Mere whimper

A consortium of health bodies on Tuesday gathered to examine the preparedness and response for a biological, chemical or radiological (BCR) emergency in Nepal. Although the fear of biological or chemical weapons in Nepal can be said to be almost negligible at the moment, the chances of being exposed to biological and chemical hazards from other sources is nonetheless significant. The said problems will arise not so much from biological or chemical weapons — domestic or otherwise — as out of industrial areas in many towns across the country. A range of industries use toxic chemicals in the course of producing goods and appliances used at homes. The Tarai region has been forced to fight the scourge of high arsenic concentration in underground water. The deadly element acts as a slow poison when water in this category is taken. The danger of radiation in laboratories too is not insignificant, especially because exposure to it over a period of time affects human health to a great extent. Hence, the need to remain geared up to meet any such eventuality is not unwarranted.

Amazingly, Nepal never appears to have lagged behind for lack of imagination or foresight, if the number of reports and publications on umpteen subjects that are brought out in Kathmandu are any indication. Newest concepts that emerge in the fields as diverse as science, arts and commerce are readily discussed and deliberated here. High sounding conferences on a wide range of issues are organised. Any first timer in Kathmandu would perceive that this is indeed a happening place, the academician and the elite circle keeping abreast of all the bold and the beautiful concepts. But all good things about these seminars end there. The demarche that such deliberations churn out is seldom translated into action. An overwhelming number of such reports either adorn libraries or gather dust. And there is no reason to believe that the latest deliberation would be any different.

Even when the fire brigade set up to deal with a much more commonplace hazard than biochemicals in Kathmandu relies on a few and dilapidated fire engines, how can one then expect the suggestions given at the said seminar for a sophosticated mechanism become a reality? This is not to say that the danger stemming from bio-chemical threat is negligible. It is simply that the authorities find lame excuses to forget the expert suggestions. Inducting the idea of earthquake resistant houses and rain harvesting technology is a case in point. Greater than the bio-chemical risk is the risk from landslides about which Nepal has done precious little in terms of tackling it. A lackadaisical approach such as this will prove extremely costly.