On safer ground

Sep 13, 2017

Chandra Giri of Dhati Tole, Hadiya VDC, Udaypur. Photo: CFGORRP

Embankments constructed by the Community-Based Flood and Glacial Lake Outburst Risk Reduction Project in a village in Udaypur have proved effective in protecting residents and their properties against the impacts of heavy flooding—and worked wonders to restore locals’ confidence

“The monsoon was like a constant curse that brought us misery and misfortune,” says Chandra Giri of Dhati Tole in Hadiya VDC. He recalls one particular night some years ago when he’d woken up to find that flood waters had entered his house. “I was frightened but managed to carry my daughter to a safer, drier place.”

Almost all the residents of this village in Udaypur district have similar stories to share. Dhati Tole is located right next to the Hadiya River and extremely vulnerable to its yearly rise during the monsoon. The recurrent flash floods have posed a persistent threat to both life and property—most notably the farmlands—in the area.

Dhati Tole comprises around 300 families, majority of whom are indigenous people, primarily of the Chaudhary and Musahar communities. The livelihoods of most of these households are dependent on agriculture, so although the monsoon rains are extremely important to their work, particularly in paddy production, the flip side of the rains in the form of flooding is something they have come to dread.

It was to minimize these risks that the Community Based Flood and Glacial Lake Outburst Risk Reduction Project (CFGORRP)—a joint undertaking of UNDP, Government of Nepal and the Global Environment Facility (GEF)—had entered Dhati Tole in 2014. The project’s intervention involved the construction of a 500-metre long embankment, equipped with gabion revetment and several bioengineering measures, that was initiated in close consultation with vulnerable communities and local line agencies.

Chandra Giri showing the  bioengineering works on the embankment strech along Hadiya, UdayapurPhoto: CFGORRP

Besides infrastructural measures, the project also worked to raise awareness on flood risk management through a variety of trainings, mock drills and street dramas.

Hotel-owner Balaram Basnet offers a telling comparison of the state of affairs before and after the project’s efforts. His hotel had once bit hit hard by a previous flood. “All the rooms were water-logged, and everything in them was floating,” he recalls. But now, following the completion of sediment control measures, he has rebuilt in the same place, and claims to feel a lot more secure. “Even land value has gone up in the area,” he adds. “The rates used to be very low compared to those of other settlements in Hadiya, just around Rs. 625,000 per hectare, but they are worth almost 10 times that price today.”

Another Dhati resident, Santa Devi Dahal says that the embankments have had other indirect, but equally significant, benefits: “Our children were not able to go to school during the monsoons, but they are now better able to focus on their studies.”

The intervention’s impact was rendered even more stark in the recent 2017 flooding in the area. Chandra Giri, who is currently serving as the chairperson of the Dungaha Community Disaster Management Committee formed by the project, says that the embankments have helped to safeguard both lives and property throughout the disaster. “Our settlements and our farms would have been completely inundated, and left covered with sand and sediment if not for the embankment and the training we received,” he says. “We might not even be having this conversation.”

Chandra Giri with his children,  Hadiya, Udayapur

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