Bara-Parsa Tornado: Reconstruction and Lessons

On September 16, my friends and I attended the third lecture series organized by Nepalese Society of Engineering Geologists (NSEG) at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). The first lecture of the series included a presentation titled, “Bara-Parsa Post Tornado Reconstruction—An Overview”. Lt. Col. Shrijan Bahadur Malla, the leader of the Parsa Karyadal (“Karyadal” translates to “task force/group”), showed through a series of slides the effects of tornado, the government’s response and the Nepal Army’s effort in accomplishing a near-impossible task within the given time-frame.

What had happened at Bara and Parsa? 

Between 7: 45 to 8: 15 PM, March 31, 2019 (Jestha 17, 2076), a storm swept through several villages of Parsa and Bara districts of Nepal. The reports that came since puzzled the scientists as such a wide range of destruction had never been reported before. The winds had travelled 90 km (30 km of which was observed from the satellite images) within 30 minutes, uprooted trees, overturned trucks and completely damaged some masonry buildings. The winds were stronger than what was usually observed. They had to dig deeper into what had actually happened.

Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) had observed the possibility of rainfall in the area, but due to lack of resources, had not been able to predict the nature of the storm. On the other side of the border, India Meteorological Department (IMD) had issued a warning against “chakravaat”. However, there was no official information exchange between the DHM and IDM. So, we were completely unaware of what was about to come.  

A week later, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) confirmed it was a tornado, with intensity up to F2 and F3 (180-332 km/hr) on the Fujita Scale. The actual speed could not be determined. The tornado had generated at the Chitwan National Park and had travelled eastwards, reaching a maximum width of 200 m and destroying everything that came in its way. Bharbalia, Parwanipur, and Pheta villages of Bara suffered the worst. 28 people died (according to the official report), about 1200 people sustained injuries, and around 1450 houses were destroyed. Farmers also suffered the loss of crops and livestock.

Was it the first ever tornado that occurred in Nepal?

Most media and even among the scientists, the event was discussed as the first ever tornado occurring in the Nepali territory. However, as someone with roots in the Terai, and having heard accounts of hard-hitting storms from the past, I don’t believe it was the first ever tornado. Still, it is the first time, a tornado event has been recorded and studied scientifically. To confirm this further, I would like to quote from Kiran Nepal from his article in the Nepali Times:

“The tornado was not the first of its kind in Nepal. In fact, literature and folklore speak of twisters ravaging Tarai villages. But because these are localised disasters, they did not make it to the news.”

(Ground zero in Pheta)

Response to the crisis

Government of Nepal made a quick response. Rescue teams were immediately employed. On April 1, the Government declared a state of emergency in the affected area. Nepalese Army then got involved in the rescue and relief operation. All three levels of Government—the Federal, Province No. 2 and Local Governments—worked together to manage the relief works, and to rehabilitate the affected people before the Monsoon hit them hard again.

So, the Local Government brought up all the data necessary for the reconstruction process, the Provincial Government facilitated the smooth operation, and the Federal Government asked the Nepalese Army to complete the task as soon as possible. On April 26, it was declared that the Nepalese Army would be involved in the construction of new houses under the Janata Aawas Kaaryakram (People’s Housing Programme).

Challenges to the Nepalese army

Lt. Col. Malla provided his first-hand experience on the challenges the Nepalese Army had to face.

1. Timeframe. The task had to be completed within 3 months. The Local Governments had enlisted a total of 884 houses to be constructed. All the construction had to be parallel. They needed a lot of construction materials, required large areas to heap them until the construction. The need for human resources was also paramount.

2. Weather Condition. The summer was in its peak. The temperatures reached more than 40 degrees Celsius during the day time. Winds blew from time to time, destroying the temporary shelters, and floods delayed the construction.

3. Health Issues and Snake Bites. Heatstroke is among the common health issue in the summer. Flu is another illness that can occur because of the cold sweat drenching your clothes and skin. There is also high risk of malaria and Kala-Azar. Snake bites are also frequent occurrences. Lt. Col. Malla reported incidents of flu and snake bites.

4. Socio-poilitical issues. When huge reconstruction work is at hand, most families separate so that they can enjoy the compensation provided. The number of victims fluctuated frequently and even at the end, there were issues related to citizenship and land-ownership.

How did the army complete the task?

Nepalese Army was provided with the design of houses by the Department of Urban Housing. The design had two rooms, the frame and trusses were to be made from bamboo. The Army changed it slightly. They added a verandah and a toilet. And instead of bamboo, they would use steel.

With the design in hand, they had to look for huge amounts of construction material. The government had eased the process by letting the Army buy directly from the market (instead of the usual bidding process). The contractors for construction materials were chosen such that they could supply the materials required without any corruption and commission.

Since the task was labour intensive, they required to hire a huge labour force. It was convenient to use the troops themselves. The Army personnel were divided into the highly-skilled, skilled and semi-skilled and the work division was done accordingly. They worked in shifts from 6 to 10 o’clock in the morning and 4 to 8 o’clock in the evening.

There were some hurdles, as state in the section above. Nepalese Army went through and helped themselves and the victims. They worked as smoothly as they could. Finally, 869 of 884 houses were completed by the end of August. The remaining 15 houses were not built due to the issues such as citizenship and land ownership. These houses were handed over to their respective owners officially on 4th September.

Lessons Learnt

At the end of the presentation Lt. Col. Malla presented a list of lessons learnt from the Bara-Parsa Tornado event. I have added some by myself.

1. Improvement in Weather Forecasts. The DHM and IMD are now working together to identify such disasters. The weather forecasts are also becoming increasingly reliable.

2. Where there is will, there are ways. The government’s response was quick. The Army was given the rights to final decision on the construction. The buying of essential construction materials was made easier. All there levels of government came together. The tiff between the Federal Government and the Province-2 Government did not affect the victims.

3. Enhancement of the capacity of the Nepalese Army. From all sort of labour-intensive work to planning and design, the Army has grown stronger, Lt. Col. Malla stated with pride.

4. Goodwill among the people. All the government bodies, and especially the Nepalese Army won the hearts of the people affected by the tornado.

5. Civil authorities need to play important roles in future disasters. As he concluded, Lt. Col. Malla said that Nepalese Army cannot do all the reconstruction work by themselves in the future. Though he was proud of what the Army had been able to do, it is the task of civil authorities to actually involve in the disaster prevention, risk reduction and reconstruction. Thus, they must be prepared to provide relief, and for rehabilitation and reconstruction in the aftermath.

Conclusion

The presentation brought out a sense of joy and pride in everyone present in the seminar hall. It helped us understand what actually happens during the reconstruction. It’s one thing to read and say, one should do this and that. But listening it from someone who has had first-hand experience in the act, we knew how difficult the task is. And how it feels to see smiling faces as the hard work comes to fruition.

Many thanks to the Government! Salute to the Nepalese Army!!

References

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01159-w

https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/nepal-army-constructs-869-houses-for-tornado-victims-of-bara-parsa/

https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/na-hand-over-houses-to-tornado-hit-bara-and-parsa-people/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_2019_southern_Nepal_tornado

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Bliss at Sathimure

October 31, 2018.

You have been climbing for three hours. Every pore of your skin is sweating. Your legs are tired. Your head is spinning. You are still conscious of not slipping down the narrow foot trail. There are small round seeds that have fallen off the tress beside the trail. They threaten your existence. The peak is just “there” but you can’t seem to reach it. The peak is just at an elevation of thousand metres, and it takes your breath away. “What if it was Mount Everest?” you ask.

One of your friends, Anish, climbed a five-thousand metre peak last year, above the Everest Base Camp. “It was cold. I felt my fingers would fall off. But once I reached the peak, I forgot all the pain.”

‘This is not even a tenth of the harshness of close to the Everest’, you think. Your spirit lifts up a little. Legs drag you up better than they had a couple of minutes back. But your lungs are not helping. Your low stamina hampers your movement.Luckily, your friends are in your support. They themselves are tired, but they do not lose the hope of reaching the peak. The hope of finding the target village-Sathimure.

***

Your climb began from Mugling—an old hub connecting Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan with three of your friends: Anil, Anish and Ishwor. The town is at the altitude of about 180 m from the mean sea level,well-developed, full of life. Your twenty-eight years old topographic map shows a foot-trail leading to the village in question. The policemen show you a road. It looks easy, but it’s long. ‘How long will you have to walk?’ you discuss with your friends. You and your friends decide to take a foot trail if possible.

You are not hiking. It’s a geological exploration. You measure the rock orientation, wonder at the folds you see and imagine the amount of stress the region might have undergone. You know these rocks tell the history of the evolution of the Himalayas over a million years. These mountains are not as tall as the mighty mountain peaks that are popular as the Himalayas or Great Himalayas. You call them Lesser Himalaya, but reaching its peak is tough. More so, when you realize you have to climb up another two hundred metres and climb down to Kalikhola if you are to make an accurate geological map. But you lack time, and you make a rush.

You realize your stamina has lowered because of eating and sleeping for the last couple of months. You are panting. You take long breaths. Nothing helps. You have not walked a mile and you have felt the heat. You strip off your jacket. Your body balances heat by sweating. You reach a shade. The sweat cools you. After a rest, you don’t want to move. Yet you carry your legs forward. “Return back if you can’t,” your friends suggest. It’s a good advice. One person should not slow the group. Yet your ego gets hurt. You can’t give up before it has begun.

You ask help from the locals. Most of them are girls. Some help, some don’t. It’s a cultural thing. Villagers don’t trust city men. Girls are told to shy away from men in most of the occasions. Male-female interaction is still spied in the cities. Anyway, you find help and catch a foot-trail, width decreasing with each footstep.

You don’t find villages along the trail. One house at an interval of about one-hundred metres climb. They have farms and gardens. You and your friends express desire to reach Kalikhola. The locals say it’s a dangerous path. Three people died some months back. You and your friends are scared. Safety comes before the map. Your teachers did not expect you to go all the way. You give up the thought of completing the track. Had you been allowed to stay for a day at Sathimure, you could have hit the target. But you have restrictions. You decide to reach the village, at least.

A garden somewhere in the route

***

“Look out for the real trail,” Anish calls. Foot-trail has forked. Each time you saw a fork, you made a unanimous decision: “Take the route that goes up.” This time, the up-going trail looks dangerous. Ishwor says the other path goes nowhere. “Are we stuck?” you fear. Anil goes up the dangerous route, reaches the peak and calls out. You follow. The ground is slippery and covered with grass. You don’t know where you are stepping. “Goats would not climb this,” your friends behind you tell. You are attacked by ants.One last step. And you reach the top. You lose yourself for a moment. At that moment, you have become victorious over the mountain. You feel blessed.

A little farther, you see what you had been longing for. Sathimure. A small village. A place where you have found solace in it even from the distance. Bamboos, oranges, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables. A farming village. That’s what you wanted all day.

The village has less than twenty houses—small, all of them painted in blue and red. The people are amicable. Your group wants to buy some oranges. They don’t fix a price. “Give whatever amount you want to give.” These people have hardships. There is some help from the NGOs but the nearest town, Mugling, is miles downhill. There is no good road. They have to buy everything.Yet, they are generous. They don’t take our offer for granted. They believe in emotional relationship, not commercial. They give you noodles. You longed for it but can’t help wonder that noodles have made way into even in a village that small.You eat anyway. The taste reminds you of home.

***

You begin to descent. There was an error in the map. You have decided to correct it. Sitting upon a ground facing north, you look at the Great Himalayas, the Lesser Himalayas, and the miniature town of Mugling. You can’t see a human from that height. You feel lost. “Humans might have built civilizations and have dreamt of exploring other planets but we are microscopic in the universe. If a portion of the Earth is this big, how big the Earth is! And it is not even the largest planet.” The extent of universe amazes you. It’s not for the first time, though. The universe has always fascinated you. Geology was one way you thought that would help you understand the universe.

Mugling viewed from Sathimure

The walk downhill takes two hours. The villagers at Sathimure had told it would take about forty-five minutes. “Time is relative,” you begin to understand. They have lived their whole lives going up and down the hill. Their legs have strengths your legs do not. They are faster because they have lived with the mountain. You see school children going up and get a stronger proof.

When the journey ends, you are satisfied. You might not have met all your goals but you made memories. You have learnt something. You have something to tell others. You have stories for your children and grandchildren.

Examples Jhamak Ghimire has Set

Introduction

On Bhadra 20, 2073 (September 5, 2016) the Madhya Paschimanchal University (MPU) granted Jhamak Ghimire an honorary doctorate. The inspiring litterateur never went to school. Yet, she has received the honour because of her talent in literature. 

Jhamak Ghimire was born on Asar 21, 2037 in Dhankuta. She suffers from cerebral palsy. The neurological condition does not allow her to talk and move her limbs properly. However, she uses her two toes and immense power of observation and  imagination to communicate and create literary works. She has published thirteen books of different genre- poems, stories, essays and autobiographies. Her autobiography, Jeevan Kanda ki Phool (won her Madan Puraskar, the most reputed award in Nepali literature.

Examples she has set

1. Nothing is Impossible

Even with extremely limited movement, if one has healthy mind, nothing is impossible. Though she has never attained school, she gained knowledge on her own. And has become an inspiring figure.

2. Thoughts are Limitless

One may be limited physically but thoughts and imagination have no bounds. She writes as if she has experienced things herself. She has shown her abilities in critically analyzing things she hears and reads.

3. Life is full of Struggles

There are hardships in life. One has to undergo several struggles in life. Ghimire has faced the obstacles of the family, and the society. The obstacles inspired her to revolt against them. Her literary works represent the revolution.

Conclusion

Jhamak Ghimire is an exemplary personality who has challenged her physical weaknesses to inspire people all around the world.*

Note:

*Jhamak Ghimire’s autobiography Jeevan Kanda ki Phool has been translated into English, Hindi, and Japanese languages and is being translated into several other languages.

Source

1. MPU’s circular on Honorary Doctorate to Jhamak Ghimire

2. The Kathmandu Post

3. The Himalayan Times

4. Ratopati

सम्पदा स‍ंरक्षणको अद्‌भूत नमूना : ठाउँ नै सारेर पनि यसरी जोगाइयो — Mysansar

– सुबिक कार्की (इजिप्टबाट फर्केर) – गत वर्ष वैशाखको महाभूकम्पले नेपालका थुप्रै सम्पदा भत्किएका छन्। त्यसको पुननिर्माण अझै हुन सकेको छैन। सम्पदा संरक्षणको चिन्ता जागिरहेको बेला यहाँ म एउटा सम्पदा संरक्षणको अदभूत नमूना प्रस्तुत गर्दैछु। एघार देश भएर सुडानबाट इजिप्ट हुँदै भूमध्यसागरमा विसर्जन हुने संसारकै सबैभन्दा लामो नाइल नदीको इजिप्ट खण्डमा सन् १९५४ मा […]

via सम्पदा स‍ंरक्षणको अद्‌भूत नमूना : ठाउँ नै सारेर पनि यसरी जोगाइयो — Mysansar

Looking at the Negative Side of Things

Nothing in this world is perfect, including us. If we were perfect, we did would be so. Sometimes, I doubt even in the perfection of God. That story will be shared soon. However, this story is on the imperfection of humans, their creations and creativity.

I was brought into the reality of imperfection by an e-mail. Well, it was a regular notifying mail from Quora, a fantastic site where you can ask, pass and answer questions. That day, the question I was notified of was, “What do you think are the weakest points of the Harry Potter series?” (Something like that. I don’t exactly remember.)

I ignored at first. Though I believed that the Harry Potter series could have flaws, I thought knowing the weaknesses would just take the fun away. But there is another thing that makes one  do something, even when you do not want it to push you. Yeah, I am talking about curiosity. Curiosity made me dive into the ocean of imperfection.

From the connection between the Muggles and the Magical Worlds to the mathematical mistakes, from absurd Quidditch scoring to clumsy and witches and wizards all were included in the flaws of the series. One answer even pointed out that the horcruxes which become the central theme, aren’t introduced until the sixth book. “Looks like the series evolved on the go,” some had said.

By the end of that session on flaws of the Harry Potter series, I didn’t find myself being drained out of fun. Instead, I was looking at the negative side of the world’s best selling series and was saying to myself, “If I ever write a fantasy fiction, I will be careful not to make mistakes Rowling made.”

What more, I surfed the web searching the real negative criticisms on the Harry Potter series. Not only that, I came to know that even Tolkien was criticized for the Lord of the Rings. The last in the list of criticism was Amish Tripathi, whose Shiva Trilogy I had recently read.

I have also been reading negative book reviews on Goodreads recently (as eagerly as the positive ones). I have learnt that nothing is 100% perfect. That there is still some flaw even in the best of things humans do. So, why do I need to worry if I make some mistake? A mistake can be an opportunity for correction. A chance to make things better. (Even if not absolutely perfect.)

I have also understood that in life, perfection is not achievable but passion is. The passionate artists I mentioned above are the role models of those who want to do something new. They are the epitome of success. But they are also humans and they also make mistakes. Embrace their imperfections. It will make you happy. And next time you read anything or do anything, look at their negative sides. Next time you rate something (a book, a movie, music, an app, or anything), do not rate them to perfection. (Also, never rate them below average. There could be some positive in the worst work you believe. The creator might be discouraged by low ratings because it is their work that allows you to rate them.) You might have overlooked the flaws and the creator may not get an opportunity to improve.

New Year Resolutions

2072 was a year to remember. Earthquake, economic bloackade, fuel shortage, intimacy with China and coldness with India. Dark clouds loomed all over but every dark cloud has silver lining- ancestors told in proverbs. Do we seek for the silver lining? Yes, we do.

The silver lining we seek for depends on our resolutions. Our resolution should be the following so that we can do something to help ourselves.

1. Developing sincerity
We do tasks for the sake of doing them. We do homeworks so that we can show them to teachers, that too with an intention to cheat. But we did so because our teachers were not sincere. They did not instruct us well.

Why would they? Facilities and wages at government schools and colleges are not enough to solve their family problems. The government run academic institutions say that they have not been sent enough budget. The money to be spent on education is not sent because the Secretary at the Ministry of Education is on a leave. Some parents are trying to bribe him so that their children can get a medical scholarship. He does not want to support corruption but he alone can not do anything. The “system” does not help. We make the system. It is insincere because we are, fair and square.

Sincerity on our own part can help a lot in upbringing of a good system.

2. Learning to be happy

We are not happy. Why? We are not involved in the works we are the best at. The society wants us to do whatever it wants. We give in. Our dreams die.

Did they really die? Not quite. They might have been unconscious. Suppose we wanted to be famous in robotics but under unavoidable circumstances, we could not join science in plus two. We had to study commerce. We had pledged to be sincere. So we sincerely studied and sought for happiness. Happiness came up when we saw Computer Programming as a subject. We took an interest and then one day, we dream of writing a program for a robot. Our dream was alive all the time. It was just unconscious for some time.

3. Willing to fight
As said before, we set up the system and if we are to change it, we have to fight the people who support wrongdoing in the name of system.

Are we thinking of beating them up? Wait! Life is not a movie. We can not do that to someone who supports the system. Someone on the top of the system can attack us easily.

What do we do? We seek help of the constitution and laws. We seek help from each other. We raise our voices, not our arms. We sincerely do our works. We happily get involved in the change. We gradually fight the system. Slowly, steadily we reach the common dream of making Nepal the most prosperous country.

4. Developing rational/logical thinking
Suppose we have moved on to pursue the Great Nepalese Dream. Meanwhile someone says, “We were happier while we could easily bribe officers. The new system controls corruption but does our work slow.”

Do we pause thinking that the person is right or do we move on solving the problem he pointed out- slow working? The correct logic would show us new paths. The incorrect one would take us back to where we had struggled to come from.

If we can distinguish right from wrong, we will definitely progress.

Lastly,
Our resolution is the silver lining of the dark clouds. The silver lining been found, we need to work them out on solving our problems. The dark clouds will scatter soon. The sun will shine brightly. The sky will be our limit.

Note:
The New Year I mention here is the Two Thousand and Seventy-Third year of the Bikram Sambat (Calendar of King Bikram).

Life’s Lessons

यस्तो रहस्यमय जीवन बुझ्नलाई
जानु कहाँ ? पढ्नु के ? गुरु को बनाई ?
फुल्दो गुलाबबिच ज्ञान अनेक फुल्छन्
उद्यानमा बस गई सब तत्व खुल्छन् !
-लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा

Where can we learn the secrets of our life? Laxmi Prasad Devkota asks and answers himself, “Go to the Garden and you will find all the answers.”

The Garden here means Nature. There is everything in Nature we can learn. Nature is an open museum. What we need the eyes that analyse the beauty of nature, and that explore the knowledge within Her womb.

One day, I had written, “You see what you want to see. And nothing else.” I have been aided on this by my Teacher’s words, “You see what you know.” There are many things that might have gone unnoticed around us, but other people from far off can be seeing the same thing from some other perspective. Interpretation of what you have seen is equally important.

Life runs in a weird way, and people act in even weirder ways. It’s life that can teach you about life. A closed room that supports internet might teach you many things but to have a firsthand experience, you have to step out. In the words of my friends, “A bird has wings so that it can fly, not confine itself to its nest.”

For the last fifteen days, I was close to the Nature. Call it a tour or an excursion or a camp, whatever it may be called, it was an experience of a lifetime. The Geological tour for B.Sc. 3rd year gave many unforgettable memories.

What could be better than the assemblage of people from all parts of the country at one place? So many cultures, traditions and ethnicities mixed up into one. There was no discrimination, only friendship and love. No one cared if you looked dirty. Everyone was the same. Nobody raised questions on the religion and the customs one followed. No one fought in the name of sex, caste and religion. There was one friendly existence of like-minded people- all devoted to learn the science of the Nature.

There were rows, there were quarrels, there was a fight- which we can never forget. But I am proud to say that it was not in the name of personal biases. The tension the fight caused was immeasurable but the peace that came up later was extraordinary. I personally thank both the boys who were expelled for fighting(sadly)- despite your untimely rage, you acted like men.

Life is not just about the flowering rose. Even with the rose, thorns show themselves up. The task we did was not easy. It was nothing but determination that made us walk almost ten kilometers a day, observing, learning and sweating. Some of us even risked our lives in the quest of knowledge. However the sleep that came up after the hardworking was the best ever. Congratulations to all who accepted the challenge! Keep it up and one day, you will all stand up as wonderful human beings.

The camp was frustrating at times. Hours of work and no approval! We spoke out the frustration to our friends. We worked together. No matter how many times our work was rejected, we worked on to make it better. When we finally came out at the end with the maps, graphs and the reports we had prepared, I remember the smiles we all had. We had finally shown the spirit that we never give up despite all the failures we might have had.

The tour was not only a chance to learn different cultures within the camp but also to know the lives of people around us. Shree Bageshowri H.S.S., where we stayed, showed an excellent example of hospitality. Little students gave up the comforts of their rooms so that we could take a rest in the evenings. The love the villagers showed us, wherever we went was incredible. Their selflessness moved me. Here in city, where people run for money, there they act as humans and believe in humanity.

What else did I learn? For the first time in my life, I studied my friends closely and found that they are not entirely perfect. They have flaws in one way or the other, but they are also the best as humans. And one important thing- teachers are just like us. They have had more experience than us, but they are students in their hearts. They too are not perfect. They too are learners paving paths for the new ones to come up and take up their places.

Finally, life is the only entity that can teach us lives. Thanks to Nature who has given me life and an opportunity to learn about it.