Monsoon mayhem

  • Govt response to natural disasters is usually slow and poorly coordinated
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jun 24, 2016-

With the arrival of monsoon, different parts of the country are grappling with floods. It has been reported that 150 houses in Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari in the eastern region were flooded and over 500 houses were affected due to heavy rainfall this week. Five people have already lost their lives. For Nepal, floods have been a part of the annual cycle. They cause hundreds of deaths, damage properties, and impact the livelihoods of millions of people. 

According to a 2014 report entitled ‘Economic Impact Assessment of Climate Change in Key Sectors in Nepal’ of the then Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment , the average annual costs of these floods is $232million—counting both the direct costs to infrastructure and health and welfare impacts. The report also claims that due to climate change effects—higher temperatures and more erratic rainfall patterns—instances of flooding have been increasing in the country, so the situation is expected to become worse. 

Given this alarming prognosis, the government needs to show more seriousness towards the recurring disaster. Although we may not be able to prevent floods, we certainly can prepare for them better. For instance, in the case of Nepal, people become more vulnerable to the impacts of flooding due to poorly designed infrastructure and embankments or lack thereof, as well as the absence of regulations prohibiting settlements in hazard-prone areas and subsistence farming in floodplains. More than the disaster itself, it is often precarious infrastructure that causes harm. 

Moreover, despite facing numerous flooding incidents over the years, the government’s response has always been full of shortcomings. More broadly, the state’s response to natural disasters of all kinds is usually slow and poorly coordinated.

To be fair, the government in recent years has increased the early warning and river monitoring systems, which are producing desired results. But such systems have been set up in only a few of the flood-prone areas. They need to be established in many other parts of the country. But the lack of a national legislation on disaster preparedness, response and management makes it difficult to implement such initiatives. 

Therefore, not only should there be a push for replicating the early warning systems in flood prone areas, but the process of approving the Disaster Management Act also has to be expidited. 

Last but not least, communities residing in vulnerable areas have to be made more resilient to natural calamities. During the August 2014 Karnali River floods, the Community Disaster Management Committees were effective in responding to the needs of the affected population. The government’s timely investment in flood preparedness will not only save many lives, but also a lot of money. 

Published: 24-06-2016 08:57

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