Singati locals rebuilding houses on landslide prone area, ignoring warning

Singati (Dolakha),  December 3

Locals have reconstructed around 1,000 houses in Singati without heeding geologists’ recommendation that Singati’s human settlement should be relocated to a safer place. Geologists say Singati is a landslide prone area.

Singati was the epicentre of the earthquake that hit Nepal on May 12, 2015, claiming 12 lives and destroying most of the houses there. Government engineers deployed in the area said they first warned locals not to reconstruct in the area, but eventually let them build bowing to their desire as local leaders also sided with locals, said Engineer Suman Kumar Prabhakar.

Engineers themselves are scared to stay there. “I do not want to stay at night in Singati,” said Engineer Nirmal Darshan Acharya, chief of Dolakha District Level Project Implementation Unit under National Reconstruction Authority.

According to him, Department of Urban Development and Building Construction had also recommended that the human settlement be shifted from Singati.

“But NRA has not recognised Singati as a risky zone,” Acharya said. NRA Chief Executive Officer Sushil Gyewali and some donors oversaw reconstruction in Singati yesterday.

Singati is the commercial centre of 22 villages of Kalinchowk, Bigu and Gaurishankar Rural Municipalities of northern Dolakha.

Locals pressured their representatives to allow reconstruction in Singati.  “Locals are so desperate that they can build houses even on rivers if they have their way” said Bigu-Ward-4 Chairperson Muktam Tamang.

Locals have not even followed guidelines to build houses. They were required to build houses  25 metres  from the river and 15 metres from the road but they have not done that. “The reality is that most locals do not have enough land to meet this requirement. So we have told them to build houses at least seven to 10 metres from the river or road,” Tamang told THT.

Even government buildings in the areas have not adhered to building guidelines.  “When we dig  five metres deep we see seepage of water from the Tamakoshi River. Even our office is not safe,” Gaurishankar Conversation Area Project Officer Bishnu Pande told THT. The conservation office is also located on the banks of the Tamakoshi River.

The NRA started distributing grants for Dolakha district in Singati and Jagat Bahadur Khatri was the first recipient of the grant.  He built a two-storey house on the banks of the Tamakoshi River, a landslide prone area.  According to DLPIU-Dolakha, NRA has recognised 99 beneficiaries — 83 in Bhimeshwor Municipality, two in Gaurishankar, 13 in Kalinchowk and one in Baiteshwor — to be relocated to  safer areas. Singati locals are not among them.