Posted by : Yunish Ghimire
Death toll from heavy rainfall and landslides in different parts of the country reached 101 while 41 people are still missing. The unseasonal rain which started in the third week of October displaced hundreds of families. Due to rising water levels, 42 out of 56 gates of Koshi barrage were opened. The people living around the area were warned to remain vigilant of the possible flooding risks.
The rainfall destroyed the paddy crops in several parts of the country, especially on several districts of Sudurpaschim, Lumbini, Karnali and Gandaki provinces. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the damages to the paddy crops could be around NRS 8.26 billion. The heavy losses in rice production could shave up to 0.6 percentage of GDP. Apart from the damages to the paddy crops, the production of other vegetables has also been affected which has resulted in price hikes. The loss in the production of paddy crops could also see an increase in the prices of rice.
Even with warnings and cautions from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), concerned authorities seemed lax in their approach and preparation regarding the weather change and the heavy rainfall. Furthermore, the information regarding the post-monsoon rainfall also failed to reach the farmers.
Nepal is prone to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and wildfires, while climate change has made the extreme weather conditions more frequent and unpredictable. Although these events cannot be stopped, certain measures can be taken to be better prepared for the disasters. One of the ways is through early warning systems to predict the instances of extreme weather conditions. However, Nepal lacks advanced technology of early warning systems and there is also a weak coordination between different disaster related agencies and non-governmental organizations working in disaster preparedness work. The Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act was passed in 2017 to oversee the management of all kinds of disasters. However, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council still doesn’t exist.
The Natural Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, which operates under the Home Ministry prepared an Early Preparedness and Response Work Plan 2021 to lessen the impacts of monsoon rains. However, experts have criticized that the preparations for pre-disaster are minimal and most of its focus is oriented towards post disaster response.
The government has focused on token relief measures, which shifts the focus away from long term disaster management. Despite this, the use of government aid for the affected communities hasn’t been effective. According to a survey funded by the UN, only 39 percent of the flood victims believe that the government fund is reaching the affected communities. In case of crops damage, farmers are required to show proof of land ownership to claim the government aid. Under this policy, the tenant farmers are barred from using the aid. A recent report highlighted that the government has failed to distribute relief fund worth NRS 25 million to the landslide victims of Jure. The failure of the government to distribute the fund to the victims means that the fund has been sitting in the account of Disaster Management Fund for seven years. Although President Bidya Devi Bhandari has summoned officials at the agriculture ministry to take account of the current situation and prepare for relief distribution and measures, the victims are least hopeful of getting compensated or relieved.