The traditions should not be adopted emotionally. They should be subjected to scientific test and used only after they pass such a test. After being found scientific, this technology has been used in Siranchok Rural Municipality of Gorkha district at the initiation of Disaster Prevention Network and Care International at a cost far less than that of prevailing modern practices
Nepal is reeling under floods and landslides at a time when it not yet back on its toe after being brought down to its knees by the second wave of the coronavirus. It is thus fighting a near to losing battle on three fronts at the same time.
Though many places have been affected by the monsoon rains, Melamchi has assumed the centre stage due to the widespread devastation in this city. What is worse, the Melamchi Drinking Water Supply Project, which had started delivering drinking water after years of impatient waiting, has again come to a standstill to the inconvenience of the people.
Nepal has nobody to blame but itself for the present state of affairs.
The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology had predicted long before that the rains were going to be more intense this year. Even last year, near to 400 people had lost their lives to these twin natural disasters, floods and landslides.
Nepal has been experiencing pouring monsoon rains since time immemorial, which begin in trickles but suddenly transform into torments. So one gets a feeling of déjà vu while talking about the havoc caused by the monsoon.
Lack of preparedness is responsible for this state of affairs. Like the popular song Johnny come lately, the government is always late in preparedness as well as the relief and rehabilitation that follow year after year.
In fact, this is merely the beginning of the monsoon, which has not yet shown its furious spells. In 1993, 540 millimeters of rain fell continuously for 24 hours in central Nepal. The Kulekhani Hydro Power Plant was significantly damaged along with the washout of bridges and roads downstream.
Some 1336 people lost their lives.
A fleeting glance of heavy weight disasters in the past reveals that the number of deaths of the people may run into thousands this year also against the backdrop of the demise of 17 people already on the first five days of the monsoon.
Nepal receives rainfall round the year in four segments.
These are the winter rains, pre monsoon, monsoon and post monsoon that contribute near about 3, 14, 78 and 5 per cent of the total annual rainfall.
The monsoon segment thus invites landslides and floods, which create havoc like two fast bowlers in cricket or tigers hunting in pairs.
The present problems have surfaced because the tried and tested traditional mitigation measures like pond construction have fallen in the shadow. One can see the ponds, known as pukhu, in the Kathmandu Valley towns, which were constructed following the suggestion of Chanakyamade in 4thcentury BC.
This polymath of the first water pond had scripted it in his book entitled Arthashasthra regarding the creation of water bodies in the cities. Its counterparts can be seen in the form of ponds in Madhesh and Ahals in the hills.
In China also they had this practice of constructing ponds and using this water for irrigation through the use of canals. One can see this technique being used by renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange in Lumbini as it falls in the watershed area of the Harara and Telar rivers.
Yet another tradition is the construction of storm water drainage systems in the upstream of settlements for the diversion of storm water and green turfing for the filling of cracks, known locally as Bhal Katne and Chapari Purne for the prevention of landslides.
The cracks created by the last earthquake have triggered the present landslides in the Melamchi area. Their filling will do wonders for the prevention of landslides.
However, the traditions should not be adopted emotionally. They should be subjected to scientific test and used only after they pass such a test.
After being found scientific, this technology has been used in Siranchok Rural Municipality of Gorkha district at the initiation of Disaster Prevention Network and Care International at a cost far less than that of prevailing modern practices.
In Nepal, rain falls on the hills, which goes down to the gullies. It then finds its way to the rivers like the Melamchi, which joins larger rivers like the Koshi.
If some water can be stopped in the hills, it will reduce floods significantly.
Landslide is created by the speedy descent of the rains down the hills. The ponds curtail their speed, minimising the loss due to landslides.
Furthermore, ponds decrease the temperature and increase humidity, discouraging the occurrence of wildfires. Once the wildfires are few and far between or not at all, the pollution also does not spike dramatically. The wild animals do not enter settlements after they get fodder to eat and water to drink, which is created by the underground water spilled through the ponds.
Pond digging is thus a panacea to the problems confronted by Nepal in the form of floods, landslides, wildfires, pollution and animal attacks.
Pond construction does not involve rocket science.
Social promoters like Nag Dev Yadav of Mahottari have been digging ponds one after another in Mahottari district already. It can make use of low skilled workers galore in Nepal, including those who have returned from India and other countries. They have been facing economic hardship due to the lockdown imposed in the country.
The local governments have the funds as they have not been able to spend the development budget.
This is the first wave of the floods and landslides.
Several waves will follow in the forthcoming weeks.
The digging of ponds should be undertaken soon in the forest and settlement areas of Nepal like the delivery of vaccines if the purpose is to minimise the loss from upcoming disasters. In fact, the Chief Minister of Gandaki Pradesh has already shown grave concern. Others should quickly follow his footsteps. Words are, however, not adequate. They should be followed by deeds in order to tame the landslides and floods.
A version of this article appears in the print on June 25 2021, of The Himalayan Times.