Climate & Environment

Chure degradation over the years has worsened floods in Tarai districts

- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Jul 15, 2019-

Years of unchecked degradation of the fragile Chure range is one of the major causes of massive annual monsoon flooding in the Tarai districts of the country, according to environmentalists and conservationists.

Heavy rainfall which has continued for the last few days has wreaked havoc in districts like Dhanusha, Mahottari, Rautahat and Saptari, among others, which are situated down the Chure range. According to Nepal Police figures, floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains since Thursday have claimed at least 60 lives across the country, mostly in these districts.

Excessive exploitation of the Chure range for natural resources—riverbed materials, forest products and timber—have weakened the significant zone, worsening the situation for people living in its foothills, according to environmentalists. 

“Extreme rainfall and degradation of the Chure range have created a perfect ‘negative synergy’ for worsening an otherwise normal natural disaster,” said Binod Bhatta, the team leader of the 20-year Chure-Tarai Madhesh Conservation and Management Master Plan

“There are two reasons for the ongoing disasters working simultaneously,” Bhatta told the Post. “First, human activity-induced climate change has resulted in sporadic rainfalls with changes in the number of rainy days, the intensity of rainfall and timing. Second, our activities in the Chure have accelerated these impacts—the result is devastating floods.”

The Chure range, which comprises the inner Tarai, Chure Hills and Bhavar plains as a unit of landscape, has seen years of deforestation, overgrazing, logging and excessive mining of construction materials like boulders and pebbles. Such human activities have only exacerbated the impacts of water-induced disasters for communities living downstream.

“Rampant mining of sand and other materials have left big ditches in the area which create a pulling effect, causing more destruction in the Chure hills,” said Bhatta. “When rainwater flows down the hills, it also brings silt and clay, which block water seepage into the ground.”

Flooding during the monsoon is a natural phenomenon, but its intensity in recent years has been much higher, resulting in more human casualties and loss of properties. While extreme rain pattern—more rainfall in a shorter span of time and long gaps between dry and wet spells—is causing more floods and landslides, failure to adopt measures to mitigate risks and rampant degradation of hills like Chure make a dangerous recipe for disaster.

“Heavy rainfall has to do more with climate change, which has significantly altered the rainfall cycle and rainfall pattern,” said Bijay Kumar Singh Danuwar, a Chure conservationist and former member of the Chure-Tarai Madhes Conservation Development Board. “And the continuous degradation of the range has just added to woes.”

The Chure range is known as a comparatively dwarf hilly terrain, stretching from Mechi in the east to Mahakali in the west. In terms of water-induced disasters, the region is susceptible to landslide and flood and inundation. 

The Chure board is implementing various projects to preserve the range and conserve the geographic stretch from further degradation. The Chure area covers 12.78 percent of the total area of the country.   

The master plan has identified a total of 164 rivers in 36 districts of the Chure belt, where the board will be working for training the rivers and control their rampant excavation. Currently, the board has been running an integrated river system management in 52 rivers.

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Published: 15-07-2019 07:40

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