The memory of the catastrophic flood of 2017 is still fresh in the minds of the people of Rautahat district. But even though they are better prepared now, there have been no moves to address the cause: floodplains of rivers blocked by embankments.
Rautahat is now in Province 2 under Nepal’s federal structure, disaster management is the responsibility of local governments. But even with the arrival of the monsoon, Kathmandu and the other provinces are still wrangling over power devolution. Ironically, the Bagmati that burst its banks here two years ago, originates in the Kathmandu Valley.
The 2017 Disaster Risk and Management Act farmed out responsibilities of preparedness, rescue and relief to central, provincial, and local governments. Province 2 has passed its own Disaster Management law, but it exists only in paper. By the time it is ready, the central Tarai could drown in another flood. Experts say that the rampant construction of road embankments, levees and settlements along the floodplains on both sides of the India-Nepal border will make future floods much worse.
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Nepal Tarai learns from past floods, Sewa Bhattarai
“We have a total of Rs150 million in the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and in the ministry’s own disaster fund,” says Arun Jha at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Law of Province 2. “But we have not been able to procure rafts, tents, and food stockpiles in time. But when the flood comes, we will find a way to deal with it.”
The lack of civil servants has prevented the provincial government in Janakpur from functioning at full capacity, and so, it depends on Kathmandu for everything. First responders like the Nepal Army and Police, for instance, are deployed by the central government. As the tornado disaster in Bara in April showed, the role of the Province 2 government is limited to coordination.
It will take a few more years before all three levels of government start functioning smoothly to prevent and cope with disasters. Till then, Lalita Kumari Ram (pictured above), who survived the 2017 flood by fleeing to a road embankment with her family, will be on her own.
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