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At Long Last - Drm Bill Goes To Parliament

Final draft of the Disaster Risk Management Bill has been circulated to members of parliament and may be tabled not later than wednesday next week. The draft provisions will have to be discussed by Parliament which has powers to sustain or amend them.

Some of the key provisions noted in the final bill entail the following:

Those collecting relief on behalf of Disaster victims will have to report to the Office of the Commissioner of Disasters, disclose the source and account for evert item/funds administered by themselves.

Providing false information to obtain relief as well as diverting or selling relief items could lead to fines ranging between 10 to 20 million Kwacha or face a jail term of between 2 -3 years.

Government to declare certain areas High Risk areas and shall relocate all people occupying such places as determined by the commissioner, responsible minister and in consultation with minister of lands. Notice shall be given to all occupants, government to facilitate identification of new settlement areas and where necessary compensate some households and put in place measures that will help restore their productive capacity. The stubborn ones shall be evicted by the courts and police using reasonable force.

New bill also proposes the establishment of the office of the Commissioner for Disasters and a Disaster Risk Management Trust Fund.

To be tabled as Bill No 9 of 2023, it also has provision on the establishment of the National Disaster Risk Management Committe (NDRMC) to be chaired by Secretary to the President and cabinet but will also comprise of Principle Secretaries from key ministries, Malawi Human Rights Commission, DRM experts, Red Cross and Two CSO members.

Rescuing trapped communities

The National Committee shall be supported by a Sub - Technical Committee.

Two weeks ago, Dr Lazarus Chakwera promised to take the bill to Parliament. The first bill was drafted in 2014 but never saw the light of the day. Tabling of the bill has been partly influenced by the cyclone Freddy devastation which has claimed over 500 people and over 600 are still missing.

CSOs including Civil Society Network on Climate Change - CISONECC and other climate campaigners have also been vocal about the bill.

On Monday this week another group CSOs including the youth presented a petition to Parliament demanding action on the bill.

CISONECC National Coordinator Julius Ng'oma has described the development as a huge relief but asked more time to check provisions in the final draft.

Julius: We are scrutinising provisions in the final draft bill.

"We are not just interested in passing the law but we want to have a piece of legislation that will speak to current and future scenarios " said Ng'oma.

On Monday chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources Werani Chilenga committed to pass the bill once government presents it in Parliament.

" We have been waiting for this bill and when it comes, we have to pass it at a very supersonic speed but without compromising on quality." said Chilenga.

If passed into law the DRM bill will replace the Disaster Relief Preparedness Act of 1991. Chai

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About the Author
Mathews Malata Jr.
An ardent environmentalist, LEAD Fellow & versatile award-winning journalist passionate about SDGs

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