Lack of canal threatens livelihood of Baitadi village

Published On: November 11, 2017 03:53 AM NPT By: Bira Gadal

AITADI, Nov 10: There used to be a well functioning concrete irrigation canal in Syaltadai village until a decade ago. But a massive landslide took toll on it while it displaced over 50 households in the locality. Since then, the locals have always voiced for a new canal time and again.

Each election, they put pressure on the candidates for it. However, a new canal was never made. Now, as the country is gearing for the provincial and parliamentary elections, villagers here are once again pressing for a canal. Whoever is going to gift a canal to them is going to clearly sweep votes from their area, they say. 

“We are in need of irrigation canal so much that we are going to vote for the ones who can provide us with one. All of us have this common demand, ” said Devdutta Bhatta, 75. 

“We can figure out whose words count and whose don't. So, we are seriously careful whether the candidates are mindful of our demand,” he added. 

After the natural disaster befell on them in 2007, the locals' life simply shifted out of gear.  Many have not yet erected proper cottages. However, what more upsets them is the lack of canal that would keep their otherwise barren land fertile.  

“We cannot grow crops and vegetables if don't have canal,” said the elderly man. “And the problem is, when we don't grow enough in the field, we cannot have plenty of food to eat,” he added. 

Rice, maize and other crops they grow generally last a year if they do not sell off. In the absence of irrigation canal, the families are not in a position to grow crops, plants and vegetables well. The seriousness of the issue has pushed them to demand for written commitment from the candidates. 

“We want a written commitment from candidates. Verbal assurance is bit risky. They might forget,” Bhatta said. “We got assurance many times. But they show one or the other excuses later. Moreover, sometimes the leaders are not even seen in the village after election,” he added. 

Bhatta recalls the disaster of 2007 and the first Constituent Assembly election held the following year. The entire country was in the mood of celebration owing to the election then. Candidates had visited Bhatta's village as well. They had lot to promise, but the villagers had demanded for the replacement of the freshly destructed canal. Though landslides had wreaked havoc in many places then, Baitadi was among the most affected place. 

“Many people died, many went missing. The government did not take the matter much seriously,” says Bhatta. “Since then, many elections took place, but our demand has not been addressed,” he added. 

After the first CA dissolved, the country went for the second CA election in a gap of four years. Bhatta  was one of the most active civil society members to come ahead with the demand for the canal again. But 'nothing was done' by the leaders.

In the recent local level elections, the locals of Syaltadai village clearly told their to-be-elected ward members that the canal must be replaced. None of the candidates denied the importance of the canal. However, now the locals have very little expectation for them. 

“They say there is no budget. There is simply no budget even to set up local level office. Many things are in chaos and we cannot say anything to them now,” stated Bhatta. “We voted so eagerly thrice. Twice during the CA elections and once recently. But, our voices never get heard,” he added. 
According to the locals, it may sound like a trivial matter to the leaders when they ask for canal. But the canal is simply not trivial thing for the locals, they state. 

Bhatta said that the lack of fertile land is one of the major reasons that many families have been displaced due to landslides and have already left the village. While some went off to the plains 'to start from scratch', some others have settled down at Maharudra area of Melauli - 6. 

“But we are not happy. We have been living the life of displaced,” he lamented.

The three-kilometer long canal from where water of Sunarya river would be supplied to the fields was the backbone of farmers. Its absence has directly affected around 800 ropanis of land. According to Bhatta, the land has gone fully dry since then. 

“We were totally dependent on the canal. With its destruction, we became helpless,” he said. 
Another local Dhana Bhatta said that her family used to harvest crops several times a year when the canal was there. After it was destroyed, people had to literally starve. “Those days seem to be like a dream now. Poverty hit us, perhaps never to leave us again,” she sighed.

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