6.8 quake anniv: A yr on, Taplejung folk slog to make ends meet
Govt apathy leads to people of Khebang VDC still living in makeshift shelters; Political clout made matters worse
TAPLEJUNG, SEP 18 -
September 18, 2011 is a date people of Taplejung district will not forget easily. An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale shook the country at 6:25 pm, with its epicentre between the district and the Indian state of Sikkim, killing nine people and causing extensive damage to houses.
People in the district, whose houses were damaged in the quake, had no option then but to live in tents. One year since the disaster, those families are still living in makeshift huts, thanks to government apathy.
People of Khebang VDC-1 in the district are still struggling to lead a hand-to-mouth existence. Living under makeshift shelters, they do not have the wherewithal to buy foodstuff, let alone build a new house.
And, they have not received any succour from the government, save the immediate relief materials that comprised tarpaulin sheets and a cash handout of Rs 3,000. They said they never received rice doled out by the government and other relief agencies.
Devka Dahal and her family of six once lived in the warmth and comfort of a three-storey stone house in the VDC. Today, they share a small wicker hut, a tarpaulin sheet for roof. As the hut is not well-insulated, Devka and her husband have developed various health problems.
“The monsoon brought more problems for us,” she said. “The roof started leaking, spoiling our provisions.”
The Dahals are not the only people grappling with the predicament in this remote Taplejung village, a three-day walk from the district headquarters of Phungling. Villagers said the local chapters of political parties always discouraged them from visiting the neighbouring village, where relief materials were being distributed, insisting that government officers should personally come to the village.
“We waited for 15 days until we finally decided to go to Tellok to receive the aid. By that time there was no food for distribution and we returned with the tarpaulin sheets and some money,” a villager said.
According to government estimates, the earthquake affected 12 districts across the country, destroying 8,792 houses and causing partial damage to nearly 22,000 houses.
A Cabinet meeting in March this year decided to issue loans to the earthquake victims to rebuild their houses. The decision, however, remained in papers. Experts say Nepal has seen a big earthquake in an interval of 70 years, while another ‘big one’ is long overdue. The country was witness to two catastrophic quakes in 1934 and 1988 that killed thousands and destroyed property worth millions of rupees.
However, experts say the country has not done enough in earthquake preparedness, except for retrofitting a handful of government schools.
Posted on: 2012-09-18 08:29