Track from Byas to Khalanga yet to be built despite government assurancesThe federal, provincial and local governments claim to have resumed an old horse track on the Nepal side this year but locals say otherwise.
A few months ago, some government officials and political party leaders reached Chhangru and Tinkar—the remote high altitude settlements in Darchula’s Byas Rural Municipality—and assured the locals that they will connect the settlements to Khalanga, the district headquarters, via a horse track this year.
“Public officials and politicians came here via helicopters and told us they would build a horse track so we wouldn’t have to travel through India to reach Khalanga,” said Jaman Tinkari of Tinkar. “But the horse track is yet to be built and we still have to travel through India to reach Khalanga. It took me and my family six days to reach Khalanga from Tinkar.”
Chhangru and Tinkar are about a 100 kilometres north from Khalanga.
The federal, provincial and local governments claim to have resumed an old horse track on the Nepal side this year. Chief Minister of Sudurpaschim Province Trilochan Bhatta had reached the Ghatibagad area in October to inaugurate the track reconstructed by Nepal Army. Addressing the function organised there, he said that the Byas residents’ dependence on Indian territory to reach Khalanga was over.
However, villagers of Chhangru and Tinkar in Ward No. 1 of Byas Rural Municipality, who descend to Khalanga and other places in the lower altitude every winter with their livestock to avoid the severe cold, say otherwise.
This year, Nepal Army constructed around 550 metres of an old horse track in the Ghatibagad area. However, some sections of the track, including Tambaku, Kalju and Dopakhe, are yet to be repaired and are not usable, locals say.
“It is risky for people to even walk through the track. How can we make the journey with our animals through such a treacherous path? We requested the Indian officials to let us use the Indian territory to reach Khalanga,” said Mohan Tinkari of Byas-1.
The locals usually start their transhumance to the lower altitude by the third week of November but this year their descent has been delayed due to the Nepal-India border closure amid Covid-19 fear.
As many as 60 families of Tinkar have already descended to Khalanga and its surrounding areas while others are on their way. According to them, Changru locals are also preparing to descend to lower altitude soon.
There are a total of 170 households in Chhangru and Tinkar.
In the 1970s, a horse track had been constructed connecting Chhangru and Tinkar with the district headquarters. But the track was closed off during the Maoist insurgency and fell into disrepair.
The province government and Byas Rural Municipality have also allocated budget to repair the old horse track. However, the track is yet to be repaired completely. The track has been disrupted by landslides in some places while the river has swept sections of it away.
Chief District Officer Sharad Kumar Pokharel said that the old horse track could not be opened this year despite the efforts from all three levels of governments.
“The local people of Ward No. 1 in Byas Municipality have started descending to the lower altitude as the temperature there plunged after snowfall. They are using Indian territory as before. And we have been coordinating with the Indian side so that they could travel easily,” he added.