Post-earthquake reconstruction

Quake victims celebrate third Dashain in tents

September 22, 2017 02:10 AM Dhruba Dangal/Narahari Sapkota

SINDHUPALCHOWK, Sept 22: In the wee hours of Thursday, warm rays of the sun shone upon Sindhupalchowk and Gorkha districts, welcoming Ghatasthapana -- the first day of Hindu's biggest festival Dashain. In the place badly ravaged by the catastrophic magnitude 7.8 earthquake two and a half years ago, the sunshine somehow brought smiles to the faces of the people who are still struggling to recover and rebuild after the earthquake.

After taking bath with the rise of the sun, Bharat Prasad Timilsina of Bandegaun in Sindhupalchowk rushed to plant 'jamara' - to mark Ghatasthapana. After the ritual, he also lit an oil lamp, and began worshiping Lord Ganesha. This is the third year he is celebrating Dashain in his makeshift tent.

“We haven't been able to afford the cost of rebuilding our house, which is why we are forced to celebrate our biggest festival under the tent,” said Timilsina, 57.

Sindhupalchowk is one of the hardest hit districts by the 2015 earthquakes. Victims are still living under makeshift shelters made of corrugated sheets, while the situation of others residing under tarpaulins is even worse. Forgetting their sorrows, they are celebrating the festival regardless of the difficulties in their lives. 

The commencement of Dashain, nevertheless, has brought joyous mood in the quake-hit settlements. With schools now closed for the festival, children are busy flying kites. Large bamboo swings are another attraction for them. 

Markets in the district also have witnessed increased mobility of people as shopping for the festival marks its peak. With the little money they have, the quake victims are hitting the markets to purchase their festival necessities.

Madav Prasad Koirala, another local of Bandegaun, too is in a jubilant mood with the arrival of the joyous festival. “It's the biggest festival. The festive joy enters even inside troubled tents,” he said.

The devastating quake had destroyed over 95 percent houses and physical structures of Sindhupalchowk. Even today, most of the victims are living in makeshift tents and tarps. Even though the district has majority of Janajatis population, a big majority of them celebrate Dashain and Tihar festivals. 

Slack reconstruction progress has hit Gorkha district, epicenter of the earthquake. At the current pace, it is said that the reconstruction works would take 50 years to complete. The quake had destroyed around 60,000 houses and hundreds of other structures in the district.

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