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“I am not only a gauge reader, a life saver too!”

Ms. Gayetri Mishra, a gauge reader, remarked after heavy flooding during September 18-19, 2012

“This year I felt proud of being a river gauge reader, which I have been doing for the past 13 years. It was TEEJ, a festival in which Hindu women fast and praise Lord Shiva, asking for a long and successful life for their husbands, enjoying delicious foods and celebrating together. But I was cautious despite the celebrations, because it had been raining heavily all night. I went down to the river to take a reading at 6:00 a.m. and saw the water level in the Siyali River had increased slightly to 1.70 meter (m). I informed the downstream communities of Tilki, Simari and Parashan, then the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) field office in Attariya, the Nepali Red Cross Society (NRCS) in Kanchanpur and Mercy Corps Nepal. The rain did not stop and I continued monitoring the river level every two hours. By 12:00 noon, the river level had risen to 2.5 m and I started taking readings hourly and passing the gauge reader information to the downstream gauge readers immediately after each measurement. I took readings up into the night since I knew the water level would increase still more. In the middle of the night, the telephones of some downstream communities were no longer reachable. I called staff at Mercy Corps, thinking that downstream communities could be contacted via alternative phones. Later on the next day, I came to know from Mercy Corps’ and NRCS Kanchanpur’s staff and downstream gauge readers that the downstream Early Warning System (EWS) task force members, due to my warnings, had alerted their communities by blowing sirens and using hand mikes, and, thanks to that, all the vulnerable people were able to evacuate and reach safety in time.”

“I have been recording river water levels for the past13 years while working with DHM. It was a regular job for me and earlier I was unaware of the importance of the information that I used to generate and transmit. I never asked anybody. But thanks to Mercy Corps Nepal and NRCS Kanchanpur, now I can understand the importance of those readings and how my actions can save people’s lives living in those downstream plain areas. When I accurately pass them the information of flood and dangerous rising water levels, the people there have enough time to prepare themselves to evacuate to safety and also to protect their assets. My role is not only gauge reading, but also life saving. Though, I could not celebrate TEEJ properly this year, I am so proud to be involved in such a challenging job where I can save people’s lives and their livelihoods.”

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