Floods and landslides in Nepal, August 2017

More than 400 mm of rainfall in 24 hours resulted in extensive flooding in the south of Nepal on 12 August 2017. Almost the entire terai plain flooded, affecting all the districts below the Churia range of mountains. Landslides were triggered in some districts.

The terai is prime agricultural land and this flash flooding will result in great losses to Nepal's agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that flood water has wiped out NRs. 8.11 billion (£61 million) worth of crops. Precious stores of food and livestock were swept away by the surging water. Critical infrastructure such as bridges and airports were severely affected.

The Ministry of Home Affairs declared that 135 people lost their lives, 30 more are missing and 41 severely injured. Nearly 80,000 houses have been completely destroyed and many more have suffered damage.

The Chitwan National Park, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Bardia National Park and Krishnasar Conservation Area, home to many of Nepal's endangered species, were severely affected.

All roads remained submerged as does Biratnagar Airport, the largest airport in the Terai.  Transport is almost non-existent in the region.  Government offices, hospitals and markets were also inundated. 

Effectiveness of Practical Action's activities

  • Biodykes constructed in areas where river bank erosion is a problem, proved effective flood barriers in the Karnali area.
  • Emergency shelters were found to be highly effective at saving lives during the emergency.
  • The community taskforce system worked effectively in relief and rescue work at the local level, building on the experience of community flood mock exercises.
  • Early warning systems saved lives. Nepal's Department of Hydrology and Meteorology flood early warning system provided forecasted information to stakeholders via a twice daily bulletin. Social media was used to spread information and people have shared that this helped them to take early action.
  • Mass messaging via SMS made a huge contribution in disseminating alterts. NCELL, one of the key SMS service providers, alone sent 6 million messages, a huge contribution from the private sector in saving lives and properties. 

The current situation

Image courtesy of Bardiya Online

Flood waters are receding and communities starting to resume their daily routine. Those whose houses were completely damaged were given tents and plastic sheets as temporary housing and some are sheltering in public places like schools, temples and community houses.

The government has been providing the emergency materials to the most affected people. Voluntary organisations are providing relief materials in close coordination with the district authorities and local governments.

The blocked transport and airport started to operate, though some severely affected roads/bridges are closed.

In some cases floods blocked planned evacuation routes – so we are also llooking at planning better evacuation routes and managing how to respond if a household can’t escape.

Practical Action are working with the Red Cross society to provide emergency relief at project sites in Siraha and Jhapa districts.

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