EDITORIAL: Mere hogwash

Providing free paddy seeds makes no sense when the monsoon is about to recess and no maize and wheat can be grown in inundated and sandy fields

The incessant rainfall in the second week of August caused heavy damage to standing crops in 31 districts leaving millions of people homeless, as their houses were inundated for weeks, without food, medicine and even drinking water. According to preliminary estimates prepared by the Ministry of Agricultural Development various crops planted on more than 78,500 hectares of land worth Rs. 8.5 billion were destroyed and paddy plantation was the hardest hit as the floods in Tarai districts washed away paddy plantation worth Rs. 3.2 billion and the fertile land has now been converted into barren fields with thick sedimentation. The fishery business which occupied more than 13,000 hectares of land has also been ruined due to floods causing a loss of around Rs. 800 million. It has been almost two weeks since the devastating floods swept away large swaths of fertile land in the plain. But the government agencies are clueless about how much of the population were actually affected and how much resources and how much time it will take to bring the life of the affected families to normalcy. Let alone coming up with a long-term plan of action to rehabilitate the flood affected families,  the government has not even been able to provide immediate relief assistance to those still living under the scorching sun.

Now the ministry has announced subsidy packages to the affected families in which they will be provided with hybrid seeds of paddy, maize, wheat and vegetables to the farmers free of cost to “increase the agricultural production”. How can the government expect agricultural growth by providing hybrid seeds and fertilizers when the farmers have lost everything from their home and standing crops? The government’s first priority should be making an arrangement for shelters, drinking water and health facilities and schools for children. It has announced a package of Rs. 250,000 for the construction of a food market in every flood affected district and Rs. 50,000 per hectare of fishery pond so that farmers can purchase fingerlings. The subsidy packages will be distributed through the District Natural Disaster Relief Committee. But the farmers are required to file applications to receive the subsidy. It means that the government agencies will not be visiting the affected areas; rather it is the hapless farmers who will have to travel to the district headquarters.

The announcement of a subsidy is nothing more than hogwash. It will not help the flood affected families recover from natural disaster. As the standing paddy crop, the main cereal of South Asia, has been destroyed, the government should focus on alternative cash crops so that the farmers can grow on the sandy farmland after the recess of the monsoon. The way the subsidy package has been announced in haste  clearly shows that the ministry officials did not consult the agriculture experts who could have offered far better options than this. Providing free paddy seeds makes no sense when the monsoon is about to recess and no maize and wheat can be grown in inundated and sandy lands. Minister for Agricultural Development Ram Krishna Yadav who has some understanding of agriculture should have been honest by not making statements that yields nothing.

Animals rescued

Although the Kathmandu Valley is turning into a concrete jungle we see more wild animals and birds in the human settlements. At one time the population of these had dwindled to an alarming level but now through the efforts of the Kathmandu District Forest Office (DFO) 2,464 animals and birds have been rescued in the past five years from the capital city. The DFO has managed to apprehend many engaged in the smuggling of wild animal body parts. It has rescued the wildlife and the animals have either been kept in the central zoo or released in the jungles. The poachers released the wildlife into the open after they failed to find clients to buy them.

At present more sightings of leopards have been reported in the valley and many of them even enter human settlements. The leopards go there in search of food. Kathmandu has now turned into a hub for the trafficking of wildlife. Therefore it is essential for the concerned bodies like the DFO to rescue the animals which have wandered from their natural habitat. Of the wild animals so far rescued, 80 per cent of them were from the Valley. The number of leopards rescued has reached 37 in the past five years.