The government does not have any plan to resettle and rehabilitate the families displaced by natural disasters
Hundreds of low-income families whose livelihood is dependent on agriculture are ritually displaced by floods, landslides or other natural calamities in the Tarai and hill regions year after year.
The government's primary response has been to launch a rescue operation, save the lives of the people and provide them with a relief package, including foodstuffs, tents and medicines, until the first impact of the natural disaster subsides. This has been the routine work of the government that has not changed for decades. It seems as if the government's responsibility is over once the immediate rescue and relief operations are over. Once the four-month-long rainy season comes to an end, the people, who are displaced from their ancestral homes due to the natural disasters, are left in the lurch, and, they have to fend for themselves for the rest of their life. That is why the number of people falling below the poverty line keeps increasing every year. What is most frustrating to note is that these families have no option other than to occupy public lands such as forests and riverbanks, where they build temporary settlements, which become permanent ones after some years.
These areas where they are allowed to settle temporarily are also not safe from the disaster point of view, and they lack basic amenities, such as drinking water, health care, roads and schools.
Most of the people are displaced not due to other reasons, but solely because of landslides and floods, the most common natural disasters the country confronts every year. But the government's response to dealing with this perennial problem – from the partyless Panchayat days to the republican era – has remained unchanged.
The government does not have any plan of systematic resettlement and rehabilitation of the families displaced by the natural disasters. Not a single penny is allocated for the resettlement and rehabilitation of these families who need long-term support for their livelihood. How can a family, whose house or farmland has been swept away either by a landslide or by a flood, build back better without support from the government? Also how can this type of family support their children for a good education or afford quality health care? It might be noted that the government has allocated no budget for emergency response or resettlement of the families who were displaced years ago.
As forecast by the weathermen, this year's monsoon will see more than average rainfall in most parts of the country. It has already unleashed its fury in the first week of its onset. More than 40 people have already been killed in the floods and landslides within a week. We cannot stop the natural disasters, but we can at least mitigate their impact by providing safe places for resettlements and livelihood support to the affected families for a certain period of time or until they build back better. Hundreds of families have now been rendered homeless in Melamchi bazaar and Helambu area after their houses were swept away by the flooded rivers last week or buried under the debris that accumulated in the plains of the Indrawoti River. Now, it is the responsibility of the government to resettle and rehabilitate them in safe places at the earliest.
Protection of Rautes
Nepal is home to 125 ethnic groups and communities that speak 123 languages, making it a culturally rich and diverse country. It is rare to see so many ethnic groups and communities, who follow different religions and traditions, come together and live in harmony with each other. Although there have been efforts to sow the seeds of disharmony among the ethnic groups from time to time, life in Nepal has been largely peaceful. However, it is a pity that the cultures, traditions and languages of certain ethnic groups are on the wane due to outside influences and inability to preserve them for lack of funds.
In such a scenario, it is the responsibility of the state to preserve them as they are the country's assets.
In this context, the integrated policy of the Karnali provincial government to protect the lifestyle of the nomadic Raute community is most welcome.
The move comes following a recent incident where two Raute girls were molested by outsiders. The policy includes managing their food, clothing and accommodation as well as security while prohibiting outsiders from entering their settlements. The policy should ensure their safety and help protect their norms and values at the same time.
A version of this article appears in the print on June 23 2021, of The Himalayan Times.