A permanent body like the NRA should be formed at the centre to oversee the resettlement of the displaced families
Monsoon-related natural disasters such as floods, landslides and inundation render hundreds of families homeless every year. But the central government's preparedness to deal with this perennial problem appears to be patchy, unplanned and, in most cases, unresponsive to the victims of such disasters.
The government's response to the natural disasters is limited only to immediate rescue and relief operations, and after that the disaster victims are left to fend for themselves. In most of the cases, the disaster victims lose not only their houses, but also their farmlands on which they depend for their survival.
Without the support from the government, such families cannot break the vicious cycle of poverty.
This is the main reason behind the number of poor families growing every year. The government unveils the annual budget without provision of an emergency fund to provide support to those who are rendered homeless by the natural disasters. This year's early monsoon wreaked havoc in the Melamchi area, rendering hundreds of families homeless after a massive flood and debris buried their houses built on the banks of the Melamchi River. One week after the June 15 floods, then prime minister KP Sharma Oli visited the Melamchi area and announced Rs 50,000 in cash to each of the families whose houses were swept away by the floods or buried under the rubble. But the amount has yet to reach the affected families.
Following yet another massive flood coupled with mud and debris flow swept away a bridge in the highlands of Helambu and inundated the bazaar area below, Melamchi Municipality has issued a public notice telling the locals to move to safer places. One-and-ahalf months after the first flood, the municipality has just started collecting details of the flood-affected people and deposited Rs 25,000 to Rs 10,000 in the bank accounts of the affected people as per their classification. The municipality has arranged temporary accommodation for them in public schools. All these are temporary measures which will not help the affected families return to normal life immediately. What they need right now is permanent shelter and farmland.
The flood-affected people first need a permanent and safe location where they can build their own houses. The scale of the destruction is so massive that the local level alone is incapable of relocating them to safer areas. The central government must come up with a master plan to address the problem of displacement of hundreds of families. The government needs to find a safe public place where these families can be settled permanently with livelihood support from the centre until they become self-reliant.
A permanent body like the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), which was created following the 2015 earthquake, should be formed at the central level so that it can manage and oversee the overall resettlement and rehabilitation of the families displaced by the natural disasters across the country.
The resettlement programme must be carried out possibly close to the areas from where they were displaced.
At the same time, the government must impose a total ban on building houses and other permanent structures close to the river banks.
The police rounded up 51 persons for bike-lifting last fiscal year in the Kathmandu Valley, a crime that is only likely to grow in the future. During the period, a total of 418 lost motorcycles were retrieved from various places, which could be just the tip of the iceberg. Motorcycles were often stolen from hospital premises, party venues, busy market places and solitary places, according to police. While the racketeers were arrested through a special operation conducted by the law enforcement agency, it would be futile to expect the police to keep an eye on the more than million bikes plying the roads of the Kathmandu Valley.
With growing unemployment in the country, bike-lifting could be just another lucrative business for the youths. That there is a growing racket involved in the trade means there is a market for stolen motorcycles.
Still others could be disassembled and their parts sold at a lower price. Apparently, not all vehicles stolen will be found; therefore, the owners themselves must take extra precautions and put a reliable security system in place so that their motorcycles do not fall easy prey to bike-lifters. The police can't be blamed for failing to retrieve all stolen bikes.
A version of this article appears in the print on August 6 2021, of The Himalayan Times.