Mon, 22 Jul, 2019

Monsoon Havoc: When Will Nepal Government Learn?

By Sushil Awale

Picture Courtesy: www.himalayantimes.com Kathmandu Valley finally fell under the grace of rain gods this month with the arrival of the monsoon; 5 days late than usual. While the people in Kathmandu may rejoice the monsoon shower, it can’t be said the same for the residents in other parts of the country. The tremors of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal last year had weakened the structures of many houses and loosened the soil creating fear among the residents in the mountainous and hilly region of the havoc that heavy monsoon can bring. As feared, the monsoon has started creating menace in the district of Sindhuplachowk. On July 6th, heavy rains across the border in China triggered flash flood in Bhote Koshi river sweeping away 200 houses at Tatopani in Sindhupalchowk district. Similarly, last week the excessive rainfall caused massive landslides in Pyuthan and Gorkha districts killing 11 people. In Taplejung district, 22 yak herders have gone missing after a makeshift bridge over Ghunsa River was swept away by a torrential rainfall-triggered flood. In Gulmi, the Ridi-Rudrabeni-Wamitasakar road section has been disrupted for a week due the heavy rainfall and has not come into operation yet. In Myagdi district, the Tatopani Micro Hydropower Project and Chokopani Hydro Electricity Project have been stopped due to floods in their base rivers. In a mountainous country with thousands of rivers backed by the mighty Himalayas, floods and landslides are a common phenomenon. These types of disasters are not new or unusual for Nepal. But, the lack of planning from the government to cope with these yearly disasters is worrying. The government, policy makers, and officials are well aware of these yearly calamities but still, they have no proper plan of action, an institution or disaster management committee, one that would look after immediate rescues, relief, relocation and rehabilitation of the victims. In 2015, the Home Ministry had prepared a Bill to set up a powerful body under it in order to address this annual problem and presented it to the parliament. This body or department would be similar to National Reconstruction Authority, an authority set up for reconstruction of infrastructures damaged by the earthquake. However, the government did not take this Bill seriously as it was not clear whether creating a separate authority under Home Ministry is appropriate or not. Whatever be the reason, Nepal government does not have a proper plan to cope with the yearly phenomenon, and many lives have been lost and properties worth billions have been destroyed over the years due to the havoc created by the monsoon. Now, the big question is, why is the government not taking proper action, why the government has failed to create a separate body for disaster management. These natural calamities have been taking place yearly, and every year the government addresses this problems by setting up a fund under Prime Minister's Office and distribute the relief materials for a few days with no long-term plan. Why doesn't the government set up a permanent department to address these issues on a long-term basis?