, while conducting a disaster risk assessment. For example, the rate of urban growth (Socio-economic factor) can be one of the determining factors of the number of road accidents. Similarly, people living around a chemical plant are vulnerable to chemical disasters but, unlike straight-forward quantitative risk assessment, the statistical analysis can also provide us with varying level of risks to the nearby population, depending on their location or proximity to the chemical plant.

Also Read:

(Part II) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part II) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part I) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

(Part I) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

Fire Prevention and Fire Protection – Air Pollution in Kathmandu – Construction PPE – Carbon Monoxide poisoning – Electrical Safety – Fall Protection in General Industry– Fearsome 4 of Construction Safety – Fall Restrain System Vs. Fall Arrest System – Respiratory Protection – Portable Ladder Safety – Confined Space Entry – Initiating First Aid/CPR – Are you too busy… – If you have $86,400 in your account… – Safety professionals have job prospects as Insurance Risk Surveyor or Loss Assessor

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Business Continuity Management in Nepal

Earlier Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.9 No 23, June,2016 

Introduction

Business Continuity Management (BCM) is a management process that seeks to ensure organizations are capable to resume or continue operations under adverse or abnormal conditions (Source: Business Continuity Institute, United Kingdom). In recent years, a pressing need of BCM has risen to keep businesses and organizations safer from the probable catastrophic impacts of increasing number of disasters; natural or otherwise.

Our businesses can’t be safe and sustainable unless they are resilient to disasters. Looking at the recent disaster trends in Nepal, I sincerely hope that the previous statement does not sound an overrated remark.

BCM emphasizes that organizations of all types and sizes need to engage in a comprehensive and systematic Risk Management approach for their businesses to continue smoothly after enduring a disaster. It essentially facilitates us take adaptive as well as proactive measures to reduce the likelihood of loss after a disruptive event. In the event of a natural, technological or a human-induced disaster, BCM helps businesses to lessen the disaster impacts, resume critical business functions ASAP, timely recover business activities and finally it equips us with adequate capability to continue the business as usual.

Putting BCM in perspective

Up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen (Source: Insurance Information Institute, USA).

Nepal faces high frequency of natural hazards and we have generated extremely high level of risks out of those hazards. In Nepalese context, the rising frequency and ferocity caused by natural disasters are not only threatening the growth of businesses but also questioning the sustainability of the entire country’s economy as the average annual disaster loss is in the rise with every passing year.

Disasters caused by natural hazards take a toll of 2 deaths, 4 injured and 30 destroyed houses per day in our country. The resulting annual financial loss is more than 940 million Nepali Rupees per year (Source: National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal).

The figures are even more pronounced after the advent of the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015. As per the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), the total damages and losses caused by the earthquake, around NPR 706 billion, was about one third of the GDP of the country in FY 2013-2014.

It is also worth noting that out of the total sum, private sectors sustained over 3 times in damages and losses i.e. NPR 540 billion compared to the public sectors (Source: National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal).

Increasing number of disasters is already a global phenomenon which is also evident in Nepal from the chain of disasters that took place in the recent past. Flood, landslide, avalanche and earthquake are some of the high risk natural hazards the nation is facing for a long time now. Meanwhile, disasters in the form of power outage, fuel crisis, human error, equipment failure, IT interference, social unrest, blockade, fraud, fire, theft and even terrorism are not beyond scope these days.

It is clear that the threats will remain here no matter what, but with BCM in place, various businesses and organizations will have opportunity to lower their vulnerabilities and increase capability to stay resilient.

Key queries

Before we explore further, there are few specific questions that businesses and organizations of Nepal today should ask themselves undisputedly. What are the worst risks faced by our organization? Do our employees know what to do during a disaster scenario? What are the most critical business functions that need to survive an extended interruption? Do we have any written plan to execute? How about safety and security of our valuable data? Are the employees taught and trained to face such painful surprises? Do we practice our emergency response and business recovery plans (if any) to see if they really work? To understand the gravity of above queries we need to delve little further into the BCM process to see what exactly it has to offer.

So, what’s the plan?

Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a comprehensive written plan to maintain or resume business in the event of a disruption (Source: Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, USA).

In plain English, BCP is the primary outcome of the entire BCM process. The concept of BCP is relatively new in developing countries such as ours but simply put, BCP helps businesses to better prepare for disasters, mitigate their impacts and reduce overall loss.

A BCP is a management approach to ensure that critical business functions are operational under adverse condition and the organization has adequate plan and resources to complete the recovery process in the event of a natural, technological or human-induced disaster. In another words, BCP bundles together all the documents required for an effective execution of Risk Prevention & Mitigation, Emergency Preparedness & Response and Disaster Recovery plans to re-establish critical business functions after a disaster such as Flood, Earthquake, Fire break out, Supply-chain disruption, Power failure, etc.

Value creation

The purpose of any organization is to create value for its customers, employees, investors, shareholders as well as the community in which it operates and for the country’s economy as a whole. In the event of a serious disaster; natural or otherwise, when business operation is damaged or disrupted, it would cost money to companies due to extended downtime. Business would suffer lost revenues on one hand and extra expenses for emergency resource management on the other. Insurance might not cover all the costs and certainly would not get back valued customers. Under the chaotic circumstances, company’s image would be at stake while it could lose competitive edge due to delayed recovery or no recovery at all. In a country like ours, quick recovery and continuity of business is critical as it helps reduce socio-economic stress as well as keeps supply-chain moving in the event of a disaster.

Safety, security, survival, competitive advantage, brand/image protection, minimized downtime, disclosure of inefficiencies, reduced disruption costs, enhanced supply-chain relations, insurance & regulatory benefits and international business compliance are some of the recorded benefits to organizations that have been developing and routinely updating their BCP worldwide.

Besides, fulfilling the growing need for Disaster Risk Management (DRM) strategy and satisfying the yearning for a sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) value together, BCP implementation could be a pivotal initiative by every small, medium and large organization in Nepal.

Does it really make sense?

It is sad that, being a developing country, we still depend on conventional Disaster Management approach which is mostly reactive and creates unrealistic expectations from the Government / Foreign Aid Agencies in the event of any major disaster. More often than not, businesses fail to identify their vulnerabilities and potential of loss beforehand. Also we do not seem to seriously consider the short and long-term impacts of such disasters on the critical operations of our organizations. Compared to the conventional post-disaster management approach, BCP introduces rather pragmatic approach to manage the disaster risks proactively.

 As the country is paving its way towards global market, it makes more sense for private sector businesses to pursue competitive edge by adopting BCP as organizations’ core DRM program.

It would be quite encouraging to see the organizations of all shapes, sizes and types coming forward and engaging in a systematic process of Hazard Identification, Risk Mitigation, and Emergency Preparedness & Response (EPR) planning of their businesses to quickly recover after a catastrophic event, often inevitable.

Earlier Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.9 No 23, June,2016