New NSART Centre Aims to Enhance Disaster Response Capabilities

In a significant stride towards bolstering Bhutan’s disaster response capabilities, Home Secretary Sonam Wangyel officially inaugurated the National Search and Rescue Training Center (NSARTC) at the Special Reserve Police Force campus in Tashi Gatshel. The inauguration ceremony, attended by Additional Chief of Police Colonel Phub Gyaltshen, government officials, and members from the Local Government of Tashi Gatshel and Royal Bhutan Police, marked the completion of a vital infrastructure project.

The construction of the NSARTC, which commenced in 2021, was recently concluded at an estimated cost of Nu 186.6 million, generously funded by the European Union. Speaking at the inauguration, Home Secretary Sonam Wangyel emphasized the timeliness of establishing the center in response to the growing threats posed by various hazards, underscoring the potential impacts on lives, livelihoods, and properties.

“His Majesty The King has consistently reminded us of the vulnerable state of Bhutan,” noted Sonam Wangyel. “In line with this, the NSARTC will enhance the overall preparedness of the response teams to undertake Search and Rescue (SAR) operations effectively and will provide an internationally certified search and rescue course.”

The NSARTC aims to serve as a hub for the formation of qualified SAR teams in accordance with the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) guidelines. Home Secretary Wangyel expressed his vision for the center to become a beacon of excellence, welcoming individuals from neighboring countries to participate alongside Bhutanese counterparts.

Superintendent of Police at NSARTC, Lt. Colonel Karma Samten, highlighted the center’s objectives, emphasizing the creation of a pool of professional SAR responders. The goal is to enhance preparedness for a wide array of natural disasters and position at least one SAR team in every dzongkhag equipped with basic SAR tools.

Choki Tashi, Deputy Chief Programme Officer at the Department of Local Governance and Disaster Management (DLGDM), acknowledged the significance of the NSARTC in preparing for natural disasters. “With the signing of the agreement today, the European Union and the police division have a clear understanding of the project and the way forward.”

Initially, the NSARTC will focus on training armed force personnel and de-suups, who have been at the forefront of responding to natural calamities. However, Choki Tashi outlined plans to extend training to communities and gewog levels over time.

The comprehensive training program at NSARTC encompasses mountain SAR, ground SAR, urban SAR, and water SAR. Additionally, the police will offer SAR and disaster-related training to de-suups, Gyalsups, and volunteers upon request from the Home Ministry.

Since 2020, the police have successfully trained five batches consisting of 221 de-suups, highlighting the ongoing commitment to building a skilled and resilient SAR force.

The establishment of the NSARTC is mandated by the Disaster Management Act of 2013, reinforcing the government’s dedication to strengthening Bhutan’s disaster response capabilities. As the NSARTC takes its place on the national stage, it heralds a new era of preparedness and collaboration in the face of unforeseen challenges.

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