Saturday, 3 June, 2023

Resettle The Disaster-hit

Bini Dahal

Nepal ranks 4th, 11th and 30th in terms of risk of climate change, earthquake and flood disaster respectively. This makes the country highly vulnerable to natural disasters. While nearly all parts of the country are disaster-affected in some way or the other, Sindhupalchowk district seems to be the most affected.
Over the past couple of years, Sindhupalchowk has undergone massive changes from geological point of view. The district has been reeling from various natural disasters such as the earthquake and its aftershocks, flash floods and landslides. There has not been even a single year when the district has required any kind of assistance from the government or humanitarian organisations. The frequency of disasters is so high that many parts of the district are becoming unsuitable for human settlement.
In 2014, rainfalls triggered a massive landslide at Jure area of the district where more than 150 people were killed. The 2015 mega earthquake caused a colossal damage to life and property in the district. The earthquake measuring 7.8 degree on Richter scale destroyed almost all the houses and other physical structures. It also took lives of thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands had become homeless. However, many private homes, schools and health posts have been rebuilt under the reconstruction campaign launched by the government.
The already fragile land structure of the district has been weakened further by numerous aftershocks. Many locals have been displaced from their localities due to the earthquake and other natural calamities.
Despite this, with no alternative in sight, many people have continued to live in the disaster-prone areas. In the rainy season this year, some of the most devastating landslides occurred in the northeastern part of the Sindhupalchowk district. The floods killed scores of people and swept away many houses and farming land. Some 40 persons have still gone missing. Thus, the locals had to suffer from such disasters amid the growing fear of the coronavirus.
On September 16, yet another major earthquake measuring 6 degree on Richter scale hit the district. Ramche area was its epicenter. This is the area where a deadly landslide had occurred just four days back. The landslide had swept away 11 houses, killing 15 people and leaving 16 missing. With the increasing casualties caused by recurrent landslides and the potential risk the earthquake has brought, it is necessary to relocate the locals at safer places. Yet, it is necessary to remember that the government just does not have a single problem to ponder about.
We are in a situation where rapid and effective steps need to be taken to deal with the problems. But what we truly lack is the vision for and the commitment to implementing plans and programmes to have desired results. Showing the data about the country's ranking in terms of risk in natural disasters and preparedness alone will not be sufficient. Anyone without the idea of the numbers and rankings can tell it quite simply as to how Nepal is in no good situation. Human-induced disasters and the consequence of climate change are quite evident. The government must pay its urgent attention towards those vulnerable residents of the district and initiate the process of resettling them. Focusing on the emergency situation alone is not a solution to this exacerbating problem. We have to be prepared for this beforehand.