Sunday, 1 November, 2020
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EDITORIAL

Disaster Vulnerability Of Sindhupalchowk



Nepal being a mountainous country is vulnerable to natural disasters like landslides, flashfloods and soil erosion. Some parts of the country have weaker geological formation than others that increases the degree of devastations from natural calamities like earthquakes and landslips. Sindhupalchowk district is among such disaster vulnerable zones. This monsoon season alone, this district lying northeast of Kathmandu and bordering with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, witnessed the loss of 72 lives due to rain induced disasters. Similarly, 39 people have still gone missing. There are obviously heavy losses of property in the form of destroyed houses, killed livestock, buried farmlands and crops and others. Vital infrastructures have also been affected.

The impact caused by the powerful earthquake of April 2015 was also quite devastating and widespread in this district. Disastrous incidents of settlements being swept away by landslides, damage to roads and highways and river blockage are frequent. The Bhotekoshi River, originating in the high Himalayan mountain and passing through the district, poses danger of glacial lake outburst floods. The Arniko Highway, a major physical connectivity infrastructure for trade between Nepal and China, passes through this district. The highway was severely damaged in the 2015 earthquake and has not yet been able to resume normal operation. Monsoon disasters of this year have caused additional damage to the crucial trade lifeline.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Home has found that 347 hill settlements of the district are at high risk of landslides and floods. The impending disasters can happen any time, which calls for relocation of the settlements to safer areas. There are 11,109 households in those danger prone settlements. A preliminary report of the survey, submitted to the Home Ministry points to the urgency of relocating 188 households immediately. For these households, continuing in the same places is immensely dangerous. The earthquake had added to the geological fragility of the district making it more vulnerable to landslips during the monsoon.

The environmentally insensitive trend of opening rural roads with the use of heavy machinery may also have its contribution to these disasters. The survey report blames the absence of crucial coordination between authorities responsible for disaster risk reduction and development projects. Development projects carried out without proper environmental impact assessment only degrade the environment and lead to rain-induced disasters. Craze of every settlement having road link, thinning of forest cover, use of heavy machines in digging roads and exploitation of natural resources at the local level for revenue generation might be equally responsible for the rising incidents of landslides.

Labour intensive road construction could give employment to the marginalised working class and make the use of heavy machinery redundant. Road digging done by manual labour is more environment-friendly, too. But that is not happening due to the political nexus of the dozer owners. Development approach that ignores the balance between nature and environment leads to disasters. The survey report stated that rural and agricultural roads had been constructed without meeting necessary criteria. If such methods of development works are not reviewed and corrected, we will be inviting more disasters in the hill settlements of the country. 

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