Experts say Sindhupalchowk landslide should serve as a wake-up call to the government and it should introduce an early warning system with effective implementation of national disaster management plan.
Despite allocating millions of rupees annually to disaster risk management, the situation in Sindhupalchowk reveals total lack of preparedness on part of the government, they claimed.
Stating that the country is lagging far behind on hazard mapping, early warning and disaster management initiatives, associate professor of engineering geology at Tribhuvan University Dr Ranjan Kumar Dahal blamed the government authorities for not acting promptly to minimise and mitigate the risk of floods and landslides in the country. “Sindhupalchowk landslide is just an example, “ he told THT.
“The government doesn’t have a disaster management act while most of the courses of action set by national disaster response framework are still unmet,” Dahal, who is also treasurer at the Himalayan Landslide Society, said. Spending billions of rupees in the time of crisis is not a long-term solution, he claimed, adding that all stakeholders must learn lessons from the Sindhupalchowk landslide.
Pitambar Aryal, National Programme Manager of the United Nations’ Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Programme in Nepal, said Sindhupalchowk landslide reflected the lack of awareness on risk of disaster at community level.
“A national level vulnerability assessment is the need of hour,” Aryal said, adding that the people have the right to know details about the places they live in. According to him, it is also high time that the authorities identified the reasons why Sindhupalcowk locals couldn’t leave for a safer place despite knowing that their settlements were vulnerable to landslide. Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha, senior climate change specialist at International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, said erratic weather and incessant rainfall could result in more landslides in the country. “It is too early to interlink recent landslides with the impact of climate change,” he said.
It is not easy for locals to avoid river valleys and low-lying areas due to fear of floods and landslides. “We didn’t have any option but to stay here,” said Ishwori Shrestha, an August 2 landslide survivor and a witness to a number of small landslips in the steep hill in three years. “We apprised the district authorities of the situation but they turned a deaf ear to our concerns,” he said.
Under Secretary Jhanka Nath Dhakal, who heads the National Emergency Operation Centre at the Ministry of Home Affairs, said the government would come up with disaster management act, claiming that national strategic plan of action for search and rescue has already been in the implementation phase. “Challenges still remain to launch coordinated efforts to tackle natural disaster in terms of precautionary measures, emergency response and relief,” he admitted.
According to government data, floods and landslides cost the nation several billion rupees in damages annually and cause more than 300 deaths per year.
• Finalisation and endorsement of national strategy on early warning system
• Development of emergency communication strategy
• Formation of integrated search and rescue plan at national, regional and district levels
• Development of action plan for flood and inundation response
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