Over the rainbow

What was feared most when a chopper carrying 24 people went missing on Saturday was confirmed as true two days and two nights later when the wreckage was traced. The bodies of all but one were charred beyond recognition. Almost all the names of the dead read like a Who’s Who list in their respective fields. The children of minister of state for Forests and Soil Conservation Gopal Rai, a Congress MP, lost their mother, too, and the parliament lost another MP the same day — the assassinated Krishna Charan Shrestha. Seven foreigners lost their lives, including those who were experts in nature conservation, and diplomats. And there was Dr Harka Gurung, a noted geographer and development planner, who was adviser to WWF Nepal, and who had held various high posts at various times, including a stint as a state minister. There were other respected names in nature conservation who met their end with Dr Gurung — Dr C P Gurung, Mingma Norbu Sherpa, Narayan Prasad Poudel, Dr Tirtha Man Maskey, among others.

The pre-Dashain series of disasters that had started with floods and landslides in a number of districts seems to have come to an end with this tragic death of 24 people of merit, including Finland’s popular envoy Pauli Mustonen. The seven-member investigation committee is expected to come up with its report in due course of time and make suggestions for the future, but the lives lost will never come back. However tragic and huge, the loss has to be borne, and it will take quite some time to fill the void left by these wonderful people who did not find even seconds to say goodbye. Certainly for the families and relatives of the dead, the loss will be particularly hard to bear and long-lasting and will continue to evoke sad memories for years to come. Yet, the life has to go on. The only thing that should be done now is to make efforts to minimise air disasters in future.

Accidents occur in the best-regulated air systems — technically and otherwise. But it would be a fair goal to try to reduce their frequency. Since 2001, Nepal has witnessed 17 air mishaps, and ten of them involved choppers. In terms of death, the present one ranks the worst. Perhaps there is some element of truth in accusations that talk of air safety predominates immediately after a crash, only to be forgotten in no time. Most of the air tragedies in Nepal have occurred amid rain and fog. It is therefore worth pondering if the decision-makers concerned have taken appropriate preventive measures, and why aviation rules are occasionally thrown to the winds. According to CAAN statistics, almost all air disasters in the country are due to human error, despite the fact that most of the pilots are experienced and are familiar with the geography of their routes. As alleged by some experts, this may have induced over-confidence and a dare-devil streak in pilots, bringing the nation to grief from time to time. These and other areas of irresponsibility need to be rectified.