Republica Files A technical team collecting data on earthquake victims in Laprak of northern Gorkha in this file photo.
GORKHA, April 23: As the epicenter of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake of 25 April 2015, Gorkha's Barpak was devastated. While 14 different districts were severely affected, destruction was naturally most severe in Gorkha. Hundreds of people died and thousands were rendered homeless. Following the quake, the government made promises of assistance while several countries instantly pledged support. In the months that followed, the government even formed National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) to escalate the reconstruction process.
However, three years down the line, most of the victims in Gorkha are still living in makeshift shelter. Unlike the victims of many other areas, it has been not possible for them to build the new house where their old house was. Most of the land has been so severely damaged, that it cannot be used for housing. Among Gorkha residents, Barpak locals are finding it hard to find a piece of land that is suitable for building their new house.
“People are finding it very hard to find a piece of land that is suitable for building house. They would have built their house till now, had they been able to get a suitable housing plot,” said Chairperson of Dharche Rural Municipality, Santosh Gurung. “It's been three years but so far we have not been able to bring our lives back on track. Our lands are barren and empty,” he added.
Due to aftershocks and landslides, Gurung said that land has lost its integrity and that cracks were still visible. Some locals whose land remained intact, have already built new house. But victims whose land was severely cracked, are still homeless.
“The reconstruction process begun too slowly and even after it begun, it moved on sluggishly. Thus, victims have been left in a lurch,” he lamented.
The government provided house grant installments to quake victims. But till date, some of the victims have not received even the first installment, locals claim. Due to very lethargic and complex process of getting the grant, many victims are yet to get it while some 'fake victims' have already received second or third installment, they argue.
Gurung does not make different statement. He also observes that there have been uneven distribution of grant and much of this has happened due to several technical issues.
“For innocent people, getting the grant is still very difficult. There are various conditions which some of them have been not able to fulfill. However, some have received the grants using political influence and their connections. So, some locals are not happy with the process,” he stated.
There are still scores of homeless people in Keroja village. Similarly, quake victims of Sulikot Rural Municipality, Sardibas and several other area are living in miserable conditions. Some of these families have received home grant but some say they have not.
Even in three years, most of the people are living in tents. That is a huge failure on the government's part. - Santosh Gurung, chairperson of Dharche Rural Municipality
"Even if they have cash in hand, they do not know where to build house. The government has not taken this matter seriously," said Gurung. "The whole village looks like a risky place. Even if house is built here, it is going to be destroyed by landslide," he warned.
He also reported that some people spent the money given by the government to buy land. The government had provided Rs 50,000 in the first installment and later, Rs 150,000 as the second and the rest Rs 100,000 as the third or final statement. Depending on the conditions met, victims have received either one or two or all of the installments. Some are yet to get even single installment, Gurung adds.
"The monitoring process has been equally lethargic. There are people who are yet to receive even the first installment, let alone all the installments," he said.
The reconstruction authority works in coordination with several ministries and bodies for implementing the project. Reportedly, geological survey took so long time in some areas that the construction work had to halt in such areas.
"A team of technicians had inspected the geological aspect of the land. But they are yet to submit their report," said Santoshi Lamichhane, computer operator with the NRA who is based in Gorkha. "Other procedures follow based on their reports," she said. The survey team had surveyed 23 different settlements few months ago. However, the team has not submitted reports on either of the settlements so far.
Locals expressed anguish at the sluggish pace of the initial assessment reports. They accuse the government of neglecting despite the fact that they were the hardest hit. "Even in three years, most of the people are living in tents. That is a huge failure on the government's part," Gurung maintained.
Around 9,000 people were killed and more than double the figure were injured in the earthquake.