Unnecessary road projects in rural villages in Baglung causing floods and landslidesThe Infrastructure Development Office opened two new tracks in the last month of the last fiscal year to avoid budget freeze, say locals.
Unplanned construction of rural roads in Jaimini Municipality Ward No 1, Baglung, has exposed several settlements in the municipality at high risk of floods and landslides. The need to spend the allocated budget under infrastructure development before the end of the fiscal year saw the local government initiating two road construction projects last fiscal year alone.
The Infrastructure Development Office opened two new tracks— Dandakhet-Bhairavsthan and Githe-Deurali— in Ward No 1 of the municipality in the last month of last fiscal year that ended on July 15. There are already two road sections that pass through the same ward which were built a few years ago. Locals say that there was no requirement for the new tracks.
“Our villages were already connected with a road network. We didn’t need new tracks in the municipality,” said Balaram Paudel of Jaimini Ward No 1. “The new roads have no proper drainage system and during heavy rainfall, the surrounding settlements get flooded.”
Two people died in separate landslides in Ward No 1 on Sunday and Monday. According to the municipality, 12 houses were destroyed by various landslides while 39 others are at risk. The landslide that occurred along the Githe-Deurali road section damaged three drinking water projects in the area last month.
The disaster-affected people are taking shelter with their relatives and neighbours. “I sent my mother to my sister’s in Kushma. My wife and I are staying in Amalachaur since our village is at high risk of landslides,” said Bheshraj Paudel, another local of Ward No 1.
The villagers claimed that the settlements were safe before the construction of the two new tracks “Our settlements never experienced such deadly landslides in the past. But this year, almost all villages are at risk of being swept away,” said Bhadrakala Acharya, a 68-year-old of Ward No 1.
The Infrastructure Development Office had allocated Rs 7 million each for the Dandakhet-Bhairavsthan and Githe-Deurali rural road projects in the last fiscal year. The tracks were opened hurriedly but additional infrastructures like drainage and culverts were not constructed. As a result, the rainwaters along the tracks and rivulets enter the settlements when it rains.
Bidur Khadka, an engineer at the Infrastructure Development Office, admitted the flaws while constructing the tracks. “There was no proper geographical survey done before the tracks were opened. We will not take on such development projects in the days to come,” said Khadka. “Our office was established only a few months ago here in Baglung. The Parbat office had issued the budget for the road projects.”
Jaimini Municipality has urged the provincial government to repair the roads and control floods and landslides in the area. “The settlement is at high risk of monsoon-related disasters. The municipality’s budget is not enough to control floods or relocate the settlement. We have already informed the provincial government about it,” said Mayor Indraraj Paudel.
Meanwhile, in Parbat, the whole Mudikuwa settlement in Phalebas Municipality Ward No 4 is at high risk of landslide. Three dozen families of the village have been taking shelter in a local school for the past few days.
The villagers have been displaced as land just above the settlement sank and started developing fissures following heavy rains on Sunday. A four-year-old girl was buried alive in a landslide in Mudikuwa on Sunday night.
“At least 25 houses of Mudikuwa should be relocated to safe locations. Other settlements at Ward No 1, 3, 4, 6 and 10 are at risk of landslides,” said Tikaram Gaudel, the ward chairman of Phalebas-4. According to him, around 90 families of seven different settlements are at risk of floods and landslides.
(Agandhar Tiwari in Parbat contributed reporting)