Where life does not follow normal course: Untold sorrows of people alongside Rapti River

Some twenty thousand population residing on the Rapti riverside in Banke has stories of unabated pain and suffering to share every monsoon as their life does not follow the general course. Every monsoon, the fear of floods entering the settlements, inundating the houses, damaging crops and washing away arable land haunts them. As they say they are destined to endure these recurring havocs.

Mangru Tharu represents that larger group badly affected by the Rapti flood during monsoon. They have been living with this fate since the constructions of Laxmanpur Barrage and embankment to the river along the Nepal-India border. The constructions violate international norms. As they said, their bad luck began with the constructions of river infrastructures going against the international standard. During monsoon, the Indian side open the barrage gates, but as per own convenience. And interests. Such one-sided move result in a massive loss towards Nepali territory. Thousands of hectares of arable land get submerged in flood water which inundate settlement causing significant losses of lives and property.

It seems that the Indian side is not satisfied upon all these as it has lately constructed a tall road along the border area which has posed a risk of inundating the district headquarters Nepalgunj also. According to Nepalgunj sub metropolis mayor Dr Dhawal Shumser Rana said the road does not have underground culverts for the systematic passage of water.

Some twenty-four population of around five thousand households at Holiya, Bethani, Phattepur, Tepari and Ghodiyanpur are compelled to endure unwelcoming circumstances, taking it as their fate. Though the Banke District Administration Office call on the Indian side to open barrage gates towards Nepali side as well when the monsoon hits its peak, but no avail. There have been repeated calls made in previous joint meetings of officials of both Nepal and India to open all the doors of the embankments to protect downstream villages in Banke district, but to no avail so far. Flooded Rapti river in 2072 BS deluged the downstream villages, and caused a heavy loss.

The flood victims are still scared by recalling the disaster, and are also in constant fear at present as monsoon has already set in. “Most of the people victimised by the 2072 floods are living in forest areas and public lands. The government is yet to manage permanent settlement for them,” said Jagadhish Bahadur Singh, chairperson of the Laxmanpur embankment victim protection committee.

On Saturday, the rain-fed river submerged more than 100 houses downstream and damaged a dozens and the Postal Highway. Laxmanpur embankments and dams constructed by India are mainly to blame for flooding on the Nepali side. “We have incurred a big loss after the natural course of the water hampered,” said Singh. Temporary rehabilitation and relief materials are managed for flood victims. But there is not concrete solution to how long this continues?. “There is only an alternative–India should open all doors of the embankments or the government should management permanent settlement for the people living downstream,” said Singh.

The people of settlements near the banks of the Rapti river are compelled to live in constant threat of flood and inundation with the start of the monsoon season. “We cannot sleep due to fear of flood and inundation whenever there is heavy rain during the night. People scramble to go to safer ground. They are nagged by the concern the disaster of the scale of 2072 BS might recur,” Ishtiyak Ahamad Shah, the chairperson of the Narainapur rural municipality, Banke district, said.

Eight people were killed and millions of property was damaged due to flooding and inundation that occurred in the area two years back. Thousands of people were affected by the disaster. The data with the local administration shows that cash, food grain, clothes, tarpaulin sheet and utensils worth Rs 217.4 million were provided to the flood victims that year.

Every year there are casualties due to the flood and inundation caused by the Rapti river. Physical structures are washed away and farmers crops are destroyed by the flood and inundation, causing huge financial loss each year, although the extent of damage might differ from one year to the next. Like in previous years, the local administration has formed the disaster management committee at the local level this year also for reducing the damage from flood and inundation.

It has made arrangements for the required equipments and also kept the Nepal Army, Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force (APF) in ready position in case of emergency. Early flood warning sirens have been installed in the area, chief district officer, Madan Bhujel, said. May be, all these measures will help reduce the damage caused by the flood and inundation. But it would be appropriate if the Government of Nepal held talks with the Government of India regarding the Laxmanpur dam and embankment for any durable solution to this perennial problem.

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