The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) says disaster losses can be minimised if councils in the country were vigilant in among others; providing advice on construction of infrastructure such as houses, social services buildings like schools, clinics and roads.
Speaking in Mzimba on Wednesday, during a meeting with Mzimba District Council, Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Charles Kalemba said it is the responsibility of councils through District Civil Protection Committees (DCPCs)to provide guidance on any construction taking place so that the works are in tandem with safer building and construction guidelines.
Kalemba’s remarks comes at a time when the country has lost 25 lives and property to disasters; from July to this December, 2021 mainly due to strong winds, flash floods and lightning.
The commissioner said most communities as well as building and construction planners do not follow safer housing and construction guidelines because councils, through DCPCs do not monitor and provide guidance hence the substandard works which are already disasters in waiting.
He said councils have been doing business as usual in the way they respond and analyse disasters resulting in not investing in long lasting solutions which would ascertain the concept of building back better.
“It is high time councils changed their preparedness and response approach and start focusing on risk reduction and building of a nation that is resilient to most of the disasters that affect the country every year, including food insecurity,” said Kalemba.
He urged DCPCs to take up their rightful role by engaging communities, district or city planners as they undertake developmental activities.
“You are mandated to issue notices well in advance to those you perceive that are constructing infrastructure which from your analysis are disasters in making as per the safer housing and building guidelines which I suppose you are well aware of. This will make people to be responsible and have in mind resilience in every construction being undertaken.
“This far, we have been doing business as usual, developing contingency plans that are not responsive to the tenets of building back better. Let us change our mindset as DCPCs and help our communities to make right decisions that will save lives and the resources government channels towards disaster response," said Kalemba.
Reacting to Kalemba’s remarks, Director of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources for M’mbelwa Council, Ezra Mbendera commended DoDMA for the initiative of visiting the councils to appreciate the state of preparedness towards the 2021/2022 rainfall season.
“The interactive session was an eye opener and has challenged us on how our DCPC should function and enhance disaster risk reduction interventions.
“We pledge full commitment towards all action points highlighted and we are geared to apply them accordingly as we strive towards saving lives and property,” said Mbendera.