Monsoon and Disaster Preparedness in Nepal

By Yunish Ghimire
Aug 26, 2022

Every year disasters pertaining to monsoon rain have been a recurring theme in Nepal. Monsoon in Nepal usually lasts from June to September. However, post monsoon rain that started in October last year ran ravage throughout the country. The human causalities from rain and landslides reached more than 100. Furthermore, the rainfall also destroyed the paddy crops in several parts of the country. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the damage to the paddy crops stood at around NRS 8.26 billion. A total of 85,580 hectares of ready-to-harvest land were swept away or submerged by floodwaters which destroyed around 325, 258 tons of paddy. The loss is estimated at around 0.6% of the total GDP.

According to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Nepal is expected to receive above average rainfall this year too. Similarly, a report by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority highlights that around 2 million people or 421,047 households will be impacted by the monsoon rain and landslides. The government has alerted security personnel including Armed Police Force (APF) and Nepal Army (NA) to be prepared for rescue operations. However, the major issue of the government lies on the short-term preparedness rather than prioritizing the long-term disaster management efforts.

One of the major shortcomings is seen in the area of Early Warning Systems (EWS). For instance, the department of Water and Meteorology had forecasted the post monsoon rainfall. However, the information failed to reach the concerned stakeholders. Thus, the damages incurred by the farmers can solely be attributed towards the lack of dissemination of information at the local levels. Different studies have indicated that strengthening EWS can save anywhere from 25% to 60% in property damages. Time and again, the government has outlined that it would focus on early warning systems. However, the details on how it would strengthen the systems are still unclear. Furthermore, Nepal lacks advanced technology of early warning systems and there is also a weak coordination between different disaster related agencies and non-governmental organizations working in disaster preparedness work. The Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act was passed in 2017 to oversee the management of all kinds of disasters. However, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council still doesn’t exist.

Similarly, it is evident that the preparations for pre-disaster are minimal and most of its focus is oriented towards post disaster response. The government has focused on token relief measures, which shifts the focus away from long term disaster management. Despite this, the use of government aid for the affected communities hasn’t been effective. According to a survey funded by the UN, only 39 percent of the flood victims believe that the government fund is reaching the affected communities. In case of crops damage, farmers are required to show proof of land ownership to claim government aid. Under this policy, the tenant farmers are barred from receiving aid. Hence, even with the government’s focus on relief measures, adequate relief measures have continuously failed to reach the victims.

Nepal is prone to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and wildfires, while climate change has made the extreme weather conditions more frequent and unpredictable. The data has indicated that the intensity of rainfall has increased over the past few years, which further increases the risks associated with flooding and inundation in terai and landslides in hilly region. Thus, moving forward it is important that the government directs its attention towards adaptive policies to make vulnerable communities more resilient towards the impact of monsoon rain and landslides. This should be a bottom-up approach, meaning that the local communities should be involved in the planning process which will help address their needs.

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