Sinkholes unleash terror among locals in Pokhara

POKHARA, July 17

A sinkhole first appeared in Thulibeshiphant in Armala of Kaski on November 19, 2013. Since then, land has continued to caved in in the area, stoking fears among locals. And with the onset of monsoon this year, locals are worried more sinkholes could appear.

Large and tall buildings have crowded Gupteswor, Mahendra and Bat caves which are deemed unsuitable for human settlement.

Geologists have advised not to construct buildings randomly as building houses on the encroached land around streams and rivers were leading to sinkholes.

Topography of Armala in particular and Pokhara in general are different. Geologists and mine workers warn that dense settlements above caves and near the Seti River and Phirke Khola could invite huge disaster any time.

Many years ago, geologists had suggested compensating residents in and around Gupteswor cave and constructing a garden instead, citing fragile landscape.

The water that comes out through the Patale fall from Fewa Lake mixes into Phusre Khola underground. Sound emanating from the water flow has forced locals to spend sleepless nights. They are living in constant fear.

A section of the Siddhartha Highway lies above the Gupteswor cave.

Hundreds of vehicles ply the section of highway on a daily basis. Inside the cave, shaking caused by vehicular movements can be felt. Local Pushpa Baral complained that there was no alternative but to stay there despite constant fear.

Twenty years ago, there were three houses above the Gupteswor cave. The number of houses now has grown exponentially. There are around four dozen houses there. Stakeholders say the situation had gone from bad to worse due to municipality and local administration’s failure to control the construction.

Sharada Mohan Kafle, Chief Engineer at the Pokhara Sub-metropolis Office, said that his office had not given permits to construct house around the cave area. “Locals have built houses despite our disapproval. We have failed to control,” Kafle added.

In 1995, the Department of Geography at Prithvi Narayan Campus had concluded that the area above the cave was unfit for settlement and recommended park construction in the vicinity.