EDITORIAL: Monsoon woes

Role of the government is important as it can set things moving to take recommended science-based and community-driven approaches to the minimization of risks

Days after the monsoon started some deaths and devastation has been left behind by floods and landslides. The rainy season is to stay here about three months, and the high monsoon period is yet to arrive. Given the generally poor condition of the roads across the country, including the much used Prithvi Highway, which links the capital city with the Tarai and other parts of the country along the way, traversing most of them has been made more difficult by the rains. When the mountains and hills get rain, floods sweep down, causing havoc along the way, including the country’s plains. With the monsoon intensifying, the threat of floods and landslides is looming larger over the country. Several people have already lost their lives in floods and landslides very recently.

Floods and landslides are natural disasters, but they have been more frequent and deadlier because of man’s increasing encroachment on nature and violations of its laws. There has not been foolproof protection against the fury of heavy rain, and resulting floods and landslides. Even the most advanced countries in the world are not totally safe from it, but they have taken enough protective measures to minimize the toll of death and devastation. Nepal has fallen far behind. Heavy rain, flood and landslides take their annual high tolls in a country where dry landslides have started striking with greater frequency as the holding capacity of soil has been weakened by human encroachment and the major earthquakes of 2015. But all this should not serve as a cover for the lack of seriousness of successive governments in building strong protections against the havoc that may be created by floods and landslides. A number of measures should be taken, such as the construction of adequate embankments on vulnerable sections of rivers and streams and along the hilly roads, the installation of effective flood warning systems, encouraging development of cluster settlements in hilly and mountainous regions, avoiding construction of houses on vulnerable spots, and encouraging further afforestation to strengthening the holding capacity of soil.

Nepal is chiefly a mountainous country dotted with many glacial lakes. Climate change has affected the behavior of floods, landslides and glacial lakes in the country, which necessitates further measures to minimize the risks they pose. A recent study conducted by an American professor has found at least 11 lakes at very high risk and 31 at high risk, and it concludes that there must be a strong and effective coordination between the scientific community and the local residents to provide the locals with better information on risk, hazards and other possible consequences of glacial lake outburst floods. The role of the government is more important as it can set things moving to take the recommended science-based and community-driven approaches to the minimization of these risks which, when they become a reality, could cause widespread damage. All sources of these hazards should be taken into consideration. But willpower of those who can make real change in this respect, those in positions of power, is more important than anything else. But herein lies the main problem.

Keep it up

There are numerous cases of patients being abandoned at Bir Hospital. There are some helpers who take care of such patients, but they have so far failed to get recognition for the good work they are doing. Many of these helpers put their life at risk by caring for those with highly contagious diseases like Hepatitis B  and HIV/AIDS. Most of the patients are left to fend for themselves by their families. According to the records available as many as three to four patients are abandoned at the emergency ward every day. The hospital has facilities for such abandoned patients with two beds being allocated for them. However, some patients stay in these wards for more than a week.

As such, it is essential to have more beds to cater for the patients who are abandoned. Those patients abandoned by their near and dear ones come mostly from impoverished families in the rural areas in particular who also happen to be uneducated. Such patients can be seen staying on the passageways as they do not find enough space. Thus, there should be more helpers and these social workers need accolades for the wonderful work they are doing.