Monsoon arrived over a month ago, but windstorm victims still waiting for housesGovernment had announced that families affected by windstorm in Bara and Parsa would be resettled before the onset of monsoon.
Tahir Miya and his family of seven became homeless after the deadly windstorm swept across various villages in Bara and Parsa districts in April.
The windstorm, which was later called the first ever tornado recorded in the country, had killed 28 people and rendered hundreds of families homeless. Miya lost his home and was forced to move into a tent provided by the local government.
“Everyone in my family was injured. We felt lucky to have survived the disaster,” Miya told the Post over the phone from Gamharia of Pheta Rural Municipality in Bara. “But our struggle was not over. We had become homeless and had nowhere to go.”
Since then, the family has struggled through the scorching summer heat, and now are putting up with the pummeling monsoon rain.
Miya’s only hope of getting a new home as part of the government’s rebuilding programme for the storm survivors has also been dashed.
Miya’s name was enlisted among the total 1,454 people—1,362 in Bara and 92 in Parsa—entitled to get the government’s housing support, only to be later removed by the local administration.
“I remember my name was there. Later when the chief district officer came for a survey, he removed my name from the list,” grieved Miya.
The number of houses selected by the government for reconstruction has come down to 822 from 1,362 in Bara district alone— meaning 540 families, including that of Miya’s, will not be getting new homes.
The number of families eligible for the housing programme decreased after another round of survey was conducted, according to Amirilal Prasad, chairperson of Pheta Rural Municipality, the area most affected by the storm.
“Construction materials delivered at the doorsteps of many families were taken back after their names were removed from the beneficiary list. This was unfortunate. Locals are agitated,” Prasad said. “We have taken delegations to the CDO’s office and complained, but the office turned us away saying nothing could be done now.”
Removal of beneficiary households has also been reported in Ward 6 of the rural municipality, where the number of storm-displaced families decreased from 88 to 68 before slumping down to 41, said Jakir Husain, the ward chairman.
“Angry families often surround me and shout at me. It is difficult for me to get out of my house without being reproached these days,” said Husain.
Chief District Officer of Bara Rajesh Poudel told the Post that the names of several storm-displaced people were removed from the list after the authorities discovered that they either had other places to stay or the land plots they were living in were legally disputed.
“Some families had even settled on encroached public land. Therefore, we could not allow them to build houses again on the same land,” added Paudel.
Besides families like that of Miya’s who were left infuriated with the removal of their names from the housing beneficiary list, the overall rebuilding process has remained sluggish, even after months of the disaster. For instance, only one house, which was rather erected as a model house, has been completed out of 41 houses that need to be built, according to Husain.
“Reconstruction has remained slow so far. Completion of 25 houses was scheduled for July 20. But it could not happen because of the rain,” Husain added.
Without proper homes, hundreds of families have been forced to live under the open sky in temporary tents or move in with their neighbours and relatives.
“Only a few houses have been completed so far. The overall construction has been sluggish, ” said Vikram Upadhyay, head of strategy and development with Sano Paila, a local non-governmental organisation working for recovery and rehabilitation of the windstorm survivors.
The government had announced that the victims would get new homes before the onset of monsoon, but that did not happen.
“It always looked like the reconstruction of these homes would stretch beyond the monsoon. Engineers were not on the ground. Logistics arrangement was not done,” said Upadhyay. “Waiting for new houses, many families have either built temporary houses or are staying at relatives and living under difficult situation in this rainy season.”
The Nepal Army, which has been given the responsibility of building houses for the storm-displaced families, started work in early May.
According to unofficial figures, construction of nearly 500 houses has been completed while more than 300 houses are yet to be built.
“We have been told that the work will be completed by July 31 and the Nepal Army will return on August 11. But I doubt the work will be over by then, since there are many houses that are yet to be completed and the weather is also not favourable.”
Families whose houses have been completed have moved in. After pillars, ceilings of the houses have been constructed first so that families can take shelter inside the under-construction houses during rainfall.
Local authorities also blame the monsoon for the slowing down of reconstruction works.
“Rains have affected the works for nearly 10 days in this month alone,” said Bara’s CDO Poudel. “If the weather is favourable, then work will be done in the scheduled time as Nepal Army is planning to bring additional manpower to finish the task.”
Unable to fight against the wrath of summer heat and active monsoon in the aftermath of the disaster, Miya’s family has already built a temporary house after taking a loan of Rs100,000 from a local money lender and relatives.
“How long can we wait for the government?” questions Miya. “We had to take loan because we could not stay under the rain any longer. Houses of those families selected for government programme have not been built yet and then my name was also removed. I can only hope my house will be rebuilt as well.”
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