Atomic bombings on August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima and three days later in Nagasaki are among the cruelest acts humans did. In 2014, when I wrote a blog on the bombings, I had written:
Humans proved that day [the days of bombings] that they could do anything against anyone to gain power.
I had also written:
As for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they have been recovered as major cities but no crops, no grass has grown yet and it’s unknown until when.
I did not know that a red canna flower (Canna sp.) had bloomed in the rubble some months later giving hope to the survivors. Gingko trees that survived have another story to tell. Look for the links below to know their stories.
Stories of the red canna trees that survived the Hiroshima bombing:
These are amazing stories of survival, rebirth and restoration. Some humans had stooped very low, destroying humans, cities and the nature, with their pride. Some humans had lost hope. Nature challenged their pride. She told them, “Your pride, your wars cannot destroy me.” And gave hope to the victims, “Not everything is destroyed.”
Down below is a river valley that widens in the southwest as it mixes with the Sunkoshi. This terrace is fertile, as evident from the cultivated farms. Less than 50 metres higher, where we stand, there is a different scenario. The soil is red, hard, and clayey. Trees, here are rare. Bushes are scanty and prickly. Cacti have reached heights of more than 3 metres.
Are we walking on a desert?
When I say “desert”, the first image you usually come up is that of arid, sandy land with little to no vegetation, no water, mirages, and camels. You are not wrong. Your mind has what popular culture has engraved in it. The popular culture shows just one picture of desert that is actually a rare phenomenon. Only one of the things that you thought of is common in deserts: scarcity of water.
Does this area lack water?
We survey this area close to Ratmate Bazaar, Sindhuli. The surface has been scoured by running water. These rills imply the relative impermeability of the soil. (We also confirmed the very low permeability by a simple infiltration test). This almost impermeable soil does not allow water to infiltrate (and so the rills form!). Thus, there is no possibility for occurrence of spring or well.
The redness suggested otherwise. We theorized, “Some time back in the past, the area could have been a lake, providing water required for oxidation of iron present in the soil.” Can we find iron here?
On examining the origin of the soil, we find allochthonous granite boulders. These boulders apparently settled here during a landslide event. When we produced “fresh” samples, we saw that the boulders themselves were stained in red. Only one of ten samples was unstained. A little further, we found quartzite, and saw similar scene. The red soil, the granite, and quartzite samples, all had high specific gravity. We could conclude: “The iron comes from both the granite and quartzite. This iron reacted with oxygen and produced haematite, a red and heavy iron oxide.
Later when I searched for the properties of red soil on Google, I found some useful information: 1) The red soil is generally acidic; 2) It is low in nitrogen; 3) It is suitable for rice plantation (because of water holding capacity) and some beans; and 4) The soil is naturally infertile.
The land we studied hosted some bushes, as I have mentioned earlier, but the lack of water, acidic nature of the soil and general infertility helped us conclude: “We were on a desert or were seeing some sort of desertification.”
What can lack of water do to villages? We observed this two days later.
That day, we climbed a peak of about 1400 m in Ramechhap and came down a trail. We had thought it would lead us down safely. But that was not to be.
A small landslide had occurred near the main trail. From there we could see a path that went downhill. As we walked, it suddenly ended into what looked like a same baari. There was nothing but colluvium, but it was definitely cultivated in the past. (We had seen a cultivated baari some 10 metres above). We looked around and saw a heap of stones. This, we assumed, where the house was. After the owners left, people nearby might have demolished the house, taken doors and windows for fuel and heaped up the stones in order to take them later.
As we roamed around in despair looking for the main trail, we found four more similar scenes. This, we concluded, was a nice settlement until something forced them out. In our topographic map (some 26 years old), there are some clusters of houses. This, we concluded, was one of those clusters.
Finally, we found the trail but instead of taking us down, it took us up! Sometime later, it disappeared. On observing, the trail was still there but the grasses had made it invisible and slippery. Helping each other, we went down and finally reached the trail we had used to climb up earlier that day.
What drove off people from that place? The immediate thought was: landslide. But the slide looked younger than the desertion. Lack of water was another reason we discussed about. In that hill and in most of the hills in that district, there is scarcity of water. But was there another reason?
It did not come to me at that time, but the whole of Ramechhap was important place for the Maoists during the 10 years of civil war in the last decade. Many people in the district undertook the ideology and carried guns in the name of revolution. Some families were involved in entirety. Some families were driven away. Some left to safer places to avoid the war. Did the village we walked through die because of nature or politics? While I feel that the nature pressured the desertion, politics could have also played some role. The definite history, however, cannot be drawn unless we find the people who left the place.
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
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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
the Nepalese army
Col. Malla provided his first-hand experience on the challenges the Nepalese
Army had to face.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Many thanks to the
Government! Salute to the Nepalese Army!!
We humans have always been guided by two fundamental systems: Faith and Science. Faith implores us to live life as it is and accept what comes in life as the will of God or fate. It has its own pros and cons, which I shall not discuss here. Science, on the other hand, urges us to transcend the boundaries that are created by our surrender to the fate. The advancement in medicine and technology is the result of inquisitive minds who studied the nature and imagined what else they could do with the knowledge they gained. They also disseminated the knowledge they obtained so that it would not be lost with time.
Suppression of knowledge and scientific inquisition in Europe during the Middle Age (5th to15th century) led to numerous wars, widespread famine and submission to fate. During this period in the history of humanity, also known as the Dark Age, several scientific discoveries are said to have lost. Scientists were termed “heretics” by the Church and were executed. The Renaissance Period, of which the Republic of Florence and Leonardo da Vinci are central, gave rise to art and through it, promotion of scientific discoveries, inventions and rediscoveries.
In the ancient Indian sub-continent (most of the times attributed to the Indus Valley Civilization), the Vedas and Upavedas, and later the Upanishads promoted the culture of scientific and logical discourse. Proverb such as Vaade Vaade Jaayate Tatwabodha (वादे वादे जायते तत्वबोध:), i.e. knowledge is gained through debates is alone sufficient to understand the importance of discourses in order to discover the truth of the world. The knowledge however came under the control of few people on the administration for centuries. The lack of effective dissemination of the ancient wisdom has created a lot of problems in the sub-continent.
Scientific discoveries have made things possible that were treated only as imagination in the past. The discovery of sea-routes brought people closer, the invention of aeroplane reduced the time for the journeys between different parts of the world, the invention of telegraph and telephone changed the way messages were shared. On the basic principles of navigation, aerodynamics and telecommunication, the humanity has moved from the Age of Cultivation to Age of Global Communication.
Not just that, humanity has also given up the instant submission to fate. In the Dark Age, Black Plague killed thousands of people in Europe. Venice, because of the lack of burial grounds, suffered the most. Instead of contemplating that the disease was spreading through the canals, they believed they were suffering the wrath of God and their loss was God’s will. In the modern age, humans do not readily submit to Faith when they encounter diseases. They investigate the disease, their causes and work on the vaccines and inoculation.
As students of Geology, a branch of science, we have gained some fundamental knowledge about the Earth and how it works during the four-year B.Sc. programme. We have learnt to observe the rocks and soils, to ask what they are and why they are there. We have familiarized ourselves with the Earth processes and the benefits and the problems they bring. We have studied about natural hazards and some ways to mitigate them. We can strive to learn more and publicize what we know. We can make the world a better place.
There is no doubt that the Earthquake of 2072 B.S. (2015) gave rise to a mass awareness about how that particular earthquake occurred. Some people used to say, with much politicisation, “There are two plates: Indian and Chinese. The Indian plate moves to the North to encroach the Chinese plate. Nepal is in middle. That was why the earthquake occurred.”
While I myself tried to remove politics whenever I could, there is a mass of people who believe the above statement to be true. They are right that Nepal lies in between two plates. But most of them are not aware what “plate” really is and that the Earth’s lithosphere is made of a number of plates. As a student of Geology, I feel that we have a lot to do to make the public aware of what the plates are and how they are formed.
We, ourselves however should be ready to face skepticism. Science is not a belief system. Whenever scientists come across hypotheses and theories, they first question, “Is it true? What are the evidences?” A hypothesis can become a major theory if evidences support it. The theory of Plate Tectonics is a common example. If the evidences from submarine navigation and Paleomagnetic studies had not been available, the theory would still have remained a hypothesis. Similarly, if a new hypothesis can challenge and prove that it is stronger than an existing theory, the existing theory, even if popular, will be discarded.
Many people put a blame upon science for the problems we’ve been facing. Sure, guns and bombs have been developed by science and are being used to inflict terrors. Nuclear weapons have threatened the existence of our dear home itself. The knowledge of making explosives and harnessing nuclear energy was not bad itself. Gunpowder and dynamite were used in construction works, and nuclear energy has become an important source of energy in many nations. That’s why I firmly believe that it’s not science that is faulty. The fault is on our crooked desire of using knowledge that we have.
In short, as a student of science, I appeal to everyone to gain right knowledge from the nature, from each other and from what our ancestors have passed on to us. I urge everyone to deliver the knowledge to the public and to the generations to come. Because only with the right knowledge, we the make the world a better place.
[The above article was intended to be the editorial for GEOWORLD Students’ Magazine, Vol. 8, 2017. It was heavily cut in the magazine for the sake of relevance and space]
Environmental conservation and its sustainability have been increasingly important issue throughout the world. The ecology friendly environment is one of the burning needs of today’s world if we want to sustain the human species and the quality of living on this planet. Although the effects of the human on the environment may not be clearly seen in day to day life, the accumulated impact over the time is quite evident. The ozone layer depletion, rapidly changing weather patterns and rising earth’s temperature are some of the obvious negative impacts caused by humanity.
Conservation of ecological system comes hand in hand with environmental sustainability. There are numerous known and unknown factors which help preserve a sound ecological system of which we human are just a small part. Every part of the ecosystem is equally important for every species in it to live and thrive in harmony, call it environment if you…
– 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 […]
Last week I took a class of Engineering Geology (finally getting into something practically useful in the beginning of fourth year). I will give brief definitions and examples of the terms used. Then before you get bored, I will get into a funny way to remember the technical terms using football (soccer).
Prior to that class, I thought hazard and disaster were the same. However, technically, they are different. Let’s take a look at the definitions I studied.
Hazard: Probability of occurrence of an event or phenomenon which can damage lives and properties.
Disaster: The actual occurrence of a dangerous phenomenon which damages lives and property.
When seismologists say, “Nepal lies in a seismically active zone,” they are talking about the probable damages an earthquake can cause (hazard). When they talk about the damage caused by the earthquake in Nepal last year, they are saying something about disaster the earthquake brought up.
Let us also look at two more terms- risk and vulnerability.
Risk: The consequences in terms of “potential losses” for some particular cause, time and place. Specific risk is the product of hazard and vulnerability (Johnson and Degraff, 1988).
Vulnerability: The degree of risk a community is at due to various factors. For example, poor designing and construction of a house makes it vulnerable for a disaster and people living in it are at risk.
I am done with the definitions. Let’s use football- in particular, a famous footballer to understand the above defined terms. The footballer is (as you might already have realized) Eden Hazard.
E. Hazard is a hazard to his opponent team because he has the capacity to score a goal although he may not score in every match. In this match we are talking of, Hazard attacked several times but did not succeed. E. Hazard remained a hazard until 88th minute.
In the eighty-ninth minute of the match, when no goal has not yet occurred, E. Hazard gets a pass from his teammate and he dribbles ahead. His skill allows him to get through the defenders of opposition team. Their defence which had been vulnerable by previous attacks, is now exposed and is at a greater risk (due to the combined effects of Hazard and vulnerability) Hazard shoots and when the opponent goalkeeper cannot save the goal. Hazard has brought a disaster to his opposition. A draw would have made the opposition the league winner. But Hazard’s goal changes the equation. The other team is damaged psychologically.
In 1908, an astronomical object fell on Siberia, destroying a large forest. According to this article originally published on Lights in the Dark, we still don’t know what exploded over Tunguska, Siberia in 1908 – http://wp.me/pru7J-22A
Nature is brutally beautiful. It keeps us alive but does not let live forever. This is the story of a battle in nature I witnessed on May 13.
Spring was gradually being replaced by summer. Every year during this time, in the evenings, we see these strange creatures. We call them ‘chhichimira’. I don’t know what it is but my parents used to tell that they are winged-ants. Because the queen and the males fly to mate, it might be true, although I cannot surely say if ants mate during the evening or if a certain species follows the pattern. All I know is that they are attracted to light just like moths and they have extremely short life. They stick on to electric bulbs, fluorescent lamps and LED bulbs as well. They fly for about fifteen minutes and they shed their transparent wings; then fall off dead. I usually examine them at that stage and they do look like ants. But I haven’t seen any of them fly away alive (the saddest part). I will call them winged-ants for the sake of convenience.
That evening, I was sitting in my room bored after long hours of exam preparation. The curtains had been pulled down to avoid the entrance of insects (It’s compulsory during spring and summer.) because of which the room was getting hot. Two insects of the kind I have mentioned above came into the room, however. (Failure of the curtains!) I just kept staring at them as if there was no work to do. They danced up and down and around the LED bulb on the wall in front of me. As I was watching them, I noticed a small movement on the right. From behind the tube light (it was not being used at that time because of the power cut off), a spider, too had been watching the movements of the insects.
It turned out to be the smartest between them. As soon as one of the insects had flown upwards, the spider rushed (crawling on the wall) and pounced upon it. All these (from my first sight of the spider to its pouncing upon the helpless winged-ant) had happened within three seconds! I could not believe my eyes. I had seen an extraordinary sight. Yet I had presence of mind because I got the later struggled captured on my camera.
The predator had grabbed the prey’s head. The prey wanted to get out. It flapped it’s wings for a while in vain. Sometime later, it gave up struggling and the spider started dragging its meal upwards. It was a difficult task. Firstly, it had to climb a vertical wall backwards carrying its prey. Secondly, the partner of the insect which had been pounced upon was luring the spider to drop its meal. The another winged-ant tried frantically to reach the spider but it never went very close. Two or three times, it had reached near the spider, I thought the spider would leave the one on its mouth and grab the other instead. But the spider did not leave the grip on its food. Neither did it give any attention to the second one. For it had flown for long already and its attempt (if I can call it, though it was nothing of the sort) of saving its friend had weakened it. After some minutes of it flight (the longest among these insects I have ever seen), it gave up. Most probably, it died.
Some more pics of the brutal predator and an almost dead prey.
As I was scrolling down the Facebook page on my phone, I came across a news on Image Khabar, which shocked me. It said that the World Health Organization (WHO) had warned the Americans not to conceive children. I also saw something new- Zika virus. (I first thought Jika because the news is in Nepali!) I immediately googled to get some information on it.
The Zika virus was first discovered in the rhesus monkeys in the year 1947 in the Zika forest of Uganda. The monkey in which the virus was discovered had suffered from mild fever. The first reported case in humans was in 1952 from Uganda and Tanzania. Since then, the disease was believed to be a mild one but the WHO now classifies it as an “emerging” disease. Recent outbreaks have occurred at French Polynesia (2013) and Brazil (2015).
Mode of Transmission
The disease transmits through the vector Aedes aegyptii, the mosquito also responsible for dengue. Recently, it has also been found to have transmitted sexually.
According to the WHO, the symptoms are similar to that of Dengue. Mild fever, rashes on the skin, conjunctivitis, headache lasting for 2-7 days are the major symptoms. In children, microcephaly occurs hampering the mental growth. The virus can be detected on blood culture.
There is no vaccines or medicines developed for the treatment of the disease. Paracetamol can be used for the symptoms above.
The WHO has warned that the disease might spread fast in the USA and in the peripheral nations. It has also warned of pregnancy during the outbreak of the disease.
Adaptation and evolution of the vector and the virus is spreading a “new” disease as an epidemic every year. Last year, it was Ebola, this year it is Zika. There might be another outbreak next year. The WHO and the media should be active to spread information about the recent outbreaks. Had the WHO not warned the USA, no one would have known about the disease. This situation should be changed. There should be an immediate breaking news once an outbreak is known. Preventive measures should be taken before the disease turns into an epidemic.