RASUWA, March 1: When Langtang valley settlement was devastated by avalanches in April of 2015, the survivors were left with no hopes. 10 Nepal Army personals, 35 foreigners and 175 locals were buried in the tragedy. The panoramic settlement was completely erased. The survivors fled for their lives. Nearly two years down the line, the valley is, however, making great progress towards reclaiming its charm.
“We had abandoned this place and fled for our safety. But it was very hard staying away from here. We could love no other place than our own,” said a local Karma Tamang. “We were emotionally destroyed and overcoming that was difficult beyond words. But we were committed to reclaim our place,” he added.
When the government did not heed to Langtang locals’ appeal to speed up the rebuilding process, they decided to do it on their own. After around a year of the devastation, many families, who had been living in the capital since the tragedy, started returning back for rebuilding it on their own. Rebuilding the settlement that was devastated by massive avalanches was not easy but the survivors did it with strong will power, Karma noted.
“Elsewhere the government had started distributing relief funds. But it did not come to us. We were united and committed to get back on our feet,” he said. “The government has not even approached us for availing the grant that the earthquake victims in other parts of the country have provided. So it would have been futile had we depended on it,” Karma added.
The strength of these locals, they claim, lies in the astounding beauty of the Lantang region. They were optimistic that the valley would mesmerize tourists as soon as they open it for them. Along with the breathtaking Himalayan ranges, unique Tamang culture and lifestyle of the region lures tourists here.
Karma says that the new settlement, which is under construction for over a year now, would be even more reflective of local culture and tradition when completed.
They have built over 40 houses, few monasteries and opened up new trekking routes in the valley. “This is the result of our joint effort. We have built the new settlement taking safety precautions in consideration. While 40 houses have already been built, 27 more are under construction,” he informed.
Karma, who is also the coordinator of the Langtang Rebuilding Committee (LRC), said that preserving the culture and history of Langtang has been very seriously considered while rebuilding it. “Everything is going on very well. Now we are focused on restoring the historical monasteries in Kyanjin,” he said.
Tourists excite locals
The reconstruction has already started paying off. It is already receiving tourists. Both domestic and foreigner tourists have been visiting it to the valley. Number of hotels and lodges are already in operation to cater to the need of the visitors.
“We are providing all types of facilities to tourists. They love the hospitality. The trekking routes are safe and beautiful. We expect more tourists to come here in the days ahead,” said Karma.
Another local of Langtang valley, Finjo Tamang stated that the arrival of tourists in the valley has filled the locals with much hope and confidence that their investment is not going to go in vain. He said that they invested in rebuilding with high hopes that their life would return to normal. “Tourists are coming and staying for weeks. This has been compensating our hard work and perseverance,” he said. “When we were hit by avalanches, we felt dead as we had lost not only our physical assets but more painfully, our family members,” Finjo added.
According to Lilanath Nepal, program officer of District Development Committee, the government grant was not distributed to the locals following directives from the national reconstruction authority to hold reconstruction process in ‘risky area’. “The grant would have been provided much earlier. But that could not be done as the authority’s letter was not in favor of reconstruction here. It cited risk as the factor,” he said.
The District Police Office informed Republica that bodies of 82 persons that were buried then are yet to be recovered. Of them 22 were foreigners, 21 locals residents and the rest were domestic tourists and porters. “Search for them is still on,” Shiva Raj Gelal, chief district officer, said.