A thorough study of the mountains is needed to ascertain the cause of landslides and floods in different parts of Nepal

For the second time in six weeks, flash floods in the Melamchi River have once again brought misery to Sidhupalchowk district, with the inhabitants of Melamchi Bazaar and the villages of Helambu having to scurry to safety at short notice Saturday night.

However, unlike in the June 14-15 flood that killed 24 people in Melamchi Bazaar, there were no casualties Saturday night, as the people were warned of the rising water levels beforehand, giving just enough time for the residents living on the river banks to abandon their homes. However, the flash flood swept away 18 homes, including nine concrete ones, in Helambu's highlands and Melamchi Bazaar, taking all household goods with them. Worse still, vehicular movement has stopped in the area altogether as the Red Bridge, the lifeline of Helambu area, has been washed away. All other bridges in the area were destroyed in the June floods.

The locals of the region no longer feel safe and don't know whose turn it is next to see their house float down the river. At least 40 houses at Gyalthum are said to be at risk of being swept away should the flood continue. As in the June floods, Sunday's flash flood followed a landslide upstream at Bhimthang, tapping a large mass of water, which eventually gave away to cause great devastation downstream. The floods have also caused damage to the headworks of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project at Ambathan where the pipeline that delivers water from the Melamchi to the tunnel is under at least 10 metres of silt. With roads and bridges to the headworks washed away, it is uncertain if the Melamchi project that has been in the making for the last 22 years can start delivering water to the Kathmandu Valley even by next year.

Of particular concern during the floods on the Melamchi is the flow of thick muddy water. Experts say the monsoon rains alone could not have been the cause of the devastating floods in the area. According to experts, locals and provincial assembly members who visited the source of the Melamchi floods in June, stones and soil brought down by the glaciers have been piling up in the mountainous upper region of Sindhupalchowk district to form a heap. Are these deposits of silt and stones on the mountains, which are in a ruinous state, becoming active and causing the devastating floods downstream, not only in Sindhupalchowk but elsewhere as well? All this calls for a thorough study of the mountains to ascertain the cause of landslides and floods in the different districts of Nepal. Through such studies, the government has the onus to plan safe settlements free of landslides, floods and other natural disasters that Nepal is prone to. The local government must be prevented from carrying out construction, especially roads, at will, regardless of what mandate the new constitution has given it. And to stay on the safe side, the people too must stop building houses anywhere they feel like. The colossal loss of lives and destruction of property, amounting to life-long savings, could have been prevented if the central government, local authorities and the people had not been a party to the haphazard construction taking place in the country.

Avoid gatherings

With the number of coronavirus cases surging again after a lull, the Tanahun District Administration Office (DAO) has urged all to observe the upcoming festivals at home. The district has also been hit hard by the spread of the virus at the community level, and some of the people have been found to have contracted the new delta variant. Keeping in mind the upcoming festivals, such as Teej and Janai Purnima, the DAO has urged people not to organise any gatherings in the name of observing the festivals.

It has also appealed to the people to avoid visiting tourist spots such as Devghat and Damaulighat, where a large number of people gather during the festivals. Anyone not abiding by the order will face legal action as per the law.

It is the duty of all citizens to abide by the law to stay safe from the virus that has already claimed the lives of more than 9,800 people since early last year.

Although the anti-COVID-19 vaccination drive is in full swing across the country, the disease cannot be brought under full control unless the general people follow the health protocols. Wearing face masks, keeping a six-feet distance from one another while venturing out of home and washing hands regularly may greatly help in keeping the virus at bay.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 3 2021, of The Himalayan Times.