The problems of flooding and inundation can be minimised provided that the govt guidelines are followed strictly

Midnight flash floods triggered by the torrential downpour for almost four hours wrecked havoc in the Kathmandu Valley on Monday, gushing the flood waters into the low-lying settlements and squatters' areas, damaging property worth millions of rupees. As per the preliminary assessment made by the police, more than 400 houses and vegetable markets were inundated after the flash floods from the major rivers such as Bagmati and Bishnumati gushed into the unplanned low-lying settlements built close to the rivers. The heavy rain, which is said to be the heaviest in 18 years, started from 2:00 a.m.

Monday and lasted for over four hours. The flood affected people could not take their belongings to higher grounds or to first or second floor of their houses as the flash floods gushed into their ground floors all of a sudden. But no human casualty was reported as the floods entred the settlements in the morning when almost all had already got up. It will take a couple of days to remove mud and dirty flood waters from inside their houses and roads.

The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology said Tribhuvan International Airport received 121.5 mm of rain in the last 24 hours and it is considered 'very heavy' which is hazardous with the potential to cause landslide and flooding. Rainfall more than 100 mm in 24 hours is considered very heavy. It was in 1993 when the Kathmandu Valley received the highest rainfall of 540 mm within 24 hours. At that time, the heaviest rainfall ever recorded by the department did not cause much damage to the individual property or physical infrastructure as the banks of the rivers and low-lying areas were less encroached compared to this time. The Kathmandu Valley cannot handle even half the volume of the rainfall that received in 1993. Some of the areas, including Tankeshwor, were inundated due to the piling up of construction materials of a bridge being built close to Paropakar School.

Meteorologists believe the flash floods in the major rivers of the Valley wrecked havoc in the low-lying areas due to the unplanned urbanisation and construction of physical infrastructure that blocked the natural flow of flood waters. Most of the houses were inundated as they have been built by encroaching upon the river banks, without permission from the government agencies. Several governments formed since the restoration of democracy in 1990 failed to relocate the landless squatters to safe areas as they were the vote bank of one or another political parties.

The government is also to blame for the growing inundation problem in the Valley as it has built roads and drainage systems on both sides of all rivers by shrinking width of their banks. On the other hand, riverbeds have also risen due to dumping of waste materials by construction firms and the public that usually block the natural flow of flood waters. The Ministry of Urban Development has issued a guideline telling the local levels not to allow the people tobuild structures very close to the river banks and the landslide-prone areas. The problems associated with flooding and inundation can be greatly minimised provided that the concerned authorities strictly implement the building code and their own guideline.

School reopening

The Kathmandu District Administration Office has decided to allow schools to resume classes with the physical presence of students from September 17. The schools were closed for nearly six months owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Not only in Kathmandu, the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in schools shutting down across the country while teaching-learning activities have been reduced to online classes. As the authorities are set to resume physical classes in Kathmandu, school administrations need to be ready to keep every child safe from the virus.

As local bodies are assigned to monitor school activities, they must oblige all schools and guardians to comply with all the COVID-19 health protocols before letting children join schools. To make parents confident in sending their students back to physical classes, schools must put in place the additional measures to help ensure students, teachers and other staff are safe. Moving classes to temporary spaces and holding school in shifts to reduce class size can be considered as some of the immediate measures to cope with the challenges. Experts have strongly suggested that school re-opening should be consistent with COVID-19 health protocols.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 8 2021, of The Himalayan Times.