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Press Release: 4 December 2023, Singapore

The first Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) Program was successfully completed at Paro International Airport from 27 November to 1 December. The GARD program was made possible with the cooperation between various partners such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bhutan, World Food Programme (WFP) Bhutan, International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers (IFATCA), lead trainer DHL Group, in-country advocate Department of Air Transport (DoAT), Department of local governance and disaster management (DLDGM) and the support of Airports Council International (ACI) Asia Pacific and Middle East.
The GARD Program is a global public-private partnership aimed at supporting airports in planning for their role as logistical hubs in the event of disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires, and landslides, as well as integrating the airport's role in national emergency plans.
The first GARD Program in the country saw around 50 participants in a four-day workshop covering both theory and practice, including an assessment of the airport’s maximum processing capacity (goods and passengers). The participants worked on various topics including identifying potential bottlenecks, and action measures to quickly increase capacity in case of a disaster.
“Disasters including earthquake are becoming more common and intense. Airports are critical logistical hubs for immediate disaster response and relief efforts. As Bhutan’s only international airport, enhancing disaster preparedness of the Paro airport is urgent. UNDP is proud to have joined hands with the RGoB, DHL as UNDP’s global partner, and WFP to undertake Get Airport Ready for Disasters Program. This is a timely support which aligns with UNDP’s ongoing work with the Royal Government aimed at advancing risk-informed development,” said Mohammad Younus, UNDP Resident Representative.

“WFP and our partners know how critical it is to support emergency airport logistics, operations and infrastructure against unforeseen challenges by implementing the Get Airport Ready for Disaster (GARD) initiative. GARD is a crucial framework for improving airport preparedness and resilience globally in an era characterized by increasing climate variability and other potential threats. GARD is an all-encompassing approach to disaster preparedness designed with the airport environment in mind. GARD provides airports with resources and expertise required to respond quickly and effectively to a range of emergencies by combining cutting-edge technologies, training procedures, and backup plans,” said Dechen Yangzom, PPO for Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Located in a small valley between mountains, Paro International Airport is recognised as one of the most perilous and challenging airports in the world. Only 20 pilots are qualified to fly in and out of the airport. As Bhutan is highly vulnerable to earthquakes and floods, it was critical to prepare the airport and its staff to handle humanitarian aids coming through in the event of a disaster.

“DoAT and BCAA are collaborating with WFP, UNDP, DHL, IFATCA and Airport Council International for this important Get Airports Ready for Disaster workshop,” said Karma Wangchuk, Director General.

“The GARD program aims to get as many airports as possible in high-risk countries prepared for disaster. We are happy to see Bhutan participating with the support of our partners. The location of the airport presents unique challenges and we have worked with the local team in getting them disaster ready. We are encouraged that this workshop will contribute considerably to the country's efforts to create a robust disaster resilience standard for its airport,” said Carl Schelfhaut, Head of the GoHelp Program for Asia Pacific, DHL.

Established in 2009, GARD aims to echo the demand for airport preparedness and response capacity of transportation hubs in the event of disasters. The program, launched in more than 60 airports in 29 countries, includes training personnel in handling the influx of goods and people during calamities, assisting authorities of the area in relief operations, and assessing the current state of concerned airports.