His Holiness 17th Karmapa launches new book of Disaster Management Guidelines
Day One, 8th Khoryug Conference
22 March 2017
Tergar Shrine Hall, Bodhgaya
At 9.00am, 72 delegates, representing 27 different monasteries and nunneries, schools and communitiesfrom across the Himalayan region, gathered at Tergar Monastery for the 8th annual Khoryug conference. Khoryug was founded in 2009 by the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje as an environmental association of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries all working towards environmental protection, sustainability and climate change resilience. Khoryug is an initiative of Kun Kyong Charitable Trust. This year’s conference welcomed 38 delegates from Nepal, 26 from India and 8 from Bhutan. Khoryug’s Program Officer, Lhakpa Tsering and Khoryug Adviser, Dekila Chungyalpa, began the day by greeting everyone warmly.
At the request of the Khoryug members themselves, this year’s conference will provide an introduction to the topic of waste management, a difficulty which is faced by every single monastery and nunnery. Waste management is a seemingly insurmountable problem in communities where there is no infrastructure for waste collection or disposal and limited recycling opportunities.
A second focus of this year’s conference is Disaster Management. When His Holiness the 17th Karmapa arrived at 10.00am, his first duty, after leading the delegates in a short prayer, was to ceremoniously open Khoryug’s newest publication, Disaster Management Guidelines for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and Nunneries. Three years in the making, this bookl provides guidelines on the five most common areas of vulnerability that Himalayan communities face: flood; storm; fire; landslide; and earthquake. In addition, the book contains a final chapter of advice, composed by His Holiness himself, on maintaining personal mental well-being and helping those who are suffering from trauma or emotionally distraught following a disaster.
His Holiness explained how the earthquakes in Sikkim and Nepal had demonstrated clearly the need for training Khoryug members in disaster management.
“During the earthquake in Nepal, the monasteries all had great difficulties. Many of the monks went into the surrounding communities to help, and did excellent work… very beneficial. But in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, we hadn’t had any training. We wanted to help but didn’t know what to do,” he explained. “If we have the training, we can institute disaster management teams in each monastery, so that each monastery’s sangha can protect themselves and also help the surrounding communities.”
He emphasized that training needed to be on-going and continuously refreshed with follow-up courses. He also suggested that those who had been trained in first-aid could be deployed during the Kagyu Monlam as first-responders when people were taken ill or collapsed.
After His Holiness’ introduction, Dekila Chungyalpa detailed the purpose of the booklet and the various components of disaster management. Pointing out the three main stages of disaster management, she showed how monasteries and nunneries can plan and prepare for situations ahead of time and thereby avoid potential disasters or at least reduce their effect.
Disaster Preparedness: Careful preparation in advance is required to reduce the risk of a disaster occurring or the risk of injury from a disaster. For example, if there are 50 monks in a monastery, there has to be enough emergency food and water stored for 50 people.
Disaster Response: Institutions need to have plans in place for what to do when a disaster happens. This includes having clear exit points, knowing who will lead and establishing safe areas where people cangather.
Disaster Recovery: These are practical plans to aid quick recovery after the disaster, such as how people will be accommodated or where temporary toilets will be dug.
Dekila also addressed Disaster Mitigation, which is not featured individually in the book. Mitigation includes actions which can reduce the severity of a disaster such as making buildings earthquake resistant. These interventions often require consultation with experts such as architects or engineers and need large infrastructural investment.
Within the booklet, different chapters have been color-coded so that they can be found easily. Throughout the book some guidelines have been marked out in boxes, designating actions geared towards the administrators within an institution.
But the main aim of the booklet, as Dekila urged, is for everybody to prepare now, and not wait for adisaster to happen. The delegates left the morning session equipped with their copies of DisasterManagement Guidelines and their homework: to read it and come prepared to give feedback on the second day of the conference.