A stitch in time saves nine
Government’s disaster preparedness, or lack thereof, has again led to loss of lives and livelihood in the wake of the recent floods
The floods and landslides triggered by incessant rain in eastern, central and western Terai region of the country on August 11 and August 12 has resulted in death of more than 123 people while more than 35 have gone missing. The continually rising death toll, displacement of more than 100,000 families and destruction of thousands of homes has raised questions over the government’s inability to cope with disaster through preparedness and preventive measures. As the government engages in relief distribution and rehabilitation schemes, it is significant to review the country’s disaster preparedness mechanism because over the years, whether it is the Mahakali flood in 2013 or the earthquake of 2015, the state has failed to learn lessons from the past and has not upgraded its disaster preparedness system.
“Sustainable development, separate drainage for monsoon flood and integrated settlements should be prioritised to mitigate the impact of natural disasters”
Surya Raj Acharya, Infrastructure Expert
Affect on agricultural production
The floods and landslides will have a greater impact on the agricultural sector as cereal crops and vegetables planted on thousands of hectares of land in the Terai region have been destroyed. Nepal Rastra Bank has set a target of 7.2 per cent of economic growth in the ongoing fiscal year and has also instructed banks and financial institutions to allocate 10 per cent of their credit lending for the agricultural sector. However, the destruction of crops due to floods will hamper the government’s plan and make it difficult for private sector to invest in the agricultural field.
Crops, such as paddy, maize, and vegetables are mainly grown in the districts of Terai such as Jhapa, Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Morang, Sarlahi, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Chitwan, Ramechhap, Bara, Parsa, Rupandehi but the farmlands in these districts have been inundated in the wake of the recent floods.
According to the preliminary report unveiled by the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD), planted crops worth Rs 8 billion has been destroyed by the heavy rainfall in Terai districts. The MoAD report prepared after evaluating the 31 flood- affected districts of Terai shows that the floods have affected 47,226 hectares of farm land which will impact the production of paddy in the current fiscal year because the report also shows that paddy worth more than 3.18 billion has been destroyed.
The floods have also affected local mills and factories, disconnected road links and damaged stored grains. This is likely to increase the possibility of inflation in the market. A Senior Economist and the Secretary General of National Economic Association, Gopal Prasad Tiwari says, “Natural disasters always hamper the course of agricultural sector because it displaces the work force which leads to low production. The economic sector also suffers because low production leads to inflation and black marketing of goods. The recent flood in Terai will result in shortage of food and lack of investment in the long run because many people have lost their investments and will hesitate to invest again.”
The government should not delay in setting up a separate body to deal with natural disasters and also formulate national framework to strengthen disaster preparedness. The absence of decentralised framework has resulted in the lack of coordination among government authorities. Thus, a proper mechanism with the task of mitigating disasters’ impact and arranging resources for immediate response will ease relief and rescue process and also upgrade Nepal’s resistance against natural disaster. It’s time Nepal adopts sustainable and long-term planning for natural disaster management and allocates sufficient resources to tackle natural calamities that affect peoples’ lives and hamper Nepal’s development.