Friday, 6 August, 2021

Disaster Preparedness

Nepal is one of the countries in the world to fall in disaster-prone zone. With the start of the rainy season, it faces natural calamities such as landslides, floods and inundation. Although the number of lives claimed by these disasters in the country is not so high, they are found causing much damage to public and private properties, including physical infrastructure like roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and hydropower plants. Landslides are more devastating than other disasters. Hilly settlements are highly vulnerable to landslide as compared to other parts of the country. On average, 100 people lose their lives across the country due to landslides every year. This disaster also displaces thousands of others. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA) under the Ministry of Home Affairs, as many as 904 people died and 233 went missing in landslides in the past nine years. Many others were injured. Besides, the loss of livestock was also considerable. Last year, landslides claimed 83 lives, damaged a total of 1,132 infrastructures and killed 743 livestock. Twenty-two most landslide-prone districts recorded a total of 434 small and large-scale landslides during the year.

During the pre-monsoon this year, at least eight persons lost their lives while one person has gone missing in the landslide of Saraunchaur village of Parbat. The incident took place in the area last week. But the place is not considered as the landslide risk zone. As per the news report published in this daily on Sunday, new places are being added to the list of landslide-prone areas every year. This shows that there is an increasing risk of landslides in the country. Despite this, the country's disaster risk management system has not been so effective when it comes to tackling natural calamities. The issue receives importance from various stakeholders, including the government, donors and common people during the monsoon. Around 80 per cent of landslides are rainfall-induced, which occur during the monsoon season (from June 10 to September 23). And the rest 20 per cent of landslides are dry. But this vital issue goes out of everyone's mind once the rainy season is over. The key stakeholders must shun this kind of tendency if they are really committed to dealing with landslides and other natural calamities.

Experts say that many parts of Nepal are vulnerable to landslides due to the steep and fragile topography. Deforestation is another factor behind the increasing incidences of landslide. The devastating 2015 earthquake has also geologically weakened many areas in hilly and mountainous regions. Heavy and incessant rains may cause landslides in such regions. In addition, the growing practice of using excavators and dozers to open road tracks in the hilly regions is equally responsible for landslides. Such activities are taking place without any proper engineering and risk assessment. Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Home Affairs has started working together with various relevant governmental and non-governmental agencies to collect information about the risks of landslide. This is certainly a commendable initiative. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the country, it is quite challenging for the government to handle the monsoon hazards. There should be an effective disaster preparedness plan and action to address natural disasters in an efficient manner.