Let down by govt apathy, victims move back into damaged houses
KATHMANDU, June 14: Surendra Tuladhar and his two brothers were busy clearing debris inside the precarious remains of an old house at Bungamati in Lalitpur district that was almost completely destroyed by earthquake last year.
The upper structure of the house had crumbled and the ground floor is also in a dilapidated state.
As there are seven members in the family, continuing to live inside the cramped hut put together with corrugated sheets and tarpaulin became almost impossible. The shelter itself has turned into a muddy spot, with shrubs growing around it. The sounds of frogs and crickets and the risk of snakes forced them to spend sleepless nights.
"We endured life in the makeshift shelter for a whole year in the hope that the government would help us rebuild our house within months after the quake," Surendra told Republica. "But once it became impossible to spend another night there, we decided to shift back into this damaged structure despite the risk to our lives."
Surendra's collapsed house is just 20 meters from the spot where Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the historic Rato Machhendranath temple on January 16 amidst much fanfare. The prime minister, while addressing a gathering of top officials and local earthquake victims on the occasion, promised to expedite the reconstruction of all private houses, temples and other structures in this important Newar settlement located towards the southern part of Lalitpur district.
"As the prime minister himself had come to us, we thought we would promptly get the grant amounts of Rs 200,000 for reconstruction. But nothing happened," Surendra said with a grim look, adding, "The prime minister has let us down."
Mani Man Nijananda, another local, has been living with his wife and a five-year-old daughter in what remains of his house for over five months now. The 35-year-old had a three-and-half storey house but only one-and-a-half storeys remain after the earthquake and there are several cracks.
His family shifted back into the damaged structure as there was no alternative shelter.
"I don't know if we will survide if there is another big earthquake any time soon. Prime Minsiter Oli and his government do not seem to care about the hazards we face even 15 months onwards," he lamented.
He said he doesn't know if the locals of Bungamati will even see their grant amounts. "To be honest, I do not have any hopes of the government," he added.
Most of the houses in the Bungamati area are either completely or partially damaged. And the locals are living in temporary shelters or back in their damaged houses, anxiously waiting for the government to distribute the grant amounts.
But much to the locals' disappointment, the government has not even been able to start the reconstruction of the Machhendranath temple five months after the prime minister laid the foundation stone.
"The area is still in ruins. And the government simply does not seem to care," said Raj bhai Shakya, another local.