Samle village which has been affected by two ongoing hydro projects. Photo: Radha Dhungana/Republica
SOLUKHUMBU, July 31: Locals of Nigale and Samle villages of Solukumbu remain quite tensed these days. Hydropower projects of upper Solu and lower Solu have taken away their peace of mind. As the ongoing projects have put their settlement at high risk of landslides, the villagers have demanded for their relocation to safer zones and due compensation. However, their faint voice has not reached the authorities, they lament.
“The projects are undergoing. As they are digging as they wish. That has made the soil around our house very fragile. We have been watching soil eroding all the time from above our house helplessly,” said Rajkumar Pradhan, a local of Nigale village. “We are extremely worried. But we cannot leave our house and start living under the open sky,” he added.
Dozens of families in the two villages are at risk of being swept away by landslides. They have been making rounds of the District Administration Office demanding immediate solution to the problem. “Our life is at risk. Landslides might sweep us away anytime. At night, we cannot sleep properly,” says Pradhan.
When the projects were announced, locals of entire Solukhumbu were very happy including the locals of the villages which have been affected now. They were told that the projects were going to open doors for several other kinds of development in the district. “We were elated too. We were told that the government would safely relocate us. We would be given due compensation and these hydro projects would be complete very soon,” Pradhan reported.
He is however disappointed that the government does not seem to have taken interest in the relocation now, though the projects are already underway. He said that the locals also talked to several political party leaders, which did not yield any result either.
“We met the CDO recently. We told him that we are happy about the projects. However, our life is at high risk and we demand relocation. He gave assurance but no action was taken,” said Pradhan.
Pradhan stated that the affected families have submitted the details of the houses and lands to the CDO. They expect fair compensation, he added.
Another victim Man Bahadur Karki of the same village lamented that stones have been rolling down and soil has been eroding day and night. Despite meeting political party leaders and government officials, nothing has been done regarding the problem, he added.
“Below the house, there is Solu river, which is posing the risk of flood. From the upper part, stones and soil are falling down all the time. When it rains heavily, anything might happen. The government does not care even when we are living under so much risk,” Karki said.
On Monday, the villagers again visited the district administration office with the same demand. They have warned of bringing the hydro power projects to a halt if their voices are not heard.
According to a local of Simle village, Rajkumar Shrestha, the administration is ignoring their request because they are poor people. “But now, we have no other choice than to take it to the streets. We are going to protest till they hear us and respond to our demands,” he said.
Shrestha also reported that the affected families fear sleeping peacefully during night these days. They have not had a sound sleep since the beginning of monsoon, he claims.
“When we go to the bed each night, we eagerly wait for the morning to arrive. Even if we fall asleep, we keep waking up several times. Our situation has been like this since the start of monsoon,” he narrated. “We have decided to take severe steps against the projects. We are going to halt it now. This is our ancestral land and we cannot be simply turn homeless overnight,” he warned.
Following pressure by the affected families, an official at the District Administration Office, Umesh Pandey, on Monday announced that he would do something about it. “I have called for a meeting at 11 am on Thursday. We are going to form a separate committee to look after this issue. We will see what can be done,” he said.
Meanwhile, Badriman Shrestha, assistant chief of Upper Solu Hydropower Project, stated that initiatives have been taken to compensate the victims. “Concerned authorities have taken it seriously. The affected families will be getting due compensation for their lands which have been either acquired by us or have been affected by the project. We hope that the problem will be solved soon,” he said.
Shrestha further said that those who are under risk of landslides due to the project will soon be shifted to safer zone. “This matter has already been discussed at the central level. Soon, they will be relocated to safer places,” he said.
The victims are however not happy with such assurance. They lament that the monsoon is at its peak and delay in addressing the problem makes no sense. “We are fearing for our lives and they are taking it so lightly,” Pradhan remarked.