--By Madan Lamsal
Nature has turned villain. But I think she has taken revenge.
There is an unannounced war being waged by humankind against nature. In fact, the history of human civilization is the history of humans constantly triumphing over nature. But the bad part is that nature is not always tolerant. If she feels that enough is enough, she reacts with vengeance and we have natural calamities.
That is how the religious-minded think and so did Thomas Robert Malthus whose population theory is so famous. And I too think they may be right. But I wonder why nature was so angry at Nepal in April-May 2015 that she chose the innocent and religious-minded Nepalis as her target! And she did not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, caste or creed.
Yes we Nepalis did commit some crimes against Mother Nature. We built roads and hydropower dams etc. on the fragile soil of high mountains which are still considered the youngest in the world. That means they are babies. Though they are so tall and seem so mighty to us, they are still babies. And what does a mother do if someone commits atrocities over her babies? Thus we were doomed to face her vengeance. But why us first? Why not the Chinese who were more horrible to her? As we all know, the Chinese have built far bigger roads and dams and thus committed bigger atrocities. Or perhaps they were already punished by Mother Nature some years back (in 2008) in the form of the Sichuan earthquake.
Still the Chinese have not stopped and perhaps Mother Nature, realizing that she cannot terrify the Mighty Chinese enough, now turned on the weaker Nepalis.
Another question that comes up is: why was central Nepal punished this time? And the answer at first glance may be this: because the people of Kathmandu, that is in central Nepal, were not sympathetic enough to the sufferings of those living far away from here, such as in the Mid-West and Far-West. As we remember, the innocent people living in the Mid-West and Far-West are still suffering from various epidemics and we in Kathmandu again were not sympathetic enough to provide them relief in a speedy manner. And some years ago, thousands of people in those very parts of Nepal were either mercilessly killed or rendered homeless by the terror raged there by some of our own citizens, and we in Kathmandu were turning a blind eye to them until the terror came to our own doorstep. Again this explanation is not enough, as this time Mother Nature has punished even those in Sindhupalchok, Dolakha, Rasuwa and Nuwakot, who suffered during the period of terror as well.
Perhaps Mother Nature is not so considerate. Her anger does not discriminate between the bad and the good. She simply punishes everyone who comes in her way.
Whatever the case maybe, it will now be difficult for people to enjoy nature. I think the slogan "Go back to nature" should be changed now to “Don't Trust Nature”. It can pounce upon you any time without any warning.
By the way, we also got to see some interesting things following the earthquake. For example, people immediately started wondering how many more days can the current Koirala government last. It seems nature doesn’t like the Koiralas as prime ministers. For example, the Girija Prasad Koirala government was washed away by the massive floods and landslides back in the early 1990s. Now nature’s fury could strike the same blow to another Koirala government. The kind of grudge nature holds against the poor Koiralas is dumbfounding.
However, it doesn't mean that the government did not fight back against nature. In the middle of all this, the government started sending people out of Kathmandu – perhaps to continue sleeping in peace, undisturbed. In the meantime the political leaders and their much talked about youth wings were in deep sleep mode so as not to disturb the government and general public. And the government was quick to announce a state of emergency because, without such an official declaration, the people would not have known that there really was a state of emergency.
In the rest of the world, different government agencies work in tandem to face such calamities. But that is a wrong way to do things, according to our learned great leaders. So, in Nepal, as soon as the earthquake struck, the home minister and the finance minister started arguing over who had the sole right to start the relief work. Following the top-down approach so popular in development parlance, a similar fight went on for five days between the chief secretary and the home secretary.
Even our foreign friends were very active. They were competing among themselves in announcing relief aid, as if they were in a bidding war, though most of these bids are limited to bidding only. And look at Bhutan! In the past, after expelling hundreds of thousands of Nepalis and making them homeless, this time it donated Nepal Rs 100 million just a day after the earthquake to build homes for the earthquake victims. Isn’t it interesting?
At times, Nepal would be caught in the middle of the political tug of war between India and China. Now, it seems even the geological make-up of India and China is taking its toll on poor Nepal, with the scientists telling us that earthquakes in Nepal are the result of periodic collisions between the Indian and Tibetan tectonic plates. That may be the reason why Prithivi Narayan Shah called Nepal a yam between two boulders more than two centuries ago!
Now the question is can human beings do something to control nature? If not can we control ourselves or can we make ourselves safe before nature attacks us? It is not a laughing matter. It is time for us to become serious at least when it comes to Mother Nature?