Saturday, 24 July, 2021

Reducing Disaster Impacts

The ongoing monsoon is at its peak. It has brought torrential rains across the country. Rainfall adds vigour to the life of humans, animals and plants. It nourishes soil, replenishes water sources and enhances greenery in the forests and hills. As the rain tames the sweltering heat of summer, it makes the weather cool and eases the routine works of people. For agrarian society like Nepal, monsoon bears greater meaning – it is the lifeline of agriculture, which is the key to the national economy. Majority of population relies on agriculture, and when their farmlands receive desired amount of rain water, they plant paddy in time, enabling them to make good harvests of the season. These are the positive sides of monsoon which has become an essential element of people’s social, economic and cultural life.

However, it has its negative side, too. The monsoon-induced downpour triggers floods and landslides, wreaking havoc with the life of people. Natural calamities lead to the untimely deaths of a large number people. They destroy human settlements, roads, bridges and other development infrastructure. This year’s monsoon started from June 11 but the floods and landslides have already claimed the lives of 53 people, with over five dozen people injured and 53 other still missing. This year’s monsoon caused tragedy to the people in different parts of the country but the locals of Melamchi in Sindhupalchowk district have been hard hit as the flood of the Melamchi River submerged their houses, lands and other properties, killing scores of people. Of late, Sindhupalchowk has been affected by landslides and floods annually. Its fragile geological structures are blamed for recurrent calamities but experts argue that the erroneous development approach that is applied without identifying the potential environmental risks in the given sites is behind the unpredictable loss of lives and property.

The disaster risks can be greatly minimised if the landslide hazards are mapped and identified in advance through geographic information system (GIS). Experts have noted that landslide hazard assessment enables to grasp the basic characteristics of the terrains prone to failure especially during extreme climatic events, according to a news report carried by this daily. Seen geologically, landslides are considered as a normal landscape building processes in the mountainous areas but the people fail to take this phenomenon into account. In the name of development, the concerned agencies have launched reckless road construction drive, paying little attention to bio-engineering, scientific surveys and environmental assessment. Similarly, climate change has also contributed to the unusual pattern of rainfall and resultant floods

No doubt, we need roads, bridges and other basic infrastructure for economic development. However, there has been dangerous trend of opening tracks and building roads through the steep hills. For this, heavy equipment like bulldozers and excavators rushed to knock down the mounds without geological study and plan. This haphazard act loosens the soil and makes inordinate amount of earth to go waste into the rivers. The slackened soil anytime bursts into the landslips in the rainy season. Road construction spree has destroyed forest cover, ecosystems and productive land, causing floods and landslides across the country. This has also negative implications for the agriculture sector. It is imperative that the government relocate the vulnerable settlement to the safer places in the hilly region. It should also provide adequate relief materials and economic support to the victims of natural disasters, while putting pre-monsoon preparedness and contingency plan in place.