Parliament yesterday passed the Disaster Risk Management Bill which government says will bring an improved legal framework for preparation and management of disasters.
The Bill seeks to repeal the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act (Cap. 33:05) and replaces it with a new Act in order to align the law with developments in the area of disaster preparedness, risk reduction and response and recovery.
Speaking after the passing of the bill, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo said the bill has a number of aspects and it starts by establishing a national committee on disaster risk management and then it has also a national technical committee to support the national committee.
“The bill also creates committees at local council level for risk disaster management, it also creates committees of disaster risk management at community level. So it is a very structured arrangement to make sure that when disaster happens there should be coordination between these committees on how to handle disasters,” explained Mvalo.
He further noted that the bill addresses issues of preparation for disaster that includes provision in the bill that allow the Minister to declare areas as risk areas and if an area has been declared a risk area the Minister may further have powers to relocate people from those areas to safer places.
“So removing people from a risk area to safer places it is meant to reduce the risk of loss of life, loss of property when disaster happens and also the act is going to regulate development in those areas which have been declared as risk areas. Basically, it is to make sure that the standards are followed that you have got buildings which are resilient to disasters,” said Mvalo.
In his remarks, Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change Werani Chilenga said he was very happy that the bill has passed and that they managed to move quite a lot of amendments in consultation with the Minister which is not usual.
“Usually Ministers would not allow to get amendments once the bill has been presented in Parliament. But today I would like to commend the Minister of Justice, the leader of the house and the whole assembly for agreeing to amendments which will form this bill a good bill. Of course we may not have done it one hundred percent, bills can come later for amendments and we hope that there are still some other gaps we might amend later but for today so far so good,” said Chilenga.
Speaking on behalf of UDF, Member of Parliament for Machinga East Esther Jolobala said she was happy that they have now fulfilled their mandate of legislating and now they are expecting that the bill should be assented by the President as soon as possible.
“We would want to see the bill being implemented accordingly because if the bill is not implemented accordingly it will affect the lives of people. We would want the Government to be on top of issues and control matters of state.
“We also want the coordination and preparedness and disaster management be handled in such a manner that the Government should be able to respond within 48 or 72 hours and they should be able to assist the affected people,” said Jolobala.
Civil Society Network on Climate Change (CISONECC) has been on the forefront advocating for the bill to pass and speaking to Malawi24, Julius Ng’oma who is the National Coordinator for CISONECC, said the passing of the bill is a big win for Malawians and the bill is very important because it is going to help the country manage things especially related to disasters in a very proactive way.
“We have been using a very old act which has been more biased towards response in the country. But we have seen that over the years we have not been managing disasters holistically. So this law that has been passed we feel it provides opportunities for us a country to be managing disasters in a very proactive way,” said Ng’oma.
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