Melamchi disaster: Lesson for municipal governments – The Himalayan Times

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Excessive rainfall in June and August caused floods and landslides in Melamchi and the surrounding areas. The damage is uncountable, both in terms of property and human lives lost. At some point, humans are responsible for the damage, so corrective actions are required to reduce the disruptive impacts of a natural disaster.
Nepal falls in the climate change vulnerable group.
Besides landslides, the country can suffer from water-induced disasters and human activities contributing to this vulnerability.
Activities that are against nature contribute to the degradation of the environment. Developed countries recognise the significance of conservation of nature and ecosystems.
In a developed country, such as Canada, it is uncommon to see barren land. Policies are in place for excavation and the use of natural resources.
Ranchers must follow the protocols and plan to graze their livestock while maintaining the ground cover, and they are required to maintain every ecosystem that their range tenures hold. For example, riparian areas are strictly monitored to ensure that the riparian health is maintained. When using pesticides, pertinent rules must be followed, and it could take weeks to plan its use after receiving the prescription from a scientist.
Ecosystems are evaluated regularly to see if they are functioning. If any necessary actions are required to restore and improve the ecosystems, the ranchers must complete the action within a prescribed time frame. When harvesting forests, the habitat of the wildlife is also maintained.
Healthy ecosystems clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide us with food and promote lives.
Damaged or imbalanced ecosystems create disasters such as excessive rainfall, drought, pandemic or climate change. Hence, human actions must not pose a threat to the environment but maintain a balanced ecosystem. In Nepal, roads constructed without proper technical feasibility analysis and suitability have induced damage to the environment, and traffic accidents are on the rise.
Municipal governments are supposed to apply land use planning policy in their jurisdiction in order to use the resources properly and correctly. Unfortunately, Melamchi destroyed fertile agricultural lands, leading to environmental degradation and economic and social losses.
These days, majority of the agricultural terraced lands are uncultivated, which has resulted in loss of soil through soil erosion and landslides. Municipal governments can do something to maintain agriculture cropping, and protect the lands and ecosystems by making a policy.
Raw sewage and waste containing plastics, toxic chemicals and others flow into rivers in almost all municipal areas of the country and that includes Melamchi.
Because of river health issues, there is no life in the river water, hydrologic functions having virtually ceased. Unfortunately, proper rules that direct the people to keep their rivers clean and healthy are not being made and executed.
The use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and dependence on them for crops has had a bad impact on the environment, and the activity has resulted in the collapse of fish and wildlife habitats. Generally, people are not aware of the negative effects of pesticides, which are also damaging upland, wetland and aquatic ecosystems.
Developed nations are adopting a science-based approach to environmental management, and municipal governments in Nepal should follow suit to the fullest extent. By the same token, to mitigate any disaster and protect lives and property, municipal governments should develop an emergency management plan, analysing the potential threats and risks.
A watershed management plan can be developed for the Indrawati and Melamchi Rivers from their originating points. Likewise, the excessive use of chemical fertilisers has led to harmful effects of pesticides on humans. All kinds of views are essential to understand what is required to control and manage the negative effects by developing policies that mitigate them.
One of the causes of soil erosion is a fire that will eventually destroy the ecosystems as well. Municipal governments should warn offenders and make people responsible. Also, natural resource utilisation should be well-regulated. Over extraction of soil, rocks and sand eventually invites disasters, so municipalities should not focus just on the monetary benefits but balance these while focusing on sustainable development.
Malamchi may have earned millions, but it has also lost billions, while leaving the nature damaged forever. Furthermore, a no-barren-land policy should be affirmed and enacted.
Development of the right strategic business plan leads to success while achieving the results efficiently.
Acknowledging this fact, by using the authority provided by the new constitution, municipal governments from disaster-prone areas should tailor their environmental disaster mitigation and environmental conservation strategic plans and execute them. After discussion and the formulation of policies, the respective governments should develop mechanisms involving their youths, students and general population to develop a common understanding within the municipal governments.
By providing training, the local youths can be utilised and used for disaster preparedness, mitigation to recovery and environmental protection. They will also engage in greening barren lands and conserving ecosystems. The municipal governments can educate, train youths and key community leaders on natural resource utilisation, land utilisation and environmental protection.
Similarly, municipal governments can influence local schools to start teaching on ecosystems and basic courses in hydrology.
A version of this article appears in the print on August 17 2021, of The Himalayan Times.
© 2021 The Himalayan Times

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