The unusual rainfall is likely to create a food crisis even in the Tarai region, which is the bread basket of the country

At least 16 people were confirmed killed across the country and 24 others went missing in Bajhang and Doti districts following the torrential post-monsoon rains since Sunday, mainly in the western-, mid- and far-western region. Eight people were killed in Doti alone while three in Baitadi, two in Sunsari, one person each in Dadeldhura and Kalikot lost their lives in the unseasonal rains that triggered heavy floods in the Tarai region and landslides in the hilly areas. The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DoHM) said low pressure had built up in the Gangetic plains due to the eruption of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal coupled with the westerly winds from the Arabian Sea. Several dozen people who were stuck in the flooded areas were airlifted while the floods in the Karnali and Mahakali Rivers gushed into the settlements in Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts, damaging standing and already cut paddy planted on tens of thousands of bighas of land in the Tarai districts, mainly from West-Nawalparasi to Kanchanpur. Vehicular movement on 10 highways has been disrupted in the far-west due to the collapse of more than a dozen bridges while communications and electricity supply in at least seven districts have been cut off as a result of the unusual post-monsoon rainfall, which was the heaviest in the past 11 years, as per the DoHM. Dadeldhura's Sahukharka-based meteorological station recorded the heaviest rainfall with 361 mm in 24 hours, which is the heaviest since 2009.

The most worrying part is the complete damage to the standing paddy crop, the main cereal which contributes around 20 per cent to the national GDP. The crop planted in seven Tarai districts in the west has been completely damaged due to the inundation of the paddy fields.

The farmers who were set to harvest the paddy around this week were seen weeping and also seeking government help so that they can feed their family round the year. The government and the farmers were expecting a bumper paddy harvest compared to the previous years due to the timely arrival and prolonged monsoon. However, the unseasonal rains have dashed the farmers' hopes. This is likely to create a food crisis even in the Tarai region, which is the bread basket of the country, due to the unusual rainfall.

The DoHM, which has been accurate in forecasting the weather in recent times, had predicted heavy downpours in the western regions of the country. But it could not properly relay the information to the farmers, who had already started harvesting their crop well before the downpour. Had the weathermen disseminated the information properly to the farmers, they might have waited until the weather improved and would not have cut the ripened paddy, only to be submerged in the flood waters. As the inclement weather has damaged the paddy crop on vast swaths of the western Tarai belt and the hills, the government must come up with an immediate relief package for the affected farmers, who could invest in the winter crops to make up for the loss of the paddy crop. At the same time, the government should also introduce an insurance policy so that the farmers can recoup the loss of the cereal crops.

Action Plan

The government's draft of the 'Ten-Year National Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities' is intended to develop a disabled-friendly governance system which will empower them economically. The draft should help meet the commitments made at international forums so that they can be part of the decision-making process and enhance their access to employment and public life. The 2011 census puts the disability rate in Nepal at 1.94 per cent, although real figures are said to be much higher.

It's high time we stopped seeing any investment on persons with disabilities as charity. They can make meaningful contribution to the national economy if they were to be assisted as per individual needs. Disabilities come in different forms, with some, such as those with cerebral palsy, requiring extensive care and assistance throughout life. This is where, the government apart, non-governmental organisations and the society must chip in to lessen the burden on the family. While the government has the responsibility to look after all its citizens through legislation, plans and policies, it is equally important that the people and society at large change their attitude towards people living with disabilities.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 21, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.