Quakes of wrath

Quakes of wrath

May 31, 2015-

The first month after the earthquake was preoccupied with rushing relief aid to disaster-affected communities. Now, schools have restarted and the after-effects of the earthquake are becoming clear. It is evident that it was not just Langtang that was rendered uninhabitable by the quake. There are other VDCs in the affected districts where major landslides have occurred, sweeping away entire villages.

Around 16,000 people from Sindhupalchok district alone have left their villages and are now camping in Kathmandu or other towns. Thousands of others whose villages have been washed away are likely residing in other areas in their districts, in many cases close to the places where their villages were located.

The monsoon is approaching, and there are many areas in the affected districts where the quake has left large crevasses and cracks in the ground. With severe rainfall, many of these villages could be swept away or greatly affected. Many people in districts like Sindhupalchok and Dolakha are well aware of this possibility and are extremely concerned. Still, they have been unable to leave their areas of residence for a host of reasons. Many simply lack the resources to move. Others do not want to leave behind their possessions and cling to the hope that they will be able to preserve their way of life. Then there are those who, while worried, are unsure whether the areas they live in are safe at all. They desperately want experts to come to investigate and inform them whether they can continue living there.

If measures to tackle the possibility of widespread displacement are not taken in time, the monsoon could well unleash a great calamity on the scale brought about by the earthquake. The wrath of nature could still be unfolding. With the monsoon imminent, the government and international organisations need to address this as a matter of great urgency.

Across affected districts, local authorities have been urging the central government to identify unsafe places, as well as safe ones where displaced people can be moved. The government is planning to do this along with the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod), but this process seems to be moving far slower than desired.

There are a number of other measures that the government should take immediately. First, it should begin collecting detailed records of the population who might be displaced in the near future. Second, it should begin setting up camps in safe areas. These camps should ideally be small and situated close to locations where people are at risk of displacement. The government should take the help of agencies specialising in displacement, such as the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), in setting up such camps. Third, special measures should be taken to clear closed roads and keep existing roads open so as to allow the movement of people.

These are all difficult tasks. But it is essential that they are well underway before the monsoon arrives and makes such tasks that much harder to accomplish.

Published: 01-06-2015 07:51

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