Continuous snowfall since December disrupts supply chains in Saipal
Kabita Bohara from Nyuna village and his family of eight have been surviving on beans since they ran out of rice grains.
“We had our last rice meal two days ago. Since then, we only eat beans,” Kabita said. “I was thinking of borrowing some rice from our neighbours, but they too have run out of grain.”
Continuous snowfall in the Saipal Rural Municipality of Bajhang since December has disrupted all road connectivity, interrupting the supply of food and essentials to the local unit.
Villagers say they have run out of rice purchased from the Food Management Company depot. A new stock of supplies has yet to reach the villages due to disrupted roads.
The rural roads connecting the villages of Saipal are covered in five feet of snow. Residents of Kada, Dhuli, Nyuna, Baludi and Kaya villages in Wards 3, 4 and 5 of the Rural Municipality have been completely cut off from the rest of the district.
Wards 1 and 2 of the rural municipality, where supplies are transported on mules, are covered with six feet of snow, which immobilizes all means of transport.
“We collected Rs 500,000 from the villagers in October to bring rice. We paid the contractor in advance so that we could have the rice grains transported to us before the start of the winter season,” said Umesh Bohara, a resident of Nyuna. “But the contractor was unable to deliver. It will take some time before transport resumes. The villagers are left with very few grains of rice, which won’t last long.
Bam Bahadur Bohara, a teacher at Kada Secondary School, says villages in northern Saipal are also reporting a shortage of food grains.
“Local stores are running out of rice grains and other basic necessities. The supply of fresh foodstuffs is not possible due to continuous snowfall in the area,” said Bam Bahadur. “If supplies don’t resume soon, people will starve here.”
According to Ran Bohara, another resident of the district, the people of Saipal are worried about a possible shortage of food products if the snowfall continues.
Adverse weather conditions have driven up the price of rice grains in remote villages, says Gorakh Bohara, a local trader. According to him, villagers pay double for Mota rice.
“In the village of Kada, some local shops were selling mota rice at Rs 10,000 per quintal while the price was Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 in the villages of Dhuli, Baloudi and Nyuna. But right now those stores are also out of stock,” Gorakh told the Post.
Mota rice is priced at Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,500 per quintal at the Food Management Company depot.
“The company had previously opened a temporary sales center in the rural municipality of Saipal to distribute food products. But the center has not been able to stock up on rice given the closure of the Jaya Prithvi highway due to off-season flooding in November last year,” said Rajendra Dhami, Chairman of the Rural Municipality of Saipal.
“The main highway was closed due to flooding at that time and has remained closed due to snowfall since December,” Dhami said. “The supply of rice grains for the villages is blocked at Syanda of Talkot Rural Municipality and Dhalauna of Saipal Rural Municipality. We have written to the district administration office and the food management company to transport the grains of rice by helicopter, but we haven’t received a response yet.”
Due to its high mountainous altitude, agriculture is practically impossible in the Saipal region, which means that the local population depends on imports for all their domestic needs. Residents of the Rural Municipality of Saipal have repeatedly sent delegations to the Chief Minister of Sudurpaschim Province and the Federal Government’s Ministry of Commerce and Supplies to operate a permanent food depot in the villages, but to no avail.
According to the villagers, they have received numerous assurances from the authorities but a permanent deposit is not yet operational.
The disruption in road connectivity has also led to a shortage of essential medicines in health facilities in Wards 3, 4 and 5 in the northern region of Saipal Rural Municipality. The stock of essential drugs for health posts is blocked in Dhalaun.
“It is very difficult to reach the district headquarters for medical assistance. The villagers are suffering from flu-like symptoms, colds and asthma due to the cold,” said local resident Bimala Bohara. “But the health posts don’t have the necessary drugs.”
The incessant snowfall has also affected the livestock raised by the locals.
“Sheep and goats are dying because of the cold and lack of food. More than 300 sheep died for lack of pasture,” said Matbir Rokaya, a shepherd.
Life has come to a standstill in the villages of the Rural Municipality with government offices closed and schools closed.
“Schools in the area have also not been able to reopen since December, when it started to snow. All communication networks are down due to the snowfall,” said Gopal Bohara, Saipal-1 Ward President.