No lessons learnedWhen it comes to disaster preparedness, it is high time the government learned from its past mistakes
Last week, the Meteorological Forecasting Division informed that the pre-monsoon has been active. The division forecasted that disturbance in weather will continue from Saturday to Monday. And last night it was reported that least 31 people have been killed and more than 400 have been injured in a severe rainstorm that swept through Bara and Parsa leaving behind a trail of destruction—from uprooting hand pumps to demolishing buildings. The last time rainstorm of this scale had occurred was in 2003 where 20 people lost their lives.
Every monsoon we experience disasters. Yet although they occur at regular intervals, it is baffling that even after being through so much, we cease to learn from our mistakes. Like previous times, this time around too our response was mainly post-disaster oriented yet again proving that we are woefully underprepared for calamities. Nepal Disaster Report 2017, biennial government publication, notes that Nepal is among the 20 most disaster prone countries in the world. According to Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015, data ranging over a period of 40 years reveals that Nepal faces an average of one disaster and three deaths every year. Annual loss of assets is more than $220 million in current prices.
In a bid to improve weather forecasts and provide real time data on atmospheric weather conditions, the government was preparing to install three weather radars in Surkhet in the western region, Ribdikot of Palpa in the central region and Rametar of Udayapur in the eastern region. According to a report published in this paper, the radars, first ones being set up in the country, are automatic stations which will be scanning the sky to feed back the data related to weather conditions. The plan was devised last year. One year on, the radars should have been installed in all the three areas, but since lagging behind schedule is our forte, the concerned authorities have been able to install only one in Surkhet. According to experts, had the weather radars been installed in the other two areas too, the disaster could have been predicted to some extent and the damage could have been minimised, too.
Nepal and India are highly vulnerable to disaster and effects of climate change. But unlike us, in our neighbouring country, National Weather Forecasting Centre issues an All India Weather Warning Bulletin. In its latest warning, it warned against squall and dusty winds. But here, we are yet to upgrade and even install hydrological and meteorological warning systems. Therefore, a recurring problem has been scant recognition of the need for pre-emptive measures to minimise the impact of disasters. Preparedness is always the key for disaster management. It is high time the government learned from its past mistakes and made sure it installs early warning systems in all the required places immediately. If we fail to do so, a bigger disaster might await.