The monsoon in Nepal earlier this year was horrific and left thousands of people homeless in Darchula district. But when unusually severe monsoon rain caused flooding last month, everyone was prepared for flooding due to a new early warning system.
Incessant rain begun unexpectedly on 15 June in the Bardiya district, causing the water level of Karniali River to rise at Chisapani. While the Karnali River relentlessly continued to swell with the possibility of invading a number of villages in Bardiya, an electronic display board at District Police Office in Bardiya was updating information on the overflowing water level through a telemetric system established by Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM). Parbati Gurung from DHM was at Chisapani station, observing the gushing Karnali River and updating information to the District Police, Administration and branch office of Red Cross every 15 minutes.
Preparing for a rescue
On 17 June, the river crossed the danger line of gauge reader at Chisapani. The Chief District Officer at Bardiya called an emergency meeting with the Nepal Army, the Armed Police Force and the Red Cross to keep them alert and prepare for the rescue and support.
The District Administration, Police and Red Cross staff analysed the information provided by the telemetric system and Parbati Gurung. The digital board placed by Practical Action was giving the information based on the water level at Chisapani.
Evacuating residents to safe areas
As soon as the digital board showed that the water level at Chisapani was nearly crossing the danger line, the community radio in Bardiya alerted communities living near the river. The Nepal Army and Armed Police Force marched toward the flood prone settlements to help evacuate people to safe areas. An alerting siren started ringing in Rajapur, Bhimmapur, Daulatpur, Patabhar, Manau, Khairichandapur, Gola and Pashupati Nagar of Bardiya Districts. People in the areas begun to collect their important belongings, documents, foods, and clothes and left home for higher ground. About 2,620 people were taken to safe areas.
Purna Ram Tharu, a resident from Patabhar, said: “We were terribly frightened while we knew that the river was crossing the danger line and entering our settlement. But thank god, we could successfully leave our place before the flood intruded into our settlement. We didn’t have to bear any human losses this time.”
Khusi Ram Tharu, President of Patabhar Disaster Risk Management Committee, added: “No one was injured in what was such a big flood. We had time to march on towards the safe places with our belongings. We now realise that early warning systems will help us avoid the precarious impact of flood.”
Impact of the early warning system
Thakur Tharu, President of Disaster Management Committee, Rajapur said: “The Early Warning System established in various places of Bardiya helped wonderfully this time as they were informed about a flood before it entered the village. The system also allowed us to assemble our important documents and other properties and move swiftly to a safe place. No sooner had the flood got into the village, residents were informed by ringing sirens and had already moved to the safe places.”
The Disaster Management Committee warned villagers, disseminating information about the flow of the flood, using microphones. The committee also prioritised the safety of pregnant women, disabled people, and children – preparing them to leave for safe areas such as local schools. When the water level went down all, the families were able to return to their homes again.
The early warning system established by Practical Action, supported by ECHO’s disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO), has proved to be an incredibly important system to avoid human and material loss due to flooding. The project has also provided equipment and accessories such as sirens, microphones, jackets, boats and rope for handling emergency in case of flooding.
It is now well-known and proved that The early warning system installed in the Bardiya area is highly effective and guards against floods and flood-led natural disasters. If the system is promoted by the state in flood prone areas across the country, settlements close to riverfront areas will not face untimely deaths and loss of property.
Find out more about Practical Action Nepal’s disaster risk reduction and climate change programme, which aims to reduce the loss of lives and property of vulnerable communities due to water induced disasters such as these.