Disaster preparedness sorely lacking in Karnali ProvinceFloods and landslides take lives and ravage properties in the province every year. Many people say the severity can be mitigated by prioritising preparedness.
During last year’s monsoon, eight people including six members of a same family died after a landslide swept away their homes in Naraharinath Rural Municipality in Kalikot district. In Jajarkot, 12 people perished when a landslide struck Sarkitol village of Barekot Rural Municipality that same year.
Every year, many people in Karnali Province lose their lives to monsoon-related disasters like floods and landslides. But many believe that the severity of the natural disasters could be mitigated and lives saved if the authorities concerned were to prioritise disaster preparedness
Kamal KC, a civil society member in Birendranagar, Surkhet, says the Karnali provincial government should shift its focus towards preparedness rather than scrambling into action after disasters have struck.
“The government makes plans such as moving the families living in disaster-prone areas and developing integrated settlements for them. But these plans are not implemented,” said KC. “When disasters strike, the government is then focused on relief and rescue works. They fail to understand the importance of preparedness.”
Records of Karnali provincial police show that at least 124 people lost their lives while properties worth around Rs 842.7 million were destroyed in monsoon-related disasters in various districts of the province in the past three years.
Arjun Chand, senior superintendent of Karnali Provincial Police Office, agrees many lives and properties would have been saved had the Karnali government taken preventive measures seriously.
“The government is concerned about disaster preparedness and response plans only during the rainy season. Once the season is over, the plans are forgotten,” said KC.
The provincial government has not resettled the families displaced by the 2014 floods in Surkhet despite several assurances. The flood displaced families are still languishing in makeshift huts.
Similar is the situation of the families displaced by last year’s floods and landslides in Kalikot and Jajarkot districts.
Krishna Bahadur Rokaya, information officer at the internal affairs ministry of the province, said the provincial government had identified the disaster-prone areas and was preparing to relocate them to safety.
“Eighteen local units in Surkhet, Dailekh, Kalikot, Jumla and Mugu are situated on riverbanks. They have been categorised as vulnerable to disasters like floods and landslides and they will be resettled,” said Rokaya. “The provincial government has allocated Rs150 million for disaster mitigation in the current fiscal year.”