Nepal disaster evokes challenges for SCM
The rescue operations carried out by supply chain companies have provided a glimmer of hope to the grim situation in Nepal. The terrain poses logistical challenges as providing aid to the remotest corners of the mountainous nation is not easy. In this sit
The devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015 and the recurring tremors on May 12, 2015 ripped life in Kathmandu Valley apart, thousands died and many were rendered homeless. In a pure logistics sense, this earthquake has done a lot of damage to the country that has a tough mountainous terrain. As humanitarian relief supply chains are finding it difficult to transport relief material to the earthquake-hit areas in Nepal, Alex Marianelli, Senior Logistics Coordinator, Nepal Earthquake Response, World Food Programme says, “United Nations has been sending relief through various supply chain companies and humanitarian organisations around the world to the survivors of the quake. Logistical hurdles are there due to poor quality of roads that have been reduced to rubble in the quake. The situation has grown worse due to traffic and weight restrictions at the Kathmandu airport.”
The complications involved in providing food, medicine along with other essential supplies is only aggravated owing to the congestion at the Tribhuvan Kathmandu International Airport. Due to cracks appearing on the runway of Nepal’s only international airport, restrictions have been observed on the big jets carrying relief material. The strict weight restriction has added to the chaos as this is the only gateway for the international aid community to send relief to Nepal. Talking about the need for coordination of increasing supplies and ensuring swift and organised handling of the aid, Chris
Weeks, Director for Humanitarian Affairs, Deutsche Post DHL Group informs, “The Disaster Response Team takes care of a crucial part in the relief effort chain. When we first arrived, we had a big job to do in cleaning up the congested tarmac area which was filled with relief supplies – this is critical in an emergency situation. We implemented a system to maximise the use of limited resources for ongoing relief efforts. We also set up processes to meet the cargo at the airside to make the necessary arrangements in the fastest possible time.”
Hitting the road
Besides the congestion at the airport, other factors impeding the speed of delivery of relief material are the lack of necessary equipments and resources. Sending relief material by air has become challenging and alternate sources are being devised by the logistics service providers. Vishal Anand, Director-North & East, Agility Global Integrated Logistics informs, “The best and the most effective way to move humanitarian cargo is via road.”
Companies involved in bringing aid are also using roads to distribute their supplies to the farthest and remote corners of the landlocked country. DP Agarwal, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, TCI briefs, “Logistically, transportation via road is the best available option for Nepal. Though it may take relatively more time sending relief material by road, the material can reach remote locations door-to-door.” As supply companies from all over the world are exploring all options and routes to make available the necessities to the quake-stricken survivors, Agarwal adds, “With the amount of material (water, medicines, food) being sent
by people from across the country, the road network is the most viable option for Nepal.”
Adopting new routes for getting in relief material
New ways and means are being adopted for smooth deliveries to Nepal keeping in mind its mountainous terrain and geographical location.
Deepak Baid, Director, Siddhi Vinayak Logistic expresses, “People across the country were keen to donate items for Nepal relief. Initially it was a challenge to cover all areas in India to collect parcels, but our team strategically planned and completed the process. The trucks are being unloaded at Raxaul where the army takes charge of the goods sent. From there the goods will be sending forward to Birganj where volunteers of relief camps will distribute them to the affected areas.”
There is limited access to the affected areas by both road and air.
Franck Dedenis, Managing Director for Maersk (India and Sri Lanka) elucidates, “As train movement between Kolkata and ICD Birgunj continues unaffected, Indian railways has increased movement of bulk and container trains on the sector. Maersk Line is helping customers take advantage of this arrangement, by allowing empty containers at ICD Birgunj.”
But Logistics Service Providers already operating in Nepal, and wishing to provide its services to the humanitarian communities providing services, have a different experience to share. Thomas Murray, Managing Director, Flash Freight Logistics puts forward, “We are sending escort volunteers along with the cargo to the affected areas. Landslides are being cleared by the government so it helps us to reach the destinations. We are also sending cargo in pickups as most of the roads are gravelled in the terrain. Helicopter services are the only way where one can provide relief material to remote places; they need not land but just drop the relief material where needed.”
Learning from the past
The scale of disasters like the 2004 South East Asia tsunami and 2010 Haiti earthquake have indeed taught a lot about unseen logistical hurdles, the weaknesses in meticulously planned supply chains and the need for managing the various supply chain activities in extreme volatile conditions.
The speed of response in a country where infrastructure has collapsed and the extent to which supply chains turn fragile are highlighted in the aftermath of such a disaster. Marianelli stresses, “The chaos that follows as a result of disaster despite the response teams being in place only teaches us about the level of coordination required between the various government and non-government organisations along with various other agencies who rush in to give help to the affected areas.”
Preparing for the future
Nepal is continuously getting support from relief operations by various countries that are working in close coordination with its government. The difficult road networks are a hurdle in providing humanitarian aid to remote villages. The country’s geography makes it vulnerable to earthquakes, landslides and other natural disasters. Issues like climate change and increasing population in pockets like Kathmandu valley are factors that need to be addressed. As the country learns lessons to tackle such catastrophe in future, Agarwal advises, “In order to ensure its own better future, Nepal needs to implement stronger enforcement of construction rules. Learning from countries like Chile and Japan, and seeking collaboration for disaster risk reduction, would also be a great step.”
Shoring up supply chain for the future
As supply chain companies aim to provide logistics to any part of the country which needs assistance, the priority of the non-government organisations working on relief operations, in close coordination with the government, is to help those affected with basic necessities as food, blankets, tarps, and clean drinking water. But gearing up the supply chain for future is also necessary. Anand explains, “Long-term strategy will be to work closely with the Nepal government to build strategy to rehabilitate them by building houses.”
That human life is uncertain and precarious is quite evident from the various calamities the country has already suffered and is now banking on efficient logistics for necessary supplies.
Vishal Anand Director-North & East Agility Global Integrated Logistics
Chris Weeks Director for Humanitarian Affairs Deutsche Post DHL Group
Alex Marianelli Senior Logistics Coordinator, Nepal Earthquake Response, World Food Programme
DP Agarwal Vice Chairman & Managing Director TCI
Deepak Baid Director Siddhi Vinayak Logistic
Thomas Murray Managing Director Flash Freight Logistics
Franck Dedenis Managing Director Maersk (India and Sri Lanka)