Nineteen squatter families take shelter under bridge after windstorm blew their hutsThe municipality has washed its hands off of the problem, citing lack of budget to move the squatters from the riverbank.
As many as 19 squatter families of Sigas in Kanchanpur have been taking shelter under a bridge after their huts were blown away by the windstorm in June.
The landless families of Shuklaphanta Municipality-11 have no alternative but to seek shelter under the Banhara bridge along the East-West Highway.
“We will have to stay here until the end of this rainy season because we don’t have a roof over our heads. We have been living under the bridge since the June windstorm,” said Dal Bahadur Bohara, a windstorm-affected squatter.
Bohara, along with many others, had built makeshift huts on the banks of the Banhara River in Shrikrishna Community Forest and lived there for the past one and a half decades. Although the occupation of forest land is illegal, they have settled down in the area since they have nowhere else to go, said Bohara.
“We have been landless for generations. But how long can we stay here under the bridge in this monsoon season?” asked Bohara. “We fear that the rain-swollen river might soon displace us from this temporary shelter.”
The living condition of the landless families is miserable; some are using wooden cots to sleep on at night while others sleep on the floor. Given the limited space under the bridge, most struggle to make room to lie down at night.
“Life is hard here and it’s harder when it rains. I haven’t had a sound sleep in a long time. The water level can rise any minute and sweep us away,” said Ram Bahadur Sunar, another squatter living under the bridge.
However, it’s the women and children who are affected the most by the current living situation, said Sunar, “When heavy vehicles run on the bridge, our children wake up crying.”
Various social organisations had provided the landless families with tents after the windstorm, but the tents were blown away by strong winds just a week later.
“We had received tents and Rs 740 per person as relief after the windstorm. But since the relief was not enough to build a new shelter, we had to move here,” said Sunar.
Meanwhile, the concerned authorities have not done anything to address this issue, Bohara said.
“We had asked the people’s representatives to build shelter for our settlement because of the risk of floods, but nobody has come forward to help us,” said Bohara.
The families complain that the municipality has washed its hands off of the problem, citing a lack of budget to move the squatters from the riverbank. According to municipality Mayor Dil Bahadur Air, the local unit has informed the provincial and federal governments to solve the problem.
“There are many landless people in the municipality and we don’t have the necessary budget to manage shelter for all of them,” said Air. The municipality, however, will provide the squatters with drinking water, health and education.
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