Safe shelters to save people from floods

Amarendra Yadav

In 2017, monsoon rains caused one of the devastating floods, creating havoc in the lowland Terai and badly affecting scores of villages and hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

Among the devastated villages, Badaharwa village of Durga Bhagawati Rural Municipality in Rautahat district was hit the worst.

The village is still vulnerable to floods and inundation because it is surrounded by three rivers, namely Lalbakaiya, Jhanjh and Bagamati.

Local health worker of the Durga Bhagawati Rural Municipality Ram Binod Das recalls the devastation of the 2017 floods. “The floods had entered the village in the night and it had displaced all the villagers, including my family members. The floods had killed dozens of cattle, damaged thatched-roof houses and destroyed standing paddy crops.

The children, elderly people and women were most affected. All the locals were compelled to take shelter making makeshift houses on the dam of the Bagamati River for two months,” Das recounted.

Lagan Dev Pandit, another victim of the 2017 floods, said that the floods had swept their houses and domestic animals and they were totally displaced for at least two months.

According to Dharma Nath Chaudhary, chairperson of Ward Number 5 (Badaharwa) of the rural municipality, the entire ward was badly affected by the floods. However, the VSO-Nepal has done a lot for the locals to cope with the devastation of the floods. The VSO-Nepal has constructed a raised building called safe shelter beside the Postal Highway at the village to protect the locals from the future floods. amrendra

Following the 2017 devastating floods in the Terai, the VSO-Nepal launched a Flood Response/Recovery Project in two local bodies - Durga Bhagawati Rural Municipality and Rajdevi Municipality- in the district in partnership with Mandwi, a women-led local NGO. The main objective of the project was to provide immediate relief response to students, their families and other locals. The project also looked into social accountability, gender and social inclusion issues to accelerate recovery and increase community-level resilience to future disasters.

According to Rohit Kumar Yadav, Project Implementation Manager of the Flood Response/Recovery Project of the VSO-Nepal, the project had initially been planned to build the safe shelters on the rooftop of the schools. After the prefeasibility study, it was seen that the safe shelters on the schools’ rooftop were not feasible. At the mid of the fiscal year, the INGO planned to construct two safe shelters in two local bodies from its saved fund. As per the plan, it completed the detailed engineering work of the two safe shelters, one for Badaharwa

Community in Durga Bhagwati Rural Municipality and another for Brahampuri community in the Rajdevi Municipality. The safe shelter has been constructed with the help of local bodies.

“It is expected that the Badaharwa safe shelter will protect over 100 families from the 11 feet high flood. It includes separate toilets and safe rooms for men and women and ramp for the disabled, children, and senior citizens and pregnant women,” Yadav said.

The local stakeholders, including the Rural Municipality, are planning to use the safe shelter for the agriculture market (Infrastructure for Market and economic enhancement of the local level through infrastructure) in normal situation. Chairman of the rural municipality Arun Kumar Sah said that he had also another plan to use it as a training hall, besides utilising it as the agriculture market.

Locals expressed happiness over the construction of the safe shelter, saying that whenever the floods from the nearby rivers overflew and entered the village in the monsoon season, they would rush to the safe shelter to save their lives.

Similarly, the VSO-Nepal has built a similar safe shelter in Rajdevi Municipality. The Rajdevi safe shelter has capacity to save over 100 families during the flood up to 5 feet height. “During the construction period, it was discussed on how to use these shelters in normal situation so they can sustain,” Yadav said. The Rajdevi safe shelter will be used for the child care and learning centre in normal situation.

'Be Capable' project funded by EU Aid Volunteers is VSO's continuing effort to support Disaster Risk Reduction in the communities.

The two-year Flood Response/Recovery Project has constructed safe shelters for 200 families, reconstructed six schools, installed raised hand pumps and built separate toilets for boys and girls with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in each school, provided new Early Childhood Development and Learning facilities for 3,000 students in the six schools.

In terms of long-term development, the VSO Nepal also succeeded in providing on-farm and off-farm training for 106 people of the marginalised communities in the two municipalities.  

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