Bhutan

How prepared are we?

Aug 12, 2017
The report of rising water level in the country’s major river systems is disturbing.
 
But we are comforted by the initiatives the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology has taken to keep us informed. It was Phochhu and Mocchu the day before that had risen to worrying levels. Now it is the Mangdechhu that has reached the alert level.
 
People and the communities living along the banks of these rivers must be prepared. Move higher up the riverbanks. That’s the sensible option until the end of summer. We do not have to wait until someone says the water level hasn’t reached “dangerous level”.
 
And we must have plans. How are we going to deal with the catastrophes – immediate and long-term – if they visit us? Knowing that we have many lakes high up that could break the banks anytime, preparation is critically important. Waiting for the alarms to go off will be a poor choice.
 
Creating fear is not our responsibility, but alerting people of the possibilities is. That’s why we take our responsibility seriously. Do not wait for “warning”. There must be preparation in place to move out to safer ground. Hydropower projects are important and they will be looked after well. We seem to be concerned more about “overflowing” cofferdams”, not about how prepared we are, especially our people who live on the riverbanks.
 
We haven’t forgotten the Punakha flood of 1994. The destruction that it caused wasn’t small. Some families are still trying to rebuild their homes. The danger that we face is real. With climate change and heating up of earth, our glaciers are melting at a worrying rate. And we have many lakes that are growing at dangerous level. If the lakes break the natural levees, which are very much possible, the communities and settlements further down will be seriously affected.
 
We are often ill prepared. Coping to a disaster is one thing, preparing for it a different matter altogether. Rather than being worried about cofferdams, we need to be concerned about the safety of people who the floods might affect. Recognising the possibilities and preparing for them is more important.
 
We appreciative all the offices that are making efforts to keep our people informed about the impending dangers.  What we require desperately, though, is the plan and initiative to move them to safety. We would like to see how prepared we are to face such natural disasters.
 
Kuensel Online, August 12, 2017

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