Flood fear looms over villages close to vulnerable embankments in Rautahat

Government has not released funds to repair the embankments damaged in last year’s monsoon, officials say.

Shiva Puri

As many as 24 people died and around 4,000 houses were destroyed in floods and landslides in several settlements of Rautahat district in July last year. The rain-swollen Lalbakaiya and Bagmati rivers had breached their levees at 13 places and inundated more than two-thirds of the district.

In the wake of the disaster, the federal and provincial ministers and high-level officials had pledged to repair the embankments, but that pledge has not yet been fulfilled.

“The upcoming rainy season is going to be hard on riverside settlements. It will certainly bring destruction if the damaged embankments are not repaired,” said Chief District Officer Basudev Ghimire.

According to Ghimire, the Lalbakaiya embankment had suffered nine breaches while the Bagmati embankment was damaged at four places.

The northern region of the district was heavily flooded as a result. Around 30,000 people, particularly from Ishnath, Gaur, Durgabhagawati and Rajdevi areas, were directly affected, while properties worth more than Rs 150 million were either damaged or destroyed.

Monsoon enters Nepal in early June, which means the authorities have only four months left to repair the damaged levees. People living close to the Lalbakaiya and Bagmati rivers doubt that the embankments will be fixed in time.

“Nobody is bothered about building or repairing the embankments. They should have started the works in the winter season,” said Grisha Sandan Singh, a local of Banjaraha.

Raj Kumar Shreebastav, the chief of Bagmati and Lalbakaiya River Control Office in Parwanipur, said the office will soon start the repair works.

“The higher authority has not yet released the funds required to repair the embankments. We, however, aim to complete the repair work by mid-May. All the damaged embankments will be repaired before the monsoon,” he said.

The office has requested the Department of Water Induced Disaster Management for Rs 230 million to repair the damaged embankments. Last year, the office had placed gabion walls and sandbags to control the river floodings, but to no avail.

The embankments along the flood-prone Bagmati and Lalbakaiya rivers were constructed around 20 years ago with the support of the Indian government. The embankments are often breached during the monsoon season.

In 2017, the rivers had breached their embankments at 31 places.