Editorial

Monsoon is coming

  • Govt should act immediately to mitigate damage from landslides

May 27, 2015-

After the Great Earthquake of April 25 and its aftershocks, thousands of people left the Capital and headed to their homes in less-affected districts. Many fled to safety from their houses or rented apartments that had been damaged. Others simply wanted to be with their family members at a time of great distress. Unsurprisingly, Bishnu Sharma, a journalist, also thought he would be safer in his home in Beni, Myagdi, than in Kathmandu.

Almost a month after the quake, on Saturday, Sharma was sleeping peacefully in his house when he woke to the noise of people running around in the wee hours. A massive landslide in Baisari, Bhagwati VDC, had blocked the Kaligandaki River, which passes through his hometown in the Western mountains. The dry landslip was caused by cracks formed after the Quake and the subsequent tremors.

As of Monday, an artificial lake created by the landslip on the river had receded by 60 percent and it had largely resumed its natural flow. Even so, the gushing lake washed away suspension bridges, 27 houses, and 1.5 kilometre of the Beni-Jomsom road.

If anything, the incident was a reminder that the effects of the quake will persist for a while and they could yet take a serious toll on human settlements and infrastructure. Nepal’s largest hydropower station, the Mirmi-based 144MW Kaligandaki ‘A’ is not too far downstream.

With the monsoon on its way, settlements at the foothills and on the river banks—such as Beni—bridges and roads continue to be at high risk of slope failures triggered by the tremors. A rapid analysis report prepared by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod), in coordination with a NASA-USGS-interagency Earthquake Response Team, an expert team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology and the Ministry of Home Affairs has identified 3,000 landslides post the Great Quake.  

The government, in response, has formed a high-level committee with geologists, hydrologists, and experts from research bodies and universities to study damages in the six most-affected districts—Dhading, Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, Rasuwa, and Nuwakot. This is a commendable step. But these are not normal times.  With each passing day, these settlements and the people living there are more exposed to great risk.

Thus, the Department of Water Induced Disaster Preparedness (DWIDP), instead of waiting for findings from the report and orders from the government, should be proactive in building on existing knowledge and planning a response. It should pool its resources and begin work on areas that are most at risk, based on data from previous years and other agencies.

In the immediate, the DWIDP should aggressively inform people living near rivers about preparedness in case of disasters. If possible, they should even be advised to temporarily relocate to other areas, with reasonable compensation.

Published: 27-05-2015 07:04

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