Climate Change

Little rainfall triggers disastrous flash floods in Mustang

Published On: August 7, 2019 05:30 AM NPT By: Santosh Pokharel

POKHARA, Aug 7: Rains are not frequent in Mustang. The Himalayan ranges are known for sparse rainfalls. However, whenever it does, it becomes a source of concern for the people these days. Even a little downpour leaves flood settlements.

On Sunday night, it rained in Mustang villages for less than an hour. It was not more than 5.6 milliliter in measurement. However, Lomanthang and other communities were badly hit. Roads and houses were flooded as the Lomanthang River swelled.

The locals of ward number four and five of Lomanthang Rural Municipality were rendered homeless. According to the local authorities, infrastructures have been damaged, and it might take some time to get things to track.

The locals of ward number four and five of Lomanthang Rural Municipality were rendered homeless. According to the local authorities, infrastructures have been damaged, and it might take some time to get things to track.

"The rain lasted for around half an hour. But it damaged things massively," noted Chief District Officer of Mustang, Ganga Bahadur Chhetri. "Just 5.6 millimeter of rainfall triggered so much flooding."

The floods have damaged sections of Jomsom – Korla road as well. Though the local administration used dozers to clear the road and resumed vehicular movement, large parts of debris remained unattended.

"It is not a good thing that even little rainfall is becoming so much destructive. The loss on Sunday turned out to be much more than we had assumed," said CDO Chhetri. He said that a similar disaster had occurred in the district last year also and stressed that the incidents pointed to enormous environmental challenges ahead. "We had heard of the severe impact of environmental degradation. There are talks of climate change too. But there should be a proper study to understand the ecological aspects here. The floods are posing a challenge to the settlements here, "he stated.When it floods in Mustang settlements, there are hardly any trees to contain the flow of the flood and the stones and mud it washes along. Vegetation has always been sparse in this district. And floods in such areas turn extremely dangerous, CDO Chhetri noted.During the last monsoon as well, Jomsom – Korola road had been blocked due to floods. Despite massive efforts, authorities concerned have not been able to clear the road."Even last year, the amount of rainfall was not proportionate to the floods. But this time, it was even more disproportionate. A growing concern among the local bodies is now about ensuring the safety of the people," CDO Chhetri said.Several settlements in Lomanthang and other areas of Mustang are at risk of floods and landslides. But local authorities don't have any immediate disaster response plans.                                                

According to CDO Chhetri, the melting of the Himalayas could have led to the increasing frequency of floods. 'Else, rains alone should not be so much disastrous'.

According to Indradhara Bista, assembly member of Gandaki Province, Sunday's floods have quite alarmed the locals. They had not anticipated such a massive disaster following just half an hour of rains.

"We all are quite shocked," said Bista, who's a local of Lomanthang. "Safety issue has now become everyone's concern," he added.

Also, according to Bista, it is not sure whether climate change could have forced different environmental effects in the Himalayan villages of late. A proper study would confirm it.

"In the past, rains would not be an issue as that would not cause floods of the likes we see nowadays. Even little rains are becoming so destructive," Bista said. "We have heard of melting glaciers, don't know if it is also aiding in triggering the floods," he added.

The local government has urged people to remain alert and careful. However, the local government has not taken any initiatives for relocating them to safer places.

Bista said that the details of the loss from the flood are yet to come and informed that compensation would be provided based on their loss.

Geologist Shreekadam Dwibedi is of the opinion that climate change has made things difficult for the people in the Himalayas. Both floods and landslides are the results of global warming, he states. "Settlements in the Himalayan region are seriously under risk. Sunday's case is an example," he remarked. "Just half an hour-long rain cannot cause such a huge disaster otherwise. Roads have been damaged, and houses have been swept away," he added.                        

He further stated that the areas used to receive snowfall, not rain, in the past. Had it been snowfall, the region would have been affected by floods. "I think all this is happening due to climate change. I feel we are already late in responding to the impact of global warming," he reiterated.



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