BUTWAL, July 6: When the government announced the local level elections a few months ago, the entire country was overjoyed. It was happening after nearly two decades and was supposed to fill the vacant posts of people's representatives in the local bodies. The country holding elections for the first time after adopting federal setup was another charm of the election. However, this kind of excitement did not touch the flood victims of Butuwal.
“We have our own grievances,” said Parbati Thapa, an elderly lady from Buddhanagar. “We don't even have a proper shelter,” she added.
Around 5000 families were directly affected in Buddhanagar area of Butwal by last year's flood. While most of them were displaced, only a few families have returned back so far.
Last week, her locality was so colorful. Due to election campaigns, there were stickers and pamphlets everywhere. Cars and jeeps were playing parodies on loudspeakers. But they had nothing to say about the flood victims. Thapa stated that she has to suffer so much even at this old age.
“My whole life was an ordeal. But before I was strong and could face challenges. Now, I have become so fragile and I do not want to add to the problems of my children either. But when we have no proper house to live in, this age becomes even painful,” she lamented.
Thapa does not exactly know her birth date. However, she feels that she has already lived for a century now. “I must be over 100 years,” she said.
Those who were left homeless due to the flood have not been provided relief, says Lok Prasad Shrestha, a local of Buddhanagar. “They were not relocated. Neither given any relief. And even now, they are at risk,” he said.
According to Shrestha, they are in need of a very strong concrete wall or embankment in some settlements. Basically, the settlements of squatters are at risk. “They are the ones who have been worst hit by the flood,” he said. “And even now, lots of settlements are at risk of being flooded,” he added.
During the election campaign, candidates talked a lot about providing land to many, relocating the flood victims and so on. Some promised that they would erect embankments wherever necessary. Controlling the course of river and keeping the villages safe were among the top agendas of the parties. However, few were impressed by such tall claims, Shrestha said.
“No matter what they said during the elections, people are not naïve enough to believe all those promises. But this is indeed a very serious matter. Thousands of people have been affected by flood and are now again at risk,” he stated.
Elderly Thapa agrees with Shrestha. She told that not even a single leader or party representative has ever reached to her door to ask her about her situation. “They never cared about us. They should have visited us after the flood last year,” she said.
Thapa wants a proper shelter first rather than registered land. For her, living well comes first of all. “I am in the twilight of my years. I am used to sufferings. There are children, our daughters and daughter-in-laws, sons, they all need a house first,” she insisted. “Stable house is the first requirement; they are talking about land ownership. When will that happen?” she questions.
Flood victims and other people of Buddhanagar, Majuwa, Tap Majuwa, Durganagar and Binapate Tole, among dozens of other locations of Butuwal have the same demand. They want proper embankments in their areas before they are hit by flood once again.
She has lost her peace of mind since the monsoon started, says 35-year-old Santa Maya Katuwal of Buddhanagar. As there is no safety, she fears of flood all the time.
“Had there been an embankment, we would have felt safer. But in lack of it, we worry all the time,” Katuwal said. “But even if we remain alert, damages cannot be prevented,” she says.
Her house could not survive last year's flood. Her house was among the 15 houses damaged by the flood in the village. According to the data of District Administration Office, 61 families from Buddhanagar alone were rendered homeless.
“We got to suffer so much last year. We are not safe even now. When it rains consistently my heart beats faster. I cannot sleep well,” Katuwal said.
Certain areas of Butwal have always been prone to floods. However, the government has not made significant efforts to do anything about it, locals allege. “Even though they do something, that's for the sake of name. Our situation has not improved,” Katuwal stated.
According to a government engineer Bharat Sapkota, people encroach upon government-owned land and settle down in risky areas. Later, it becomes difficult to manage their safety. “Some settle down in the riverbanks or nearby areas. Keeping such areas safe from flood is very challenging,” he stated.