KATHMANDU, July 5: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Bhim Rawal has accused the Ministry of Finance of not releasing sufficient funds for the purchase of equipment required for search, rescue and relief operations during natural disasters such as landslides, floods and earthquakes.
"We had sought 7 billion rupees from the finance ministry for purchasing equipment required for immediate response during natural disasters like landslides and floods. But the ministry only released 43 percent of the total budget sought by my ministry," Deputy Prime Minister Rawal told lawmakers during a meeting of Parliament's State Affairs Committee on Monday. He was responding to lawmakers who criticized his ministry and other ministries concerned for failing to procure sufficient equipment for immeidate disaster response depsite the fact that Nepal is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.
He said that adequate disaster response will not be possible unless the finance ministry releases sufficient funds for purchasing equipment that is essential for search, rescue and relief operations.
"We badly need sufficient equipment for effective disaster response as our counry is one of the most disaster prone. But let me make it clear that we can only purchase sufficient equipment, including helicopters, required for search and rescue operations during disasters when the finance ministry releases sufficient budgetary funds," he said.
Informing lawmakers about his ministry's efforts in search, rescue and relief during natural disasters, Deputy Prime Minister Rawal also said that he fully supports the lawmakers' demand that the government must immediately purchase sufficient equipment for quick disaster response. "If the finance ministry releases sufficient funds, my ministry will leave no stone unturned for the purchase of sufficient equipment," he said.
He also urged the parliamentary committee to issue necessary directives to the finance ministry to release sufficient funds to the ministries concerned for equipment procurement.
Both Minister for Defense Bhim Rawal and Minister of Finance Bishnu Poudel are from the same party, CPN-UML. While Rawal is vice-chairman of the party, Poudel is a deputy general secretary.
Similarly, speaking at the meeting, Minister of Home Affairs Shakti Basnet said that the security agencies-- Nepal Police and Armed Police Force-- are currently compelled to carry out search, rescue and relief operations during disasters with only limited equipment and resources.
"Our security agencies are compelled to make maximum use of the limited resources available for disaster response. So, we are holding talks with the finance ministry for the release of adequate funds for purchasing more equipment," he said.
Following the ministers' remarks, the parliamentary committee directed the government to immediately release budget funds to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defense for purchasing equipment required for search and rescue during disasters.
Likewise, the committee also directed the government to immediately set up a special operations centre comprising all three security agencies--Nepal Army, Armed Police Force and Nepal Police--for coordinated and effective response during natural disasters.