- Govt must learn from its past failings in dealing adequately with natural disasters
Aug 17, 2014-
Every year, thousands of farmers await the monsoon with bated breath. For them, the rain is a life-giver, the nourisher of crops. But the monsoon is also a cause of catastrophe. Every single year, the monsoon brings landslides and floods. People’s houses are swept away, many lose their lives and belongings. In many cases, infectious diseases such as cholera set in, claiming even more lives. The government sends out relief teams to help the displaced, but these efforts are invariably inadequate.
This year too, the monsoon has caused severe havoc. On August 2, there was a landslide in Sindhupalchok. Over the past few days, severe rainfall has caused landslides and flooding in the Mid-Western districts. Almost a hundred people have lost their lives, over a hundred are missing, and many others have been displaced.
The government has faced criticism for failing to provide adequate relief. However, the Home Ministry does seem to be trying hard to put together a rescue and rehabilitation effort. The Nepal Army has been deployed and the government is coordinating with many humanitarian organisations, both domestic and foreign. Yet, it seems that the government is overwhelmed.
The government’s efforts are to be appreciated. But it should also be noted that hundreds of people have not received any relief so far, and are living in dire conditions. The government says that it had prepared for the devastations of the monsoon but the preparations were clearly inadequate. One problem in Nepal is that it is difficult for the authorities to learn from past mistakes. Once a disaster occurs, it is quickly forgotten and few attempts are made to learn from it. This should not be repeated this time. The authorities should analyse where they went wrong, and seek to rectify past failings. Coordination efforts between the Home Ministry, other government agencies, the Nepal Army, and humanitarian NGOs and INGOs should be made permanent, and not only come together when disaster has already struck.
In the longer term, disaster relief by itself will not be sufficient. There are broader causes—both environment and economic—that lead to the devastations of the monsoon. Nepal’s difficult topography and fragile ecology is partially to blame. In recent years, climate change seems to have also been responsible for the increased severity of the monsoon. Furthermore, the poor construction of infrastructure and buildings and the poverty of many of the country’s inhabitants have also rendered many of Nepal’s citizens helpless in the face of calamity. The government needs to make efforts to identify the possible devastations that will occur in the future due to environmental issues such as climate change. It also needs to figure out how to create infrastructure—decent roads, safe areas—that will enable people to escape the worst effects of the monsoon.
Published: 18-08-2014 09:19