A general view of the Dejumdanda camp in the northern part of Dhading district, in this recent picture.
DHADING, Feb 6: Earthquake victims in northern part of the district, who had temporarily shifted to a camp in Dejumdanda jungle, are waiting for permanent relocation to a safer place. Their villages were destroyed by earthquakes in 2015 and the land had cracked to such extent that they marked prone to landslides and inhabitable. This had forced them to abandon their homes and seek refuge in nearby jungle. After staying in the jungle camp for almost two years, they are now wary of their future.
“Our village is still prone to landslides. There are cracks on the land every where. In such condition we cannot return from where we came,” said Ranijom Tamang, an earthquake victim living at the Dejumdanda camp.
This camp is located inside jungle. Their huts, which were built for temporary purpose, have worn out. Their walls made of tree leaf, mud and timber have worn out and the tarpaulins covering their roof are full of holes. “The tarpaulins have torn apart and there are cracks on the walls too. It has been extremely difficult to live in such tents during the rainy season and during the winter,” said Tamang who had a home in Lapa VDC - 2 before being forced into a life of hardship by earthquakes.
Hundreds of families like that of Tamang’s had climbed to the higher grounds soon after the earthquakes. Locals of Tenchen, Kachet, Chapang and Chhumrang villages of Lapa VDC have been living in the camps. The camps are situated around two hours walk from those villages. Tamang said that the way to their village is very risky as rocks from the mountains above keep tumbling down.
The residents of the camp have been dealing with hardships every day since they started living there. Reaped off means of living, each day they struggle to earn square meals for their families. Shila Tamang, another earthquake victim, said that even women hunt for work around other villages. “If you come to our camps during the day, you will meet only children or elderly people. Mothers who have very young kids also stay back. Or else, they have to go out to earn meals for the family,” she said.
Shila’s neighbor Tek Bahadur Tamang stated that most of the men in the camps work as porters. “We get down to the villages and carry others’ goods when needed. That’s the most common job we get,” he said. Sometimes, it is not possible to get back home the same day, he added.
Post earthquakes, several NGOs have been working for reconstruction and resettlements of victims in Dhadhing. However, according to Tek Bahadur, no such NGO has reached out to their camp with help. “It is difficult to travel here for outsiders. Why would they take the trouble of climbing such steep mountains to care us,” he said in a satirical tone. “We feel that we do not have a government. Even if there is a government in the country, it does not exist for us,” he added.
Food scarcity is common to the families here. Neither do they have enough clothes or a comfortable house to live in. They risk their lives everyday while making food-hunting trips to other villages by traveling along trails that are prone to landslides from the mountain above. They are all yearning to leave the camp forever and shift permanently to safer zone which they would call home.
“We do not know when our miseries will come to an end. Even this jungle is prone to landslides. We are not safe here too,” Tek Bahadur said. He added that health facilities are the last thing the victims are getting. During women’s delivery and other medical emergency cases, there is no option other than to succumb to situations.
Tek Bahadur further informed that some of the quake-hit families had changed their camps temporarily. They had lived for sometime in other camps near the district headquarters. However, after they were heavily indebted as they needed to purchase all the food, they returned.
Govt’s relocation plan in limbo
The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has recently decided to study relocation of earthquake victims of 14 districts. While Gorkha was the epicenter of the earthquake, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchowk and Dhadhing were the hardest hit districts with massive human life and other losses.
Seven settlements of Dhading were earlier accessed as ‘under risk of natural disaster’. This was confirmed by a team of geologists soon after the earthquake which had recommended the government to relocate the residents without delay. “But we are still here living under continuous threats to our lives,” Tek Bahadur lamented.