Squatters worried as monsoon begins

Kathmandu, June 20

Every year, as the monsoon starts, squatters in Thapathali become tense.

They do not fear the rain so much as they do the flood in the Bagamati River, a very common occurrence during monsoon every year. The water level in the river rises with the heavy downpour increasing the risk of flood entering their huts on the banks of the river.

Newton Rai, 15, is scared of flooding. Whenever it rains heavily, he feels like running away from home but he can’t do so. There is nowhere for him to go. The reason behind his fear is that his house is located on the banks of the Bagamati River in Thapathali and he is a landless squatter.

“Every night I get afraid and worry whether we will be alive the next morning. If our house is swept away by flood in the Bagamati River, we too will swept away,” said Newton.

The squatters in Thapathali have been living in huts thatched with plastic for many years. They have faced the hot summer as well as the chilly winters, but now they are tense. They are worried how they are going to manage to stay alive when the monsoon downpour comes and the river begins to swell.

“Along with increase in temperature, we are troubled by the bad smell of the river and mosquito and insect bites. The impending flood is another big problem,” Kamala Rai, Newton’s mother said. “We are in trouble but nobody pays any attention to our pathetic condition,” she lamented.

Likewise, another squatter Rudra Shrestha said, “Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai had shifted us to the Chovar area when he was prime minister, but the locals of Chovar rejected and us. So we came back to the same place.” There are nearly 215 huts there.

Mostly labourers who collect materials, carry luggage, or those who work as domestic helpers dwell in these huts.

According to the President of Nepal Landless Democratic Union Party Hukum Bahadur Lama, 13 places of Kathmandu, Sankhamul, Gauridhara, Baudha Ramhiti, Manohara etc are registered as occupied by landless residents by the Kathmandu Municipality.

He said ‘Even though they have been staying there for a long time, they are regarded as landless people. But those who do have homes in the Valley too are living as squatters.’

He demanded that the municipality send people, who own their own houses back and allow only those who have been registered as landless people from 1979 to 1999 by the municipality.

Around 4.26 million landless people including Kamaiya, Haliya, Badi, Haruwa, and Charuwa, from different districts have been recorded by the Union Party.