Last June there were fatal landslides in Durlung, Kushma Township, Parbat. The first monsoon-induced disaster in the country in 2020 killed nine and displaced 13 families.
“We lost lives and property on the first day of the monsoon season,” Ram Chandra Joshi, mayor of Kushma Township, told the Post on the phone.
The community of 50,000 has still not fully recovered from last year’s tragedy and is now preparing for this year’s monsoon – the forecasts are not reassuring.
“It has rained recently and the villagers are afraid that there will be floods and landslides like last year,” said the mayor. “Our community has large rivers like Modikhola, Kaligandaki, Jaharekhola and Ratikhola and many other small streams that can swell quickly after rain. And since new roads have been built, there is a chance that debris will fall and sweep entire settlements away if it rains too much. ”
For this year’s monsoon, which hit the country on Friday, it is forecast that most parts of the country will rain “above normal”.
High mountains and low mountain ranges will receive above average rainfall, the central-southern districts and eastern Nepal will have normal rainfall, and southeast parts of the country will have less than normal rainfall.
In order to mitigate the effects of the monsoon rains, the National Agency for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, under the Ministry of the Interior, has drawn up the National Work Plan for Early Monsoon Preparation and Response.
It is estimated that over 1.8 million people will be affected by monsoon-related disasters such as floods and floods, dam breaks and landslides – 1,687,480 from floods and another 117,217 from landslides. Other monsoon hazards include thunderstorms, snakebites, and water-borne diseases.
“The monsoon catastrophe case number has been calculated based on historical data on disasters, forecasts and trends of rainfall and populations in disaster-prone areas,” said Beda Nidhi Khanal, Undersecretary of State for the agency. “The action plan was drawn up taking into account the population, which includes both directly and indirectly affected groups.”
Of the 1.8 million people who the agency estimates are affected, around 500,000 will be directly affected.
Changes in precipitation patterns, which have become severe and unpredictable in recent years as a result of climate change, have contributed to extreme weather events such as floods and landslides annually.
While the southern plains of the country are hit by flooding, landslides occur in the hill districts.
On average, around 100 people die from floods each year.
This year, the agency predicts that Sunsari, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Siraha and Kanchanpur districts will be the five most flooded districts, with the affected population in each of these districts exceeding 100,000. Likewise, the districts of Dolakha, Sindhupalchok, Bajura, Dhading and Doti are likely to be affected by severe landslides.
“The action plan also includes measures to minimize the impact of the monsoons on people,” said Khanal.
The central civil protection agency has defined the roles and responsibilities of the various competent authorities in order to minimize damage and loss and to provide rapid assistance and assistance to communities affected by disasters.
“The main objective of creating the Monsoon Action Plan is to provide a disaster risk assessment and mapping of the population at risk, identify and assign activities for affected authorities and officials, and manage and coordinate resources between different authorities,” said Bishwa Prasad Aryal , joint secretary with the authority. “The action plan also provides a basis on which provincial and local governments can create their own action plans.”
The completeness of the action plan was the result of the magnitude of the effects of the monsoons last year when it was predicted to be normal.
But its effect was the deadliest in many years. According to official information, in the four months between June and October, 367 people died, 100 were missing and 325 more were injured in various monsoon-related disasters. 293 people died in landslides, 39 in floods and 35 in lightning strikes.
By comparison, in 2019, when it was a normal monsoon, 73 people died in floods and 83 in landslides.
In addition to the above-average rainfall this year, the massive forest fires at the beginning of this year are likely to increase the extent of the disasters.
“Forest fires this year have caused soil erosion that will affect water flow and further increase the risk of water-related disasters,” said Aryal.
Nepal is prone to monsoon-related disasters as many of the rivers and river networks are congested in a small area and the topography of the country itself poses a risk, according to Bishnudev Yadav, a senior division engineer with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.
“That’s why we prepare against monsoon floods all year round. Shortly after the monsoons end, we start building structures like dams and other measures to fence off river banks like putting up walls made of sand-filled sacks and gabion walls, ”Yadav said.
Yadav said the department led construction of 44.7 km of dam this fiscal year.
Government agencies say they are better prepared this year.
“The monsoon last year made it clear to us what we can do better. After studying, analyzing, and reflecting for the rest of the year, we found that our early preparation for landslides was poor as our efforts focused heavily on flooding, ”said Anil Pokharel, chief executive officer of the agency. “We could minimize the loss of life and property from floods, but not the same for landslides. There were no adequate auxiliary materials against landslides. “
This time, the agency has also started impact-based prediction of landslides at the community level in 36 local units in nine counties, which Pokharel said will aid early landslide prediction.
“This time, our decision-making is more data-driven. There were stakeholder consultations in all seven provinces prior to drafting the monsoons action plan, ”Pokharel said. “We have improved our information system. For example, we have collected information on existing helipads across the country that will help us to air freight the victims if necessary. Unlike in the past, when various cluster agencies were only activated after the disaster, this time they have already been activated. “
As the country suffers from the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the action plan has also identified districts battling Covid-19 cases and at higher risk of flooding and landslides during this monsoon.
The action plan has also identified 155 open spaces in urban areas and 191 rooms and public buildings that can be used for rescue and rehabilitation purposes. An inventory of the available financial and logistical resources in various provinces was also carried out.
A working process for providing emergency relief and financial assistance to families who have lost their homes to monsoon disasters is in place this time around.
The action plan also outlined activities and responsibilities for all ministries and various agencies in all three levels of government.
Experts have welcomed the government’s willingness this year.
“This year’s monsoon response plan should be welcomed as it shows some coordinated efforts between different agencies. This time they also worked on a monsoons action plan beforehand, which is a positive move, ”said Madhusudan Gautam, a disaster and resistance expert.
However, these are easier said than done.
“The information system is still not as smooth as it should be. Equipment is also limited, ”said Pokharel.
Other challenges, according to Aryal, are locating the plan, providing resources in remote areas, the accuracy of the data and its timely availability, and coordinating joint actions to provide immediate assistance.
The lack of adequate budget seems to be a major problem, according to local authorities.
Yadav, the division’s chief engineer, said there was never enough budget for emergency operations.
“Almost 1.42 billion rupees have been requested from the districts, ranging from 1.5 to 15 million rupees for emergency relief, but we haven’t received the budget for this monsoon season,” said Yadav.
Funding also seems to be an issue for the Kushma community.
“We have made some preparations with the limited resources we have. The activities and services from the monsoon action plan reach the district administration office, but we hardly get anything, ”said Mayor Joshi. “If a disaster strikes here, people lose their homes, are permanently evicted and need immediate help. The budget is the most important requirement. “
Like the Kushma community in Parbat in the Tilathi Koiladi rural community in Saptari, where flooding and flooding are a constant problem due to the swelling of the Koshi and Khado Rivers, one of the greatest challenges is budgeting.
However, according to Mayor Satish Kumar Singh, river training programs funded by the local government have largely minimized the risk of flooding in recent years.
He also says there are no central government resources to fight monsecond disasters, making disaster relief and relief efforts difficult to carry out.
“Local units are burdened with too much work, but the budget is limited,” Singh told the Post on the phone. “Half of the budget is spent on administrative purposes and programs in the areas of health, education, social development, and little is left for disaster risk reduction and management. There should be a mechanism whereby a Part of the local government budget has to be spent exclusively on disaster risk reduction and disaster management. “
In Kathmandu, however, Pokharel said the budget for conducting rescue, response and recovery activities was not an issue.
“We have a sufficient budget. The Ministry of the Interior asked us to be quick and efficient in our activities without worrying about the budget, ”Pokharel said. “There is also the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund, which has 2-3 billion rupees. The provincial governments also have their own funds for disaster relief. “
Despite the current National Monsoon Early Preparedness and Response Work Plan 2021, Gautam, who is currently with the National Reconstruction Agency, believes that no predictive action will be taken to minimize the worst effects or even eliminate a crisis before a crisis threatens avoid.
“Preparations or activities in advance of disasters are very little. These are part of the early preparation. For example, if floods are forecast in the next few days and we know how many homes will be affected, we can relocate them before the disaster occurs, ”said Gautam. “Our efforts still revolve around responding to a disaster.”