EDITORIAL: Not enough

Television footage of the rice distributed in some areas shows spoiled rice, and such are the allegations also as to the distribution of clothes

Some health officials are reported to have ruled out the possibility of any epidemic of water-borne diseases in the flood-affected areas. Probably that will prove true in the days to come. But it may be premature to say so with an air of certainty. After huge floods inundated large tracts of land, spread of diseases among many people is often seen, and doctors have rightly advised people to be extra careful. Sever kinds of water-borne diseases like diarrhea and cholera might break out as a large number of people along the southern belt of the country, covering most districts, and several hill districts as well, have been affected by floods, apart from a significant number of people becoming the victims of landslides. Though reports of illnesses being suffered by people in flood-hit areas do not yet give any signs of an epidemic, the reported number of those falling sick is, however, significant, pointing to the need to take adequate measures that ensure prompt delivery of health services, including medicines, in all flood-hit areas. Health officials are saying that there are ample stocks of medicines at health facilities and district, regional and central medical stores in the country.

This is assuring news. But there should also be adequate numbers of health workers, including doctors, with easy access for people of flood-hit areas to seek and get medical care when they need it. There is also an urgent need to maintain sanitary conditions for the people of the flood-hit areas, including the provision of pure drinking water and nutritious and unspoiled food. As the season is very hot in the Tarai, many people need assistance to get protection from mosquito bites, which can cause various diseases like malaria and dengue. A number of people have lost their houses, their standing crops, their belongings or their livestock, all or some of them. They no longer have a shelter and they have been, for example, living on the roadsides. Even in normal conditions, the sanitary conditions of the houses of the very poor people leave much to be desired, the flood havoc has made the situation horrifying. According to government officials, water-purifying tablets and water jars are being distributed in the flood-hit areas.

The government is indeed doing all this. Concern is, however, over whether the quantities of such relief materials are being adequately distributed among all the flood-affected people. The question of adequacy also arises as to the quantities of food, their kind and their quality. Television footage of the rice distributed in some areas shows spoiled rice, and such are the allegations also as to the distribution of clothes. As soon as such malpractices become known, immediate action must be taken against the guilty. Good coordination is also very important. But the lack of  fear of being punished for committing criminal acts, such as the distribution of inedible food, has further encouraged unscrupulous officials to continue to indulge in their nefarious practices. This kind of impunity happened also during the relief distribution to earthquake victims in various affected districts two years ago. Why the government is too weak to take stern action against such offenders raises suspicion in the minds of the general people.

Overhead cables

Overhead cables hanging precariously from utility poles are not only an eye sore but pose dangers for pedestrians and vehicles. The cable television distributors and Internet service providers have been asked to remove them from the utility poles. A public notice to this effect has been issued. Thousands of electric and telecommunications poles in the capital city along with street light poles have cables attached to them. The concerned would be required to manage the hanging cables by September. Government entities would work together to manage and remove the cables many of them have been there for years.

Thus, under a pilot project of the Ministry of Energy underground power lines are being laid in places like Maharajgunj and Ratnapark Power Distribution Centres. This would help resolve the present practice of having risky overhead cables. As for now, the NEA and NT have decided to terminate their contract with the Internet and cable television distributors which permits them to use the utility poles for fixing the cables. The NEA is now required to lay cables underground. Works to this effect to deal with the overhead cables hanging from the utility poles should be expedited as soon as possible.