Pouring destructionFloods will be recurring tragedies if we do not act on them immediately.
The monsoon brings much-awaited relief to Nepali farmers in this predominantly agro-based country. Welcoming the rain is marked with fanfare and a special rice planting ceremony on Ashad 15 (usually falling at the end of June or the beginning of July), with people singing and dancing to welcome the monsoon. On the flip side, the issue is rather bleak; it is the perennial affair of overcoming the problems inflicted by constant rain, floods in the plains and landslides in the hills, and loss of lives and destruction of property all over.
On Friday last, vehicular movement along the Pokhara-Baglung route was wholly cut off due to landslides at various points. And, as many as 11 landslides have obstructed the road from Patichaur to Kushma, the district headquarters of Parbat. This tragedy has brought countless suffering on the people, especially those in dire need of medical care. With no certainty about the resumption of the roadways, the only way out for the helpless is to be air-lifted by helicopter to areas where rescue services can be provided swiftly.
Surely if the issues are recurrent, the authorities need a predictive mechanism to tackle this menace with help from historical experience and knowledge. Instead, there seems to be a lax attitude in planning and implementation in reducing risks from such hazards. It is one thing to detail the methodology and practices on paper, but to sit on it and act only when disaster strikes is inexcusable.
Go green is the mantra that has taken the world by storm with more emphasis on greener energy. Something Nepal can learn from other nations by putting it into practice. Reducing CO2 road transport emissions by prioritising zero-emission vehicles should be first on the list; and an issue closer to home—haphazard destruction of the natural landscape—should be avoided entirely. Earthmovers, dozers and diggers, which have gouged riverbeds and devastated pristine forest areas that provide a natural defence in thwarting floods and landslides, are too part of the problem that needs to be contained.
Just last month, the International Panel on Climate Change—the world’s leading authority on climate science—released its report, which spelt out a harsher future for humanity. In Nepal, we have experienced changes in rainfall patterns in the last few years. This could precipitate the melting of the ice caps in the Himalayan region and trigger an increased number of landslides and floods.
We need to exercise caution now more than ever. The problems of the mountains will undoubtedly cascade to the low-lying regions of the country as well. Floods and destruction of lives and property will be recurring tragedies if we do not act on them immediately. A concerted effort by every individual will be required to avert any such calamity. For now, the government needs to provide speedy rehabilitation to people and areas that have just witnessed the inevitable.