As the monsoon is still active, we can expect more loss of life and damage to property and physical infrastructures
The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DoHM) had predicted that this year's monsoon would receive more than average rainfall and had also anticipated that more than 1.8 million people would be directly affected by the expected downpours across the country. When the monsoon started in the second week of June, as many as 40 people were killed in Sindhupalchowk on June 15 after the swollen Melamchi River carried debris, mud and rocks, and buried or washed away entire Melamchi bazaar, destroying the headworks of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project and several bridges along the river. As per the latest report prepared by the Nepal Police, as many as 119 people have been confirmed killed, and 28 are still missing across the country. Of the total missing, 20 are from Sindhupalchowk district alone. The report says 116 people have suffered injuries, a total of 5,924 people of 1,209 families have been displaced, 3,180 houses inundated, 900 houses and 153 animal sheds have suffered damage while 1,087 cattle have been killed due to the incessant rainfall in the last three months. The Nepal Police report states that as many as 60 motorable bridges have collapsed while eight community and 14 government buildings have suffered damage as a result of the monsoon rains, which triggered flash floods and inundation in most parts of the country.
Normal life in Nawalparasi (East and West), Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts was thrown out of gear following the heavy downpours since Thursday. The East-West Highway, the country's lifeline, has been submerged in the flooded waters in Nawalparasi (West) while a bridge also caved in due to the heavy floods in the Godhaha River near Butwal. The local administrations say villages, towns and paddy planted on thousands of bighas of land have been inundated as the area has received the heaviest rainfall of up to 434 mm within 24 hours. Details of the colossal damage caused by the heavy rainfall in the three Tarai districts have yet to be compiled as the flood waters have not receded yet. A large part of the districts have also been inundated due to man-made structures, such roads, houses and compound walls, which blocked natural flow of the flood waters for a long period. As the monsoon is still active, we can expect more loss of life and damage to property and physical infrastructures.
It is beyond anyone's guess how much money it would require to rebuild or repair the bridges and highways damaged by the natural disaster. They need to be repaired or rebuilt without further delay to ensure the smooth movement of both people and goods across the country. However, the government, which has yet to take full shape, has not announced any additional budget for rebuilding the damaged highways, bridges and other infrastructures, such as repairing the headworks of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project. The government should also announce financial package to the displaced families for their resettlement at safer places with livelihood support. As monsoon-related natural disasters are a yearly phenomenon, the government should come up with a long-term plan of action to mitigate such disasters and to rehabilitate the displaced people.
NC's laudable move
It has finally dawned on the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) party that student politics is destroying Nepal's education system, and the proposed report of its national education policy aims at keeping teachers, professors and students away from party politics.
Since the reinstatement of multi-party democracy in 1990, student and teacher unions have been a part and parcel of all political parties, including the Nepali Congress. And the destructive politics carried out in the educational institutions, especially government ones, at the behest of the party leadership is largely responsible for the poor learning environment prevailing in the country.
Students engage in politics at an early age because that is the short-cut to power. Nearly all leaders of the political parties were at one time student leaders, including the incumbent Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, who spent more time in political activities like shutting down colleges than studying. Now that the Education Department of the NC has made public its report, it must not back away from implementing it even under pressure from the young cadres.
Other parties would do well to follow suit if education in the country is to improve.
A version of this article appears in the print on August 30 2021, of The Himalayan Times.