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At the mercy of nature

Though disasters get more frequent, state remains apathetic and victims helpless


As soon as he spots patches of dark clouds hovering in the sky, Som Bahadur Tamang rushes to his house and starts packing up important documents and other personal belongings. He does not want to take chances this time around. 

Over the past few years, the poor farmer from Kintang VDC of Nuwakot district has lost almost all of his farmland and livestock to landslides triggered by torrential downpours – and has narrowly escaped death few times. 

Not just Som Bahadur and his neighbors, but hundreds of villagers in the VDC get paranoid as soon as they see black cloud deck forming over their head as the monsoon looms large.

Out of 400 households in Som Bahadur´s village, around 300 families are extremely vulnerable to mudslides as the entire settlement is surrounded by steep hills with loose soil formation.

“We took shelter at schools and places of our relatives in other villages as we somehow managed to escape from village last year,” says Shanti Lama, one of his neighbors.
It´s not that these villagers are not aware of their rights. 

“We staged a series of protest demanding relocation, but the state won´t make efforts to rescue us,” complains Shanti, who is a teacher at Chandra Devi Lower Secondary School in the village. 

In this file photo of 2012, locals demonstrate their search and rescue skill a in mock drill organised in the Kulhariya river, Pathariya VDC, Kailali.

Though expert teams from the capital have reached the VDC several times over the years to explore ways to control the landslides which began eight years ago, the villagers have been kept in dark about their findings.

They do not know if the government is planning something or not to help them.

Meanwhile, the landslides have become frequent and more damaging over the past two years.

The village is one of the most vulnerable places for landslide, says VDC Secretary Bishnu Prasad Pandey. 

He adds that the VDC has done all it could by forwarding reports about the people being affected by the landslides to the District Administration Office, requesting the authorities to relocate the victims. 

“But there is no response on their relocation plan to the report we submitted back in February,” Pandey says, shrugging his shoulders.

As the 30th most vulnerable country when it comes to landslides and floods, Nepal has seen thousands of people rendered homeless and displaced and some 21,580 hectares of fertile land turning uncultivable in the period in between 2001 to 2012, according to data provided by the Ministry of Home and Affairs.

One and a half months into the monsoon last year, 59 people had died in 29 districts and 12,474 were displaced, states the report released by the MoHA in January. 

Ten more people were killed while 4,314 people were displaced in just three days in between July 9 and 11 last year.

According to the ministry rough estimation, floods and landslides cause about 300 deaths every year in the country besides the loss to property worth more than US$10 million. 

On the other hand, the Disaster Risk Reduction Framework prepared by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD) is yet to be implemented at the VDC level as it still struggles to response properly even at the District Development Committee level.

According to Gopi Krishna Khanal, Chief of the Disaster Risk Reduction Division at the MoFALD, committees envisioned under the framework are formed by training the villagers to respond whenever there are floods, land slide and other natural disasters. 

The only district where the Disaster Risk Reduction Committee has been effective is Kailali where Pathraiya VDC claims to have the first ever to be self-reliant when it comes to emergency response and rescue.

Koshi to Darchula: The forgotten lot
Whenever any disaster strikes in Nepal, political heavy weights make a brief visit to the affected area on choppers in a populist move. And they succeed in grabbing media headlines. 

However, lack of commitment on their part to implement the promises they make to the victims often go unreported — so do the plights of most of the victims who are forced to languishing poverty for rest of their life. 

The country has seen such water-induced calamities years after years but the victims´ plight remain unaddressed whether it be the Koshi flood of 2008 or the devastating one in Darchula district last year. 

Six years after the havoc wreaked by the Koshi flood, the government has yet to come with the exact figure of the losses caused by the flooding and the fund collected at the Prime Minister´s Office for the Koshi flood victim has remains utterly underutilized. 

When the Right to Information (RTI) activists sought details of government´s activities to address the Koshi crisis, the report received that only Rs 20 million was spend on the victims while a whopping Rs 370 million out of the total Rs 420 million remained unused. 

Thirty million rupees was used in rescue operations in other flood-affected districts that year, revealed the report sought from the PMO by the RTI activist Tara Nath Dahal, who is also the chairperson of Freedom Forum. 

An earlier report of the Ministry of Home and Affairs stated that 40 people died in the disaster, 50,000 people were directly affected, and 6,000 families were displaced due to poor maintenance of the spurs along the embankments. 

A report issued by the Institute for Social and Environment Transition-Nepal (ISET-N) in February after the study of post-flood scenario states that none of the victimized families have received compensation from the government. 

Similarly, the government has remained silent about its failure to rehabilitate the victims or provide them with proper compensation.

Similar is the case in Darchula where the government has not laid even one brick for reconstruction of several houses, health institutions and commercial buildings and offices either swept away or badly damaged in the massive flooding. 

The decision of the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee (CNDRC) to provide Rs 5 million to Darchula and Kanchanpur districts for relief and rescue was peanuts compared to the heavy toll on lives and property. 

´Disaster Management Program in the offing´

The government officials now say that realizing the gap between service providers and seekers, a special mechanism named Disaster Management Program is going to be launched shortly. 

The proposed program is being designed by the officials of the MoFALD, MoHA and Ministry of Urban Development, according to Khanal, chief of the Disaster Risk Reduction Division at the MoFALD.

“We are designing the program to stop unorganized financial assistance in this sector from various donor agencies as well,” Khanal adds. 

He further says that the dispersed budget allocation from various stakeholders keep the government agencies in dark about the total amount allocated and spent for the cause every year.

The program would cover the response, rehabilitation and other post-disaster aspects with priority to long-term rehabilitation plan.

“So far Nepal´s disaster response has been focused only on rescue and immediate relief, which has failed to improve the livelihood of the victims,” he says. 



Source- Republica Daily


Published on 2014-06-07 02:47:22

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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