Nepali Times
Disastrous response


LEFT: Students play in front of their destroyed school building in Jorpokhari.
Compared to the north-western corner of Nepal, the capital of the far-eastern district of Taplejung in Fungling doesn't feel as remote.

There are neat black topped roads, busy markets, private schools and colleges, satellite cable operators and FM stations. However, a half-hour outside Fungling, you begin to understand why there is seething anger against the state for its apathy and neglect following the 25 September earthquake.

The epicenter of the 6.8 magnitude quake was right underneath Mt. Kanchanjunga, the third highest mountain in the world on Nepal's border with India's Sikkim state. Two months after the earthquake, there is still devastation everywhere. Trails wiped out by massive rockfalls, schools and homes in ruins. We met families living in plastic tents provided by the Red Cross but as the winter approaches, the families fear the worst.

Newly built concrete school building in Pholey is destroyed. Less than hundred meters away old mud houses remain unaffected by the earthquake.
The festivals over, children were returning to schools in Fungling. There are no secondary schools outside the district capital and even the primary and lower secondary schools in the VDCs have mostly been damaged by the earthquake. Locals are forced to risk their lives on dangerous trails for everyday needs. "What do we do? This is all fate. Even our gods are angry with us, it seems", says 73 year old Lobsang Bhote from remote village of Pholey.

The chairman of the Kangchenjunga Conservation Management Committee (KCMC), Khagendra Limbu, says trails damaged by the earthquake need to be repaired before the next rainy season, otherwise it will be inaccessible for trekkers going up to base camp. But Lobsang is more concerned about his own community. "Tourists can choose not to walk on these dangerous landslides," he says, "but we don't have a choice."

Huge landslide between Pholey and Ghunsa. The earthquake has damaged trails and bridges on the Kangchenjunga Trail.
For people from remote areas like Pholey, Ghunsa and Khampachen the earthquake has affected transportation of basic goods carried mostly by local porters or yaks. Underaged children, some as young as 11, carry up to 50 kg sacks of cardamom along precarious trails.

Underneath the fatalism and acceptance, there is lingering anger over the lack of response by the government. Penji Sherpa of Ghunsa and others like her make fun of the "relief package" sent by the government. The Taplejung CDO and a bureaucrat from the home ministry landed in a helicopter with Rs 60,000, handed it to a local police officer and left within minutes. They didn't even bother to go and see how the people whose houses were destroyed are living.

"Forget about these people from Fungling and Kathmandu, our own village secretaries are not around when we need them most. They left when the war started and never came back," complained Machindra Limbu, a Grade 12 student from Lelep. He was accompanying four widows from his village who were walking to Fungling to collect their allowances even though the government is supposed bring it to them.

Back in Fungling, the Local Development Officer says he has 29 secretaries looking after 50 villages, the others have refused to work in remote areas. Most VDC buildings in Taplejung that were not bombed during the conflict have been illegally occupied.

The earthquake was just the latest in a series of disasters that has afflicted Taplejung: state neglect, poverty and the war. The people here, like Nepalis in other remote regions, cope the best they can. They have learnt to live with disasters, and they don't expect anything from the state. They will survive the aftermath of the the terrible night of 25 September as well, long after its memories fade.

Beyond repair

The earthquake completely destroyed 1369 houses in Taplejung displacing as many families. The official record also shows 56 school buildings, 7 police posts, 5 health posts and 9 other government buildings were damaged in the district. The locals say many destroyed school buildings including the ones that were constructed under the community supervision were of low quality and if the earthquake had struck during the school hours, lot of children would have died. Although reports say 86 people lost their lives in the adjoining Indian state of Sikkim and 11 people died in other parts of Nepal it's a miracle that there was no casualty in the district. The government has distributed relief worth Rs. 6.7 million but Local Development Officer Prem Kumar Shrestha admits the amount is too little, given the extent of damage. The local authorities are hopeful that KCMC along with The Great Himalayan Trail Program are working to raise funds to repair the damaged trails and broken bridges.

1. who cares
in the past, nepalese were forced to be happy for the luxurious life of shahs, we almost bought a private jet for gyn bahadur.

now it time for nepalese to be happy for that bhatterai. we should be thankful to god that bhatteria is getting to travel expensive parts of the world. 

2. Chayanba
This is dismantlement  of proposed Model of Great Architect BRB.Pray other Gods Makune,jholinath , surya &chandra for help.Shamless leaders!!!

3. Gautam Gurung
"Its a goose with gold egg issue for the politicians which ought to throw over the desk of Five star hotels for discussion"
Such a frustrating one!!

4. Madhesi
Some one should forward to International Red cross. Nepal has 50000 NGO who will trust? Shame for humanitarian establishment same like Political.

5. chetan dahal
Thank you so much for the report.

I just wanted to convey the following message to every Nepali out there:-

Isn't it time for all of us to stop complaining about politicians, neighbouring countries etc etc and start improving ourselves?

Can't each one of us take responsibility for the current situation and work towards rebuilding it?

BRB or any other person are just one soul....just like you and much are you/we expecting from one person? miracles???...isn't it our responsibility that Bagmati is dirty? isn't it our responsibility that lakhs have migrated out of country in search of work and we are doing nothing? isn't it our responsibility that fellow countrymen are homeless after the earthquake in Taplejung and eastern districts? Isn't it our responsibility that thousands get sold in Mumbai and other cities every year? Isn't it our responsibility that we still have to import electricity?......

I think it's high time we start thinking(and start taking corrective action)!

6. narausal
Lets stop complaining and seriously ask what did you do from your personal level to this incident?... I am feed up with this silly comment here and there..

.By the way thats to the journalist to bringing this issue to us. its a genuine Journalism, I appreciated it very much.

7. jange

Thanks Anurag ji, for bringing this issue after a long time. I don't know how UN and the government of Nepal commented immediately after the earthquake that disaster plan worked perfectly, may be our prime minister and robert piper should think on that.

but misery is who cares the poor

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)