Thursday, 1 June, 2023

Climate-induced Calamity

The country is still reeling from the shock of the big loss of lives and property caused by the recent rain-induced floods, landslides and inundations. The government has already announced relief to all families who lost their members in the disaster. Likewise, those who lost crops, houses and shops are also getting compensation from the state. Over 111 people lost their lives, and paddy crops worth over Rs. 7 billion were destroyed owing to the natural calamity. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba visited the far west and eastern parts of the country which were badly affected by the post-monsoon havoc and interacted with the affected farmers and assured them of compensation for their loss. The monetary relief has helped the farmers to make up their input costs. Still the devastation of harvest-ready paddy crops has unleashed widespread fear whether the country would face food crisis and see a rise in the unwanted food imports from abroad.

While the government is doing its best to heal the wounds of the victims, experts are talking about the climate change and new weather pattern that caused the freak rain. It was perhaps for the first time that the post-monsoon downpours caught the country off guard. It is not that there was no rainfall before and after the monsoon but the amount and intensity of the rain was beyond expectation. Scientists argue that climate change may be responsible for the unexpected weather pattern. The temperature in Nepal is increasing at a rate of 0.05 degrees Celsius every year owing to the global warming. This has led to various unintended climatic incidents. The country has been witnessing excessive rainfall within a short duration, said an expert cited in a news report of this daily. He said that for many years now, the country has been witnessing similar weather patterns, like moderate rainfall during the Dashain festival.

The news report stated that low-pressure systems in central India and the Bay of Bengal and active westerly winds led to the heavy rainfall after the end of monsoon. During this monsoon, Nepal received 15 per cent more rainfall than it did in the past. The changing climate pattern impels us to follow new adaptive practice, and upgrade the early warning system and communication channels. Prior to the recent unseasonal rains, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) had forecast the torrential rain in western regions and asked the people to act accordingly. This information was very important for the farmers who were preparing to harvest their crops. If they had well received this information, they could have postponed the harvest of the crops and avoided the huge loss.

Nonetheless, we do not have localised weather forecasting systems that would enable the timely dissemination of information to the farmers and those living in the risk-prone areas. The DHM needs to be better equipped with modern technology and human resources to predict rainfall, landslides and floods in the specific places. The local governments that are in touch with the local community should be mobilised to this end. In addition to the enhanced technology, the country’s disaster management system must be revamped so that it can promptly carry out rescue and relief operation in the areas hit by the floods and landslides.