Gupsipakha, the proposed site where NRNA is supposed to construct homes and other necessary infrastructures for the Laprak village quake victims, in this recent picture.
LAPRAK, Jan 12: In the past three weeks, Laprak received two heavy snowfalls that left the area covered in thick layers of snow. With the temperature continuously dipping down, there is no sign of the snow melting. The biting cold has made life very hard for the quake victims who are still living in tents that are thatched with snow.
“Since the earthquake this is our second winter living in a tent whose roof is covered with snow. Last year we did not hope to survive the cold, but miraculously we did. Now this winter it seems even harder,” said Maila Gurung of Laprak village. “Weather has not shown any signs of warming. If the chill continues I fear there is more snow falling here. This is going to make life even harder for all of us.”
The village, which was the epicenter of the 25 April Gorkha earthquake, was shattered by the jolts leaving dozens dead and hundreds injured. The survivors have been living in tents and making their way through miseries - one of these is coping with winter cold. Though government and non-government organizations had announced plans for relocating displaced Laprak locals in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, this is yet to happen.
Maila's neighbor Suresh Gurung narrates their lifestyles even more painfully. He says the miseries they have been through in the past 20 months cannot be explained in words. “To understand it, one should live here in tents with us. Living without a proper house, proper roof or walls surrounded and covered with snow is not something you imagine. And to these situations now add having small children with you,” Suresh said adding, “If you can feel the misery, that's what we have been struggling with.” Its not just winter, they have suffered nature's wrath in summer and rainy season too and they have always felt as if they were living in the open sky.
Suresh had made a hut for his family at Gupsipakha, situated at 2700 meters from the sea level. When Non-Residential Nepali Association (NRN) pledged to construct houses in the area, he dismantled the hut in excitement. The pledge is yet to materialize. And his excitement faded into dejection forcing him to make another hut to shelter his family. “Even though I have made two huts for the family, it has all been just a hassle. Neither earlier hut was good to live in, nor this one is,” he said.
Laprak's Gupsipakha area is a famous destination for snow-loving tourists. The area receives snow for over two months in a year. But the same snow has been a bane for the locals. “A lot of visitors come here to play with the snow. It's fun for them. But for us who have to live here, without house or clothes or food, it's a curse,” said Marsing Gurung. “But, before earthquake we were still quite armed to fight weather conditions here. Situation has changed since then.”
Marsing further stated that that there was no human settlement in Gupsipakha area before the earthquake. But after they lost their houses to the earthquake, people relocated to Gupsipakha in search of safer area. Over 600 families now live here.
“We were in need of safe area. Even though it is very cold, it's safer than living in the mountain slopes. Seeing this place as the best alternative to relocate, we erected our huts here in the immediate aftermath of the quake,” Gurung narrated. “We did not come here to play with snow.”
Marsing shared that the quake has affected their psychology also. “We lost our loved ones, home, cattle, grains, wealth - almost every thing to the quake. Since then life has been limited to coping with miseries and hardships. Amid these hardships, you don't expect people to mark festivals or organize celebrations. Life is yet to return to normalcy here and considering the conditions in which we are living, I don't see it returning to its course in the near future,” he remarked.
Laprak locals are particularly unhappy with NRN. As per its agreement with the government, the organization had pledged to resettle them. Because of this agreement the victims were not provided with government grant that was provided to earthquake victims in other areas. “It's been almost two years we are living against so much of odds.
And we do not know when the NRN is going to build our houses. Till when are we supposed to stay in such pathetic condition?” asked Marsing.
NRN had taken the responsibility a few months ago. The government has handed over the responsibility of the reconstructing houses for quake victims in 18.3 hectors of land in Laprak. According to the deal, NRN is supposed to hand over 573 individual houses, a school, a health post and a community hall to the quake victims by this October. “They have not started working on it till now. I am not sure that the organization would be able to complete the task on time,” said Marsing. Cost per house is estimated at Rs 1.5 million.
Dispelling these doubts, Rajendra Bhatta, focal person of NRN construction work in Laprak, foundation stone of houses would be laid in the first week of February. “Everything has been planned. Foundation work would be started from February,” he said. “We hope to hand over the new settlement to the quake victims on 11th October, on NRN Day,” he added.