A sleepy and scenic little village in Kavre, was one of the lucky places in the earthquake on 25 April that devastated Central Nepal — no one was killed and many of its houses survived.
Which is also why it is not getting any relief material or help, even though there are people here who lost everything.
Compared to other villages in the outskirts of the valley, Nala is easily accessible through Bhaktapur and Banepa, and doesn’t show much signs of damage from the outside. A few houses collapsed, roofs have caved in others, damaging the houses from the inside while the exterior looks fine, others have cracks and are inhabitable.
Bhai Kaji Shrestha (above) looks at the heap of debris where his two and a half storey house once stood. “It is completely gone and nearly took my wife with it,” he says. Shrestha’s wife Bhakti Maya was buried under the rubble while trying to get out of the house. After hours of relentless digging Bhai Kaji along with few others pulled her out. Bhakti Maya complains of severe ache in her body but was fortunate enough not to incur any broken bones.
The family is living in a makeshift structure constructed from the materials they retrieved from the old house. Living with them in the cramped space are Bhai Kaji’s brothers Janak Lal and Gopi Lal’s families. Janak Lal too lost his house while Gopi Lal’s has sustained cracks.
For now the extended family is living on the potatoes and rice harvested from the family farm but is unsure how long that will last. “There is no one coming in to help us. What else can we do but wait,” says Bhai Kaji.
No aid had reached the people of Chhatre Deurali, VDC Ward No. 3, in Dhading even eight days after the earthquake.
Last Friday Jeet Bahadur Moktan, the village elder, led a group of eight to Majhuwa Gaun in Kathmandu with the hope that they could bring back some relief materials. They had heard it was being distributed at the Tamang village.
Moktan and his group, which included his daughter-in-law, neighbours and grandchildren, hiked an hour from Gairabari to reach Majhuwa. They are still angry at being left out of the distribution route, by both the government and the private sector.
“Villages located above and below us have all received some form of relief but we haven’t received anything,” says Moktan who is in his seventies.
The VDC did provide each family with 2kg rice bags but as Bishnu Prasad Luitel, another villager told me: “It was a one-time thing.”
When a truck carrying meal packets and water arrived at Majhuwa in the afternoon, Moktan and his villagers were careful not to rush ahead.
“The villagers here will get angry if we receive anything before them. They have the first right to everything that comes here,” he says while waiting for the crowd to clear so he can go collect his share. Luckily, there was enough for everybody.
An hour later, four cars loaded with blankets reached Majhuwa.
As before, the villagers from Gairibari stand at the end of the queue. This time they are not so lucky. Halfway through the line, the supply runs out and the cars head back.
Chhatre Deurali is not an isolated, inaccessible village. It is situated right on the outskirts of Kathmandu, leaving one to think: if there are villages here not receiving aid, how must the villagers further away be faring?
Upendra Maharjan stands on the debris of his house in Harsiddhi, with a helmet and gloves on. It’s been one week since the Gorkha earthquake devastated many parts of Nepal. Maharjan sweats in the excruciatingly hot sun as he looks at the bricks he has to clear, where his house once stood.
Other villagers, like Maharjan, started digging for belongings in the debris two days after the earthquake. About 450 houses collapsed, but Maharjan fears the ones still barely standing. “These old houses are full of cracks and we wonder when they will fall,” he says.
Habitat for Humanity came to help the people of Harsiddhi on Saturday. “We are lucky we have enough food and water here,” says Maharjan. “What we needed was technical support to clear the rubble.”
Sushma Shrestha, program development manager at Habitat for Humanity, is coordinating the operation in Harsiddhi. "We have 120 volunteers from scout groups and youth clubs," she told Nepali Times.
To be on the safer side, some tilted buildings of this small Newari village of Kathmandu Valley are being demolished by a bulldozer. Geno Teofilo, disaster communications manager with the organisation, says they have been working closely with the community in this operation.
“We don’t want to throw everything away,” he says. “We will save the bricks and wood so that the community can reuse it for rebuilding.”
They are also considering helping in the reconstruction process when the area is cleared. “It will depend on the funding,” Teofilo adds.
Eighty per cent of the traditional houses in Harsiddhi have collapsed. Next to them, modern houses made of concrete are still standing. “These old houses made of old bricks, don’t have the structural columns and beams that would prevent them from collapsing,” explains Tripti Mahesith, an architect with the organisation.
In the narrow alleys strewn with bricks and broken wood pillars, there is a woman making a census of the remaining population. “We’ll be able to know who is missing from our village,” she says, “but there were a few here who came from outside, and we don’t even know their names.”
Proximity to the capital is not helping residents in receiving adequate and timely relief aid after the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated central Nepal on 25 April.
Despite being only 20 minutes out of the city by car, residents of Bungamati are struggling to house families in temporary shelters. The town has only 60 tents for 700 families whose brick and mud homes have been completely destroyed.
“By our estimate, each family needs at least three tents because they need to store their belongings as well as food salvaged from their damaged houses,” says Ram Khadgi of Bungamati. Cases of people hogging tents have been a major problem: residents whose houses are intact are refusing to go back due to recurring aftershocks.
“Even if certain houses are liveable, people are scared. If they could move back, there would be more space for people who desperately need shelter,” adds Khadgi, who himself lost two of his old houses in the earthquake. He is living in a third one even though it has cracks.
“A friend of mine gave me Rs 200,000 the other day to buy tents. I went all around Kathmandu and Bhaktapur and couldn’t get anything. It is not even a matter of money anymore,” says Khadgi, He has been trying to order tents from as far off as Banaras in India but it has been difficult.
Resources are distributed based on the ward number and a token system is employed where families can track the amount of food and water they have been receiving. While the tokens are an effort to enable equal distribution of relief aid it is not working in most areas.
In Sankhu, where 800-900 houses were destroyed, dozens of residents were seen queuing up for 30 blankets. While they lined up in single file, the distributors had to continuously prevent members of the same family from queuing together to ensure every family got at least one blanket.
Up the hill in Changu Narayan, residents are venting their frustration in public about random distribution of relief aid. This Lichhavi-era temple complex is the oldest known settlement in Kathmandu Valley and situated on a hilltop from where one can look down at the airport where international relief planes are landing and taking off.
“Our entire ward received only four bags of rice. We haven’t taken our share of rice yet because it is not enough,” says Hari Devi Shrestha, who lost her home and is sleeping in a tent and car. “They should keep record of family members and distribute accordingly. Right now only people who can speak up are receiving aid, people like us are helpless.”
On the other hand, other residents stated that most of the relief aid was going to people who lost their homes.
“They are prioritising those without houses when they don’t understand that most houses have cracks and are not livable. We want the army to demolish the higher floors of our houses so that we can at least live inside the ground floor of our house but they say they don’t have orders to do that,” a local resident was overheard saying.
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