19-25 August 2016 #822

Second monsoon in the earthquake zone

Survivors have received little help, but no one seems surprised
Thomas Bell

Pics: Thomas Bell
From L-R: Tunnelling works for the Melamchi drinking water project have resumed after the earthquake disruption. A collapsed tourist lodge on the trail to Gosainkunda. Gosainkunda in the rain.

Walking in the monsoon across the earthquake-affected districts north of Kathmandu, it is evident that the region has been turned into one huge tin shanty.

This is the old heartland of Nepal, historically prosperous. But where there used to be handsome old villages with houses in varied styles, the texture of village architecture now consists of shacks and tin sheets where villagers squat in the ruins of their homes.

From L-R: The historic Nuwakot Darbar is one of the very few old buildings on the route to have survived …. but many neighbouring structures were ruined. Ploughing in Nuwakot.

All along the walk from Chautara of Sindhupalchok across Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Dhading to Gorkha, families are surviving their second monsoon out in the open. There is almost no rebuilding to be seen. Visible everywhere are village council meetings about how people will qualify for the Rs 200,000 rebuilding grant per family.

Everyone agrees the policy makes no sense, for all sorts of reasons. For example, the money is not nearly enough to build any of the approved designs, so many people only hope to get the first payment of Rs 50,000, and to do with it whatever they think makes the most sense.

From L-R: A ruined house in Dhading. The Ankhu Khola in Dhading where all villages have been reduced to tin shacks. A small hut where a house once stood, by an ancient chautara in western Dhading.

An exception to this general picture is on the trail to Gosainkunda, where people make money by operating their houses as lodges, and have rebuilt immediately without waiting for help. Alas, the government is preparing to punish them. A new Langtang National Park regulation means that people who always lived there will have to bid for the right to run a lodge. In exchange for payment, the National Park proposes to give them nothing besides a licence to earn a living.

From L-R: Near Aright in Gorkha. Near the epicentre, Gurkha Bazar survived almost unscathed. Like in Chautara and Bidur, local hotels are occupied by earthquake relief workers.

It is not true that people have received no help so far. They have been given tin sheets. But the perception that those who survived the earthquake have been abandoned by the government is universal, and if you ask whether they expect any different, then the answer is usually the same: “What will they ever do for us?”

Nothing we saw surprised us, nor did anyone we met seem surprised.

Read also:

Better build back, Sonia Awale

Preparing to be prepared, Kunda Dixit

Women still waiting to rebuild homes and lives, Shreejana Shrestha

A race against winter, Om Astha Rai