Haphazard construction of roads puts villages at high risk of landslidesMany families in three villages of Bajhang have been displaced due to landslides in the last three years.
Happiness knew no bounds for the locals of Toli, Pades and Thing villages in Bajhang district when their villages were connected with road network in 2016. Road connectivity for them meant unprecedented development in the region and the opening of economic prospects for the villagers.
The first vehicles to reach the villages were welcomed with much fanfare, recalls Harimal Bohara of Toli, whose front yard opened right into the newly built road.
“I was happy at the prospect of running a tea shop. I wanted to build a small stall and set up an eatery eventually. That would help me raise my children, I thought,” said Bohara.
Just five months after the road in Toli came into operation, a massive landslide caused by haphazard construction of the road swept away his house and land. Bohara, now displaced from his ancestral home, regrets the day he welcomed road connectivity into the village.
“I wasn’t aware of what the road construction would mean for me and my family. We were fortunate to survive. I, my wife and five children were safe. Everything else was lost,” said Bohara.
After the disaster, the seven-member family has moved out of Bajhang and is currently taking shelter in Dhangadhi.
Bohara’s story is playing out in various households across the district. Eighteen families have been displaced from Toli, Pades and Thing villages of Thalara Rural Municipality in the past three years.
Nabaraj Joshi, a resident of Toli, also lost his house and property last year to the same landslide that took Bohara’s house. He moved to Kanchanpur with his eight-member family after the disaster.
“I didn’t want to leave my birthplace,” Joshi said. “We never thought that the road network that was supposed to be a blessing for us, would drive us away from our own home.”
The construction of the Rayal-Thinkar-Toli-Pades road section has caused four massive landslides in the area in the last three years.
“Around 150 ropanis of land belonging to 65 families were swept away by landslides in the past three years. More than 40 houses of three villages are currently at high risk of landslides,” said Bishnu Bista, the ward chairman of Thalara Rural Municipality-4.
The rural road was constructed as an initiative of the then Constituent Assembly member Lal Bahadur Rawal. A total of Rs 17 million budget was allocated for the road project.
The then Division Road Office in Baitadi had carried out a survey of the road project in 2014; however, the construction work did not adhere to the findings of the survey, said locals. The alignment of the road network proposed by the survey wasn’t taken into consideration when the construction work began.
“Contractors started opening tracks without consulting the survey. We urged them to pay heed to the survey and not use heavy machinery but they paid no heed to us,” said Man Bahadur Bohara, a local.
The road network is now no longer motorable. Around Rs 13.5 million budget was spent to control the landslides but without any results. In the first week of August, a massive landslide occurred in Toli, leaving 13 houses at high risk.
Former CA member Rawal said a large amount of budget was spent to control landslides but in vain. According to him, there is no alternative but to relocate the affected settlements to a safer place.
According to the data available at the District Natural Disaster Rescue Committee, 115 villages of 11 local units in the district are at risk of landslides due to the haphazard construction of rural roads.