While the government is quick to respond to a natural disaster, its rehabilitation process is often slow, at times forgotten altogether

As the dust begins to settle in Bara and Parsa, the site of a major natural disaster in south central Nepal last week, it has come to light that a tornado, the first ever recorded in Nepal, had caused the massive devastation of the area. A tornado is a cloud that moves at speeds of more than 100 kilometres per hour in circular motion, and upon hitting the ground, the funnel will suck up anything, blowing away houses, buses and trees. Nepal’s topography normally does not allow the formation of such a rare weather situation, but now that the country has experienced one, the Nepalis will have to live with it and learn to minimise the loss of life and destruction it causes to property and farms. Can the people be alerted about an impending tornado? Quite unlike other weather situations, such as a typhoon, hurricane or cyclone, an advance tornado warning can’t be sounded as it is not possible to pinpoint where it will strike. But what the people can do is take the necessary precautions when the weather begins to deteriorate and a tornado is suspect.

In recent years, Nepal has witnessed freaky weather of all sorts – windstorm, heat wave, drought, snow in the capital and now a tornado. Could they have been caused by climate change that the global community is talking so much about? If yes, then are we in for more of such extreme weather conditions in the days ahead? For instance, there is a high risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in Nepal due to global warming, which could cause massive loss of life and property downstream. Other water-induced natural disasters, such as floods in the Terai and landslides in the hills, are a recurring phenomenon year after year. What all this points to, is that the country should have a well-prepared response mechanism in place, capable of responding immediately to any type of natural disaster in its aftermath.

In the federal set-up, disaster preparedness should be the responsibility of the three tiers of government – local, provincial and federal. With the monsoon just months away, warehouses necessary for storing such emergency goods as tents and other gadgets need to be constructed in those provinces that do not have one. The local government is obliged to set aside 5 per cent of the budget provided by the centre on disaster preparedness and management. And it might need to speed up the procurement process of basic supplies. While the government is quick to respond to a natural disaster, its rehabilitation process is often slow, at times forgotten altogether. In many places, those displaced by floods and landslides are left to fend for themselves in the open once the rescue and relief operation is over. In such a situation, there is every possibility of the affected people slipping back into poverty. In the case of Bara and Parsa, the victims have not been displaced. So helping to rebuild their homes and providing them with food and agro inputs will help their life to rebound. As Nepal is prone to disasters, it behooves the government to set up an all-powerful authority to take care of not only the rescue and relief operations but also the long-term rehabilitation of those affected.

Dearth of doctors

Citing uncertainty over future career development, most of the doctors have opted to be part of the federal government. A doctors’ strike in the government hospitals has left thousands of out-patients and others who were scheduled to undergo surgery in the lurch. It is reported that around 50,000 patients were affected across the country after the government doctors launched a strike a couple of days ago, demanding they not be transferred to the provincial and local levels. Talks with the Ministry of Health and Population have failed to address their concerns.

The condition of the health facilities in the Far-West province is even worse. Out of the 87 quotas for doctors in the province, 79 of them have opted to work under the central government. Only eight doctors have agreed to work under the Far-West provincial government, which handles as many as 12 hospitals. The government must allay the fears of the doctors who have said that they would not be posted elsewhere once they are transferred to a particular province. Every doctor has the right to pursue professional development. This is a genuine demand the government should address by making timely amendment to the adjustment law.