Monsoon never comes to Nepal as a surprise. But people in the Tarai have to live in constant fear that their houses and properties could be swept away. Those in the hilly regions hope they are not buried in landslides. This leads to my question: where is the preparation for this season? As per the National Emergency Operations Center, 361 people have died in the past three months (Baishakh 1-Ashar 30, 2075): 218 from drowning, 25 from floods, 19 from landslides, and the rest in other disasters. A total of 1,660 houses have been completely or partially destroyed in these three months. In Bhaktapur alone, three people died.
The government mobilized rafts, cranes, and helicopters in Bhaktapur and Kavrepalanchowk to rescue people and pledged to compensate affected families. But that compensation can never bring back the lives of the deceased. Timely preparations could have prevented the casualties.
The monsoon rains are vital for the nature to recharge, to support agriculture, but they can also create havoc. After the unexpected floods in Bhaktapur, people started talking about encroachment of the rivers. But cleaning the riverbeds wasn’t talked about much. At other times, sewage, trash and some water flow on the riverbeds. And as the monsoon brings torrential rains, the riverbeds cannot keep up with the flow and the water goes in unexpected directions. Case of Bhaktapur! No preparation for the monsoon season.
We, nevertheless, see solid preparation whenever our prime ministers visit India and China, which are mandatory for every incoming government—size of the delegation, issues to raise, whom to meet, what to see, the likely agreements, the responses for the press, they are all planned. Often these visits are fruitless. But there no planning to deal with the potentially deadly monsoon.
Sharing information of rising water levels is not enough. There should be mechanisms to move the people in disaster-prone areas to safer places if an emergency hits. Instead, we hear instructions given to fill the potholes. We want more than that. We need convincing examples of what the government will do to prevent monsoon disaster—number of bridges and roads fixed, number of riverbeds cleaned, number of emergency stockpiles.
A meeting was reportedly held under the Home Minister on July 12 to discuss potential dangers of the ongoing monsoon. How early is that? And if you read the outcomes of the meeting, it’s more for the heck of a response rather than about preparedness.
It is also unfortunate that we, the people, do not put enough pressure on the government on these vital issues. We hardly come out on the streets demanding our right to live in safety. Venting out frustrations through writings like these can never make an impact, but a strong will of a ruling government could. The “response” side of the government is visible and commendable but the preparation side must be made much stronger, which would not only be cost-effective but also people-sensitive.