EDITORIAL: Out in the cold

Measures like distributing warm clothes, blankets and firewood after cold snaps start claiming lives and taking a toll on people are but cold comfort

A fierce cold wave has tightened its grip on various Tarai districts. The brutal spell of cold snap has claimed 11 lives in Saptari and Siraha in the last five days. Hundreds of people have fallen ill. Children and the elderly have been affected the most. Deaths due to severe cold in districts along the Tarai plains are reported every year during winter. A cold wave is a natural phenomenon and it occurs every year when temperatures suddenly plummet, especially within a 24-hour period. The severity at times is so high that the vulnerable require immediate protection, or else the cold snap could be fatal. It is sad that despite people losing their lives to the cold spell every year, there has been very weak preparedness on the part of the state and other concerned.

The government agencies and various non-government organisations come forward during winter to distribute blankets and firewood to protect people from biting cold. Some social organisations also collect warm clothes for distributing them in the affected areas. However, these measures, as often has been seen, are taken only after cold snaps start taking a toll on the people. Such help oftentimes turns out to be too little too late; or just cold comfort. It must be noted that the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development on November 26 had issued a circular to all district coordination committees, municipalities and rural municipalities to take required measures to prevent the loss of lives due to cold waves. People, particularly the poor, who cannot afford warm clothes to keep themselves warm, are more vulnerable, read the circular. It is incumbent on the government to protect all the citizens, especially the poor, from all kinds of hazards including cold snaps. The Nepal Disaster Report, 2016, has identified cold wave as one of the various hazards that the country is exposed to.

Staying indoors as much as possible, wearing several layers of warm clothing or wrapping oneself with blankets, keeping oneself warm in front of a fire, covering head, as most of the heat is lost through the top of the head and covering mouth to protect lungs are some of the measures that can save people from the intense cold wave. While offering help to the affected, the state and other non-government/social organisations also need to ramp up efforts to raise awareness and inform people about the ways to protect themselves from cold snaps. According to hospitals in Siraha and Saptari, number of people with the complaints of common cold, fever and other cold-related respiratory problems has increased in the last few days with the sudden drop in temperature. This is just the start of the cold wave and it is likely to sweep across the country for about a month or two until the winter lasts. There is an immediate need of reaching out to the poor and the affected and doing all that is possible to protect them from freezing cold and saving them from losing their lives. Above all, deaths due to cold conditions are unacceptable; the state and all other concerned must pay heed to strengthen preparedness and response to hazards like cold waves and prevent loss of lives.

Saving red panda

Locals of Gurja in Dhaulagiri Rural Municipality in Myagdi district are gearing up to conserve red panda, a rare animal species, found in the remote community forest. Until a few years ago, people used to hunt the rare species for their hide, not knowing about the animal and its importance to maintain ecological balance. The locals came to know about the importance of conserving red panda after Red Panda Network and Himali Conservation Forum reached out them and launched an awareness campaign.

As part of its awareness campaign, the Forum also runs extra class for students on the endangered animal. The rural municipality has also decided to provide training to the locals about ways of conserving the rare animal and it has also allocated budget for the increment of their population. Red pandas are sighted in forests around Mt Dhaulagiri. The Red Panda Conservation Committee has been conducting regular patrols in the area against poaching of red panda. The population of red panda, found at an altitude of 4,800 metres, is estimated to be around 200 in Gurja and Lulang. It is a protected animal species and is found in 24 Himali districts. The efforts made by the local level are a welcome step.