It’s that time of the year once again when various parts of the country are forced to contend with natural disasters. Particularly in the Tarai, many places are deluged by floods during the monsoon. In Saptari, in the first major monsoon mayhem this year, the Khado river and other streams have inundated more than 1,500 houses this week, leaving hundreds of families without food and shelter.
This despite having spent Rs370 million for flood control in the district in this fiscal year alone. Naturally, the victims are traumatised. They are also infuriated that the state has failed to come up with a durable solution to a crisis they have to suffer every year.
Embankments have been built in some areas of Saptari, but not in many others like Tilathi where the Khado breaches its banks and causes destruction every monsoon. Even in some places where embankments have been constructed, they are not sturdy enough to withstand the might of the raging torrent. Flood victims claim that the concerned authorities have built embankments carelessly using substandard materials. This could very well be true.
Monsoon has also wreaked havoc in the form of landslides and floods in the districts of Parbat, Kaski, Pyuthan and Syangja this week. People have lost their lives and many others are missing.
The floods impose heavy financial price, too. According to a 2014 report ‘Economic Impact Assessment of Climate Change in Key Sectors in Nepal’ of the then Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, the average annual costs incurred by the country due to floods is about Rs23.2 billion.
As such, the government’s recent decision to strengthen its capacity of early warning system against water-induced disasters is a welcome one. According to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, 70 Automatic Water Level Sensors (AWLS) will be installed in different rivers and 88 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) will be set up in various parts of the country within the next fiscal year. These will be in addition to the 30 AWLS and nearly 100 AWS already in place in the country. They will enhance our capacity to predict floods and enable flood-prone communities to be prepared in advance.
Although Nepal’s overall preparedness for disaster management leaves a lot to be desired, steps like these will be very helpful in mitigating the human and financial costs of the annual floods. For a country as vulnerable as ours to various natural calamities, the importance of adequate investment in disaster preparedness cannot be overemphasised.