Kalikot landslide victims await relocationSurvivors displaced for over six months have demanded relocation to safer areas but their demands have remained unaddressed.
Brihaspati Shahi, aged 45, lost her husband, two sons, a daughter and a niece when a landslide swept away her house at Badoltala in Raskot Municipality, Kalikot in July last year. Since then, she has been living in a poorly built hut erected with the help of her relatives.
“The hut is flimsy and cannot keep cold winds out during winter,” she said. “I have asthma and it has gotten worse over the last few months. The past year has been the worst year of my life.”
Kalikot, a remote district in Karnali Province, is one of the districts worst hit by water-induced disasters every year. As many as 44 people died in several landslides last monsoon while seven others are still missing. According to the District Natural Disaster Management Committee, 685 houses were completely destroyed and 1,771 houses were partially damaged by last year’s landslides.
The committee said that the landslides damaged 2,238 drinking water projects, 12 health posts, 45 community schools, 222 irrigation canals and 12 rural road sections in Kalikot. The committee, however, does not have any record of the cultivable land damaged by the floods and landslides.
The natural disasters triggered by heavy monsoon rain last year left several settlements in the district at high risk of landslides. The committee said 51 human settlements of all nine local units in the district are at risk of landslides.
The victims displaced by last year’s landslides had asked the local and provincial governments to manage relief for them and relocate them to a safe location but most of them, like Brihaspati, are still living in difficult conditions.
Seventy-one-year-old Jash Bahadur Shahi, who lost his house to a landslide last year, has been living with his relatives. “We don’t have a house. My seven-member family is taking shelter at a relative’s shed,” he said. “We have overstayed our welcome here but we have no other place to go.”
Gita Shahi, another landslide-displaced victim from Raskot-1, said, “We built a hut using zinc sheets with the relief amount provided by the government. It is difficult to take care of my five-month-old baby in these conditions.”
The provincial government had promised relief and relocation to those displaced by last year’s landslide.
“But more than six months into their displacement and the victims are still waiting for help,” said Dirgharaj Shahi, principal at Kalika Basic School.
Under Dirgharaj’s leadership, the landslide victims had submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi while he was visiting the area in December. They demanded relocation of several settlements at high risk of landslides to safer locations. But their demands have remained unaddressed.
“We distributed Rs 200,000 to each family who lost their family members in the landslides. But the resettlement process is yet to begin,” said Chief District Officer Krishna Prasad Acharya. According to him, the district administration is coordinating with the local units to find safer places for the relocation. The relief amount, according to Acharya, was given to the families of the deceased but the budget is not enough to resettle survivors.
The victims are also deprived of the insurance amount of those killed in the landslides. The Karnali Province government had announced Rs 200,000 as insurance to those who die in natural disasters. Minister of Internal Affairs Naresh Bhandari had arrived in Manma, the district headquarters of Kalikot, in September last year and handed over the dummy cheque printed in flex board to the deceased’s families.
“But we are yet to receive the insurance amount,” said Brihaspati, who lost her entire family to last year’s landslides.
According to Lalpura Acharya, the focal person at the District Natural Disaster Management Committee, around 700 houses are at high risk of landslides in the district. She said the committee, following a field inspection, has recommended the government to shift 582 families of Naraharinath, 82 of Raskot and 14 families of Sannitribeni to safer locations due to the high risk. But the relocation process has not begun yet.
Similarly, hundreds of students of the community schools damaged by last year’s landslides have been affected, as the buildings are yet to be reconstructed. The school management has no alternative but to run classes in open spaces due to a lack of proper infrastructure.
“Our school building was damaged by the landslide this monsoon. We are compelled to run classes outside,” said Ramesh Rawat, a teacher at Badoltala-based Shivamasta Basic School.