The road aheadThis monsoon, extreme levels of torrential rainfall over much of Nepal caused significant damage and suffering. The Nepali government’s swift deployment of relief efforts following the initial onset of the flood-induced disasters was commendable.
This monsoon, extreme levels of torrential rainfall over much of Nepal caused significant damage and suffering. The Nepali government’s swift deployment of relief efforts following the initial onset of the flood-induced disasters was commendable. Progress in terms of recovery efforts, however, seems to be a different story altogether. A month after floods have wreaked havoc across various Tarai districts, not much has been done in terms of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Many flood victims remain displaced and are taking shelter in makeshift tents.
Under these circumstances, the recent news that the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee (CNDRC) has decided to build flood-resistant houses in flood-prone districts within the next six months gives considerable cause for optimism. Concerned authorities have been instructed by Minister of Home Affairs Janardan Sharma to come up with a plan for constructing such houses within the stipulated time period. Minister Sharma has called for the formation of a committee within a week, after which a required budget will be released at the earliest. Rebuilding efforts are required forthwith, considering the fact that the floods destroyed 43,433 houses, temporarily damaged 158,197 houses, and temporarily displaced nearly 21,000 families. The government stepped up to the plate in terms of coordination of relief efforts; it is to be hoped that this impetus continues. Now that the rains have abated and flood waters are slowly receding, government has to play a critical part in the coordination of systematic efforts aimed towards helping flood victims rebuild their livelihoods and reconstruct damaged infrastructure.
Of course, the inundation problem will not be solved by the building of flood-resistant houses alone. And simply doling out emergency relief and cash hand-outs in the wake of floods is not a solution to a perennial problem. Concerned authorities have to formulate long-term solutions for the recurrent floods. Disaster mitigation and management policies have to be formulated and infrastructure for flood control has to be built in order to deal with the problems brought by yearly deluges. One particular priority in this regard should be the construction of permanent embankments.
Villagers in certain flood-prone areas such as Tilathi, Saptari initially refused relief materials. Instead, they demanded that the government build a permanent embankment. The government, they claim, had been deaf to their years-old demand. However, it seems that this recent disaster, claiming 159 lives, has finally garnered the state’s attention. PM Deuba has now said that the government will prioritise embankment building on rivers and streams to control floods and erosion.
It is essential that the government makes good on its claims; lip-service alone will not suffice. Problems posed by inundation can only truly be solved if concerned authorities show commitment and zeal. The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD) has already admitted that limited resources have impeded the recovery process. It is essential that the government overcome such impediments and assume a proactive role at this juncture.