Even by moderate estimates, cold spells affect at least 125,000 households in the Tarai every year and these numbers are increasing. The Cold Wave Contingency Action Plan has estimated that 50,000 people from 5,000 households in Saptari (where 19 people died of cold three years ago) would be affected this year. Another 30,000 and 6,500 households in Dang and Bardia.
Cold waves are listed as a disaster in Nepal now, and the District Disaster Management Committee has a plan to reduce its impact. Says Krishna Bahadur Katuwal, former Chief District Officer of Mahottarai: “No citizen should suffer from the cold wave or die from it. We are ready to respond and we have made arrangements through municipalities to distribute warm clothes, blankets and bedding.”
But in most places, such support is yet to reach the neediest of the bunch. “The CDO came for inspection a month ago, the help hasn’t reached us yet,” says Ramprit Sada of Kaira in Mahottari.
Adds Lalmati Devi of Birganj: “We haven’t received anything from the municipality, this is a Dalit neighbourhood. Our children just burn the cow dung to keep warm.”
Based on Episode 7 of Saglo Samaj, a tv magazine program produced by Himalmedia which is broadcast every Monday, at 8:30 pm on Dish Home Channel 130.