July 25, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Monsoon floods risks challenges, weak disaster preparedness

The Nepal Weekly
June 23, 2021

The Nepal Weekly | June 22, 2021

Landslides and flash floods triggered by heavy rain across Nepal last week killed some 11 people including one Indian and two Chinese workers at a Melamchi Drinking Water Project, while around 25 people were missing. This was the report issued on Friday.

Heavy rain since last Tuesday have damaged roads, destroyed bridges, washed away fish farms and livestock, and wrecked homes in Helambu region of Sindhupalchok district. Due to high magnitude flood in the Melamchi river, hundreds of people have been forced to move to temporary shelters, including schools, sheds and tents.

On Saturday, Dolakha District Administration Office issued a flood warning for people living along the floodplains of River Tamakoshi. According to the administration, landslide has already damaged the river system near RongXia city, Tingri County in China and it could cause sudden flash food any time in Nepal side. However, China side had managed to flow flood water in a controlled manner to reduce the possible damages. This could damage the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, which is at the stage to start generating electricity in a short time to come.

Continuous heavy rainfall has flooded many small rivers and rivulets in Manang with floodwaters entering villages and causing damage. The heavy rain started on Monday June 14, 2021.

Floods in the Marshyangdi river triggered by continuous rainfall have displaced more than 56 families from Tal village in Nasho Rural Municipality.

Senior police officer in Nepal said that huge boulders have partially blocked Ghatte Khola in the rural municipality diverting the flow of the river into villages. Some houses in Chame are at risk of being swept away as the flooded river has entered the settlements downstream.

The local people were taking refuge at Myardibhir awaiting rescue. Some Manang residents had been able to flee by chartering helicopter to Kathmandu and Pokhara.

The recent heavy rain in Lamjung also had caused a big havoc. However, the loss and damage were stood at smaller amount.

Baglung district also had born the damages by recent heavy rains. This is also reported that the Tatopani border point in Sindhupalchowk has been closed since Saturday, as roads in Larcha and Kodari Bazaar areas were damaged by the flooded Bhotekoshi river. The flood is said to be once in 100 years.

The dam of an under-construction bridge in Kanchanpur in western Nepal has been washed away by a flooded Mahakali river on Saturday night. A section of the motorable bridge over the river at Odali, Bhimdutta municipality-12 of the district was destroyed.

As per Nepal’s Meteorological Forecasting Division, the monsoon has already hit Nepal from June 1 and it will continue for about three months. The monsoon rains, which normally begin in June and last until September, kill hundreds of people in mostly mountainous Nepal every year.

So as Nepal witnessed loss and damage of people and properties by floods in the Monsson season every year. Just with the start of monsoon floods and landslides in many places took place. The flood of Melamchi river in Sindhupalchok, Marsyandgi river in Lamjung, Tamakoshi in Dolkha, Manang, Baglung had caused damages.  

Emergency communication for warning and alarm was somehow made but the time was so short that some missed evacuate and run away higher places.to total evacuation could not happen. The warning system was not good enough to evacuate people and properties from the possible hit-areas.

Likewise, after damage rescue and relief works are very weak to support the victims. The necessary aid such as medicines, food materials and cloths supply are expected to be supplied on time to those who are in need. The local authorities work with the materials they can manage. The high authorities and responsible authorities have to decide promptly to minimise the loss and boost the will power of the survivals and victims.

The cause of disaster should be taken seriously to minimise. So as early warning system and relative communication should be made strong. If possible some measures should apply immediately so as risk of damages may be diverted. For example, a victim who survived the flood of Melamchi mentioned that if the boulders of landslide which blocked river flow might have cleared using explosives. Moreover, weak response for rescue and relief should be alert any time to supply.

The governmental portals mention that Nepal is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world due to its topography and climatic condition. Earthquakes, landslides, floods, fire, thunderbolts are the major causes of disaster events that caused major damaged in the past, weakening the fragile ecosystem of the country. Economic Vulnerability Analysis shows that Nepal exhibits the largest losses due to large exposure at risk and the high level of hazards. As a matter of these phenomena not only cause loss of lives and properties, but also pose severe threats to physical infrastructure, and also disrupt economic development. The frequently occurring natural disasters and likely zones are given below.

Landslide, avalanche, floods, glacial lake outburst, earthquake, fire, drought are the main natural disasters Nepal has been bearing every year.

Landslide is one of the very common natural hazards in the hilly region of Nepal. Both natural and human factors such as steep slopes, fragile geology, high intensity of rainfall, deforestation, unplanned human settlements are the major causes of landslide. The risk of landslide is further exacerbated by anthropogenic activities like improper land use, encroachment into vulnerable land slopes and unplanned development activities such as construction of roads and irrigation canals without proper protection measures in the vulnerable mountain belt. The hilly districts of Nepal located in the Siwalik, Mahabharat range, Mid-land, and also fore and higher Himalayas are more susceptible to landslide because of steep topography and fragile ecosystem.

Avalanches are a rapid movement of snow and debris flowing down through the slope or flanks of mountains. It can be triggered by natural factors like slopes, thickness of snow or human activity. They have the capacity to carry massive masses of snow and associated debris that make them one of the most destructive elements of hazards. The high mountainous region having the rugged and steep slopes topographically is susceptible to avalanche.

Flood is a common cause of flood in the rainy season in Nepal, and has been most frequent, highly damaging and wide spread natural hazards. It is estimated that more than 6,000 rivers and rivulets are in Nepal flowing from north to south. Among these, snow fed rivers, such as the Koshi, Narayani, Karnali, and Mahakali, are perennial rivers. They originate from the Himalayas and snow capped mountains and pass through the hills to the Terai plains. During the monsoon, these rivers swell and cause damage to the villages, crops lands, and people and livestock remained within the river basins. Historical data has shown that Nepal witnessed major flood in Tinao basin (1978), Koshi River (1980), Tadi River Basin (1985), Sunkoshi Basin (1987) and devastating cloud burst in Kulekhani area (1993) which alone claimed the lives of 1336 people.

Glacial lakes are located in the high altitude areas particularly in the foot hill of mountain. The lakes are formed due to damming in by moraines. These lakes contained huge volumes of water melting of glacier may lead to outbreak the lakes, called a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) with substantial capacity to cause great damage in downstream. 2,315 glacial lakes have, in total, been identified in Nepal and 14 GLOFs were recorded to have occurred between 1935 and 1991 in Nepal. At this background, 15 glacial lakes are found substantially dangerous in Nepal.

Nepal on a regular interval witnesses earthquake along the major active faults in east-west alignment. Historical data and ongoing seismological studies have clearly indicated that the entire region of Nepal is prone to earthquake and it lies in the active seismic zone V. It is evident that the seismic pattern has geographically divided into three clusters of events; viz: western, central and eastern Nepal. It has also pointed out that Siwalik, lesser Himalaya and frontal part of the Higher Himalaya are the most vulnerable zones. Historical data has shown that the country witnessed three major earthquakes in 20th century namely Bihar-Nepal earthquake (1934), Bajhang earthquake (1980) and Udayapur earthquake (1988). According to Global Report on Disaster Risk, Nepal ranks the 11th position in terms of earthquake risk as earthquakes have often occurred in Nepal.

Of the total households of the country, nearly 78 per cent households are agro-base households. In the rural areas thus, about 86 per cent of the population lives in the houses made of earthen wire, stone and wood. In Nepal, houses for residential purpose are developed in cluster basis which are more susceptible to catching fire and spreading over there immediately due to close connectivity especially in the dry season. Wildfire is another cause of natural disaster which usually occurs during dry season, especially in the mid hill areas. In the Terai region, fire, including the wildfire occurs mainly in the dry season.

Drought is the frequently happening hazard in Nepal. This is mainly caused by uneven and irregular low monsoon rainfall. Some parts of Terai, mid-land and Trans-Himalayan belts of Nepal are prone to drought. The lack of irrigation facilities further exacerbates the effect of drought causing enormous loss of crops production leading to the shortage and insecurity food. The droughts happened in 1972 and 1979 were the most seriously damaging and harmful to the people, livestock and crops. In 1994 Nepal witnessed the worst drought in its history that affected 35 districts of western hilly and Terai regions.

The Government of Nepal had endorsed a National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy 2075 (2018) and Disaster Risk Reduction National Strategic Action Plan 2018-2030, which provides a comprehensive planning framework for disaster risk reduction and management in Nepal, encompassing different priority areas and guiding government actors and stakeholders to achieve targets by adopting appropriate processes. In addition, the National Disaster Response Framework, 2070 (2014), and first amendment, 2075 (2019) has been formulated to ensure the role of governmental bodies and the private sector in order to effectively carry out disaster response activities. The DRRM Act 2074 (2017) was amended in March 2019. It establishes a National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Authority (NDRRMA) under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). MoHA is leading the ongoing efforts to operationalize the NDRRMA Act. The Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) policies and practices are fostered through DRM initiatives at global, national and sub national levels. (The Nepal Weekly and Government portals).