Getting ready

Man may have achieved phenomenal technological progress, but he has not been able to subdue Nature, which has manifested its fury in various forms — floods, earthquakes, storms, etc. However, through better planning and sound preparedness, the scope of damage and destruction can be considerably reduced. On this front, the Nepalis still depend on God’s mercy. This year, the monsoons have started. And the head of the Natural Disaster Management section of the Home Ministry has warned that the floods could prove more destructive this time than in previous years. Last year, floods affected more than half the country’s territory (47 districts), taking 148 lives, destroying 24,815 houses, displacing 24,116 people, washing away land and damaging crops. Nepal comes in 31st in global ranking of proneness to water-induced disaster. Experts are also pointing to the increasing danger of the bursting of glacial lakes because glaciers are melting.

A number of areas in the Tarai become waterlogged every year because of the unilaterally constructed water structures on the southern border. The government has also identified several flood-prone districts. A disaster preparedness workshop held two months ago stressed ‘commitment’ from the political parties and other stakeholders to help the government mitigate disaster. There is no doubt that all citizens should help in whatever way they can to prevent disaster and minimise its impact when it strikes. In fact, at least one, and several parties in the present context are and will be in government, and this situation is likely to continue until the next general election. But it is mainly the government’s responsibility to plan and act to manage disaster properly. When floods strike with full fury, access to several districts by road is blocked, telecommunication links break down, and it becomes difficult even to reach relief materials to the affected areas.

The capital city has also suffered a number of times in the past from acute shortages of goods, including essentials, from the disruption of road traffic precipitated by floods and landslides. But the need to build alternative routes was never keenly felt; so, even after decades, we have not developed alternatives. That is why even agitation in half a dozen or so districts in the Tarai in the recent past made the lives of the people in the Valley much harder as a result of disrupted supply lines, giving the agitators an unfair advantage for fulfilment of their demands, even unreasonable ones. Though the rains have started causing damage - in Baglung, Pyuthan, Manag, Dailekh, and Dhading, for instance - their full force is yet to arrive. But the government seems to be adopting an unconcerned attitude, as in the past. This will mean a failure to deal with the problem promptly and effectively when it appears, as well as an avoidable loss of life and property. This poor state of preparedness has almost always been reflected in poor coordination among government agencies and ministries when the affected or trapped people are need of immediate relief.