SINDHUPALCHOWK, July 23: Monsoon is at its peak. And the intensity of monsoon this year remains higher in compared to the previous year. Losses caused by water-induced disasters are creating media headlines.
Meanwhile, as rain droplets start pounding on the roof of his small hut, Ratna Bahadur Thapa's heartbeat becomes faster. On the other hand, the sound of the swollen Sunkoshi River beneath leaves him almost awake throughout the night(s).
Forty-five-year-old Thapa lives in a small hut in Kadambas VDC- 5 of Kodari, Sindhupalchowk, as most of his fellow earthquake survivors of his village, district and other affected districts.
Nevertheless, like other disaster survivors, Thapa considers himself lucky as he was not in his home when the quake rattled the country at 11:56 am on April 25, 2015 killing approximately 9,000 people. Of them over 3,000 were from his district alone.
The quake death toll in his locality was 23. Though he was sad upon seeing the huge loss of life and property in the disaster, he thanked god from his heart that he was in his farm and thus avoided falling under the debris of his flattened house. "I don't exactly know the reason, but since then I have started loving my life more," he said.
With government nowhere in sight to the rescue of people like him, Thapa managed to build a small hut on his own by using the debris of his house brought down by the quake.
But to add to the woes of quake survivors like Thapa who have managed to live amidst adversities for 15 months since the disaster, the Bhotekoshi River that merges with the Sunkoshi at Barhabise and called by the second name thereafter has come to terrorize the quake survivors of Sindhupalchowk.
Currently, Thapa is spending days amidst the fear of being buried by a landslide as the mudslide-related incident have become common with the swollen river continuing to sweep away its banks. Fear of occurrence of disaster (s) grips him as he recalls the hair-raising Jure landslide that occurred in the district on August 2, 2014, killing 156 people. Jure lies some 15 kilometers far away from his house.
Tatopani, Barhabise and Liping have been adversely affected as the floodwaters have already washed away some 80 houses in these areas.
Like Thapa, Bishnu Maya Khatri, 65, of Sanghachowk-1, Sukute feels that another disaster following the April 25 earthquake was coming close to hit them. Looking at the swollen river Khatri said, “We don’t know when this river would take away our lives." A sign of trepidation could be easily noticed on her face. She recalled a night two weeks ago which she spent on a school ground above her house due to fear of being swept away by the river.
Though the waters level in the river has slightly gone down now compared to a week ago, Khatri said she cannot feel secure as monsoon was not over yet.
The Sindhupalchowk folks say it would be good if the authorities concerned take elaborate measures to control possible water-induced disasters as people like them living near the river banks are always at risk of being hit. Construction of embankment along the river would be a great relief, they said. Moreover, they expressed concern over sand mining going on haphazardly and unchecked in their locality, inviting more risks of disasters.
Suntali KC, 52, of the same locality showing a piece of land eroded by the river says, “Our house was there some years ago, the Bhotekoshi/Sunkoshi forced us to abandon it and we are now compelled to live on public land."
Hope remains, Sindhupalchowk folks in wait of house rebuilding grants
Despite multiple sufferings, Ratna Bahadur, Bishnumaya and Suntali as well as other survivors in the district are eagerly waiting for the house rebuilding grants announced by the government for the survivors of the Gorkha Quake to be deposited in their bank accounts.
It may be noted that the government has announced to provide Rs 200,000 as house rebuilding grants to those who lost their houses in the quake. The Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA) formed to carry out post-quake reconstruction efforts promised to deposit the first installment in the bank accounts of those eligible for it by the upcoming Dashain festival.
In the meantime, the poor quake survivors continue to live in temporary shelters they built by taking loan, using their hard-earned deposits and by using the debris of their flattened houses. However, with the rivers creating havoc due to the intense monsoon this year, they are living by the day with a great fear of being buried or washed away.
"But until death, hope for life remains and we cannot leave our locality, as we have nowhere to go, and our heart lies right here", says Ratna Bahadur, who is also a blood-cancer survivor .RSS