No end in sight to quake victims’ plight

Khalte, Rasuwa, December 22

Victims of the April, 2015 earthquake in Rasuwa district have been enduring a series of risks related to natural disasters.

Post the quake, dry landslips at various settlements in Mailung, Dandagaun, Thulagaun, Laharepauwa and Hakul have displaced the dwellers. They first resettled at  Satbise of Nuwakot, then Naubise of Rasuwa and now they are taking refuge at Khalte, on the banks of the Trishuli river. Their current settlement is prone to flooding. Some of them have already set up huts while others are in the process.

“Our journey to a safe shelter has finally ended here. Until five decades ago. the river used to run through this settlement. It changed its course later. The river may divert again to our houses,” said a displaced landslide victim Nima Lama, 65.

A team from National Reconstruction Authority has also marked Khalte as a risky place to live in. “NRA had earlier constructed a building for quake survivors in this area, which was later used as a rural municipality office,” said Khalte Rural Municipality chair Upendra Lamsal.

Although there is no recorded data on the number of quake victims taking shelter in the area, Lamsal puts it at around 664 families.

“Twenty-four households from the area have been rehabilitated in Tistang Rural Municipality-5 and preparations are under way for resettlement of 48 other families in Rasuwa district itself by providing them Rs 2 lakhs for purchasing land. There is also an infrastructure development programme that provides Rs 4 lakhs for each quake-displaced household at the settlement,” he said.

As per the NRA working guidelines, affected people from settlements that are at risk, should be provided with Rs 2 lakhs for them to buy land for house construction at some safe place. However, not all victims have been resettled elsewhere even after 32 months have passed since the devastating earthquake.

Former secretary at NRA, Sarbajeet Prasad Mahato said he has suggested earthquake-affected people against resettling at Khalte Basti of Rasuwa due to increased flood risk.

“There is a need to evacuate people from such a place even if they have settled voluntarily. But government bodies themselves have settled these people at such a risky place. We never know when an earthquake strikes. Just like that, flooding can occur anytime. This is also supported by the conclusion of geological studies that a river reverts to its old course at an interval of 50 to 100 years,” said Mahato, who himself is a geologist. He has served as director general of the Department of Mines and Geology, earlier.

The displaced victims of this place have not received the first instalment of the government-provided housing grant. Thulimaya Tamang, who has now resettled here does not even know that people living in risky places get Rs 2 lakhs from the government grant.

“No one, including engineers and local level representatives, has informed us about the  government grant. Had I known about this earlier I would have purchased land at another place and settled there,” she shared.

Most of the earthquake-affected people who have settled at this place are facing livelihood problems. Landslides that occurred after the earthquake have buried not only houses but also agricultural lands. The five-member family of Jeevan Tamang who came here from Mailung is struggling to meet basic daily needs. “I am the sole breadwinner of my family. I occasionally get work as daily wage earner. But other members of my family are unemployed. Back in our village, we used to grow enough food to support our family all the year round. But here, we are living as refugees,” he said.

It has remained a challenging task to settle people who have come here from places that are prone to floods. However, NRA has claimed that many people here do not want to move out as the place is close to the main road that connects Betrawati to Dhunche.