Losses from calamity up 74% in 2018

January 09, 2019

Biken K Dawadi, My Republica, January 09, 2019

KATHMANDU: The losses and casualties caused by calamity (both natural and man-made) have risen sharply in recent years. Data maintained by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) show that the total estimated losses inflicted by calamities across the country increased by 74 percent from 2017 to 2018.

The calamities in the report include fire, lightning, floods, landslides, wildlife attacks and cold wave among others, but fire incidents were responsible for over 85 percent of the total losses. 

According to the ministry, various calamities across the country caused property losses worth around Rs 4.35 billion in 2018 against around Rs 2.49 billion lost in calamities in 2017. In 2016, calamities caused property losses worth around Rs 2.8 billion.

Officials from the Disaster and Conflict Management Division (DCMD) at the MoHA claimed that the sharp surge in losses due to disasters in 2018 was caused primarily due to lack of public awareness about the right use of modern home appliances.

“Nepal has seen rapid modernization in recent years in terms of use of modern home appliances. Yet, people are not aware of all the risks associated with modern appliances and gadgets,” spokesperson of DCMD, under-secretary Bed Nidhi Khanal told Republica referring to mainly fire incidents. “When the users do not understand the risks associated with these appliances, they end up inviting accidents.”

He added that the increased trend of reporting the cases of calamity, extreme weather, haphazard use of electricity and inflation have also caused the loss figures to bloat.

In total, disasters claimed 1,454 lives and gutted property worth around Rs 9.76 billion in the last three years. About 86 percent of the total losses in the three years were caused by fire accidents. Fire accidents have caused property losses worth around Rs 8.35 billion in the past three years. Among the three years, 2018 alone saw losses worth Rs 3.97 billion in fire incidents.

Under Secretary Khanal claimed that one of the causes for the increase in losses due to fire was lack of public awareness about building codes. “Most of the people disregard the building codes while constructing their houses,” he said. “And they end up compromising on safety standards.”

Under Secretary Khanal admitted that the MoHA has been left with no other option but to increase public awareness to minimize fire accidents. “At the moment, the ministry can only urge people to install fire extinguishers in their homes,” he said. 

Khanal added that the DCMD is advocating for a new and advanced approach for fire safety. “We have set our vision of laying water pipes across the valley and building lakes at higher altitudes in the villages in order to extinguish fires,” he said. However, he admitted that the vision is a far-fetched one which will take decades to implement.