Fear of homelessness: Red tape delays relocation of landslide survivors in different parts of Nepal

Landslide destroyed a lot of houses in Baglung in 2020.

In the monsoon last year, 39 people in Baglung, 31 in Myagdi, and 16 in  Syangja of the Gandaki province were killed in landslides. In addition, 17 people in Baglung and six in Myagdi had gone missing. With the whereabouts of those missing people still unknown, they are also assumed to be dead. 

According to the provincial statistics, 136 people were killed and 25 people went missing in floods and landslides in the province alone from last June to September, also causing a loss of billions of rupees.

Considering this, the government had made announcements to provide grants as compensation and relocation support to the people affected by the floods and landslides. This made the flood and landslide survivors happy and hopeful. However, their hope is crushed as the government failed to walk the talk thanks to bureaucratic hassles and a lack of coordination among different levels of the government. Hence, the survivors are again worried if they would be homeless again.

Delay in keeping promises

Being hilly districts, most of the houses in the mentioned places are near steep slopes. As a result, the landslides sweep away all the houses and lands of some families. Consequently, more than 1,400 families were displaced in Baglung last year. Some of them took refuge in their relatives’ houses while others moved to other parts of the country.

Similarly, the landslides that caused the economic loss of millions of rupees displaced 821 families living in high-risk areas in Myagdi. A study by the Gandaki provincial government showed that they should have been relocated from there. In Syangja, more than 350 families living at high risk of landslides had to be evacuated.

However, heads of the concerned local governments inform that the flood and landslide survivors have been further affected due to the delay in the government’s grant for relocation and maintenance. They complain that there has been a delay even though they have been informing the provincial and federal governments from time to time.

“Many families don’t have land to build houses. Most houses have to be re-built, while many other houses need maintenance,” Hom Bahadur BK, the vice-chairperson of  Marsyangdi rural municipality, Lamjung, says, “It is time for another monsoon. We have not been able to do anything as the needful documents from provincial and federal governments have not come.”

In agreement, Taranath Poudel, the chairperson of Nisikhola rural municipality of Baglung, adds even the residents of the high-risk areas could not be relocated due to the delay from the federal and the provincial governments. He further complains that their voices were being neglected even after informing them repeatedly.

“The local level is doing its best. However, we can’t do everything alone as the landslides have destroyed the whole settlement,” expresses Poudel, “If the provincial and the federal governments had thought about it on time, the survivors would not have to suffer  much in the coming monsoon.”

Delay in formulating working procedure

Hari Sharma, the assistant chief district officer of Syangja, states reconstruction and relocation activities were delayed due to the delay in formulating the working procedure under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority. The procedure for private households was finalised in January 2021 only.

“Even the old data we sent were not considered when the new procedure was finalised as the data need to be there, according to the new criteria. Therefore, it became too late while preparing new data that meet the new criteria,” reports Sharma.

Local governments providing grants

The Jamini municipality of Baglung has started the reconstruction and relocation work on its own after the delay in receiving grants even after repeated correspondence with the provincial and federal governments, informs Mayor Indra Raj Poudel.

Further, Poudel explains, “It’s getting late as the monsoon is approaching. If the house is not built on time, they will become homeless. We have started building houses by giving grants on our own so that the victims do not have to be homeless again.”

According to him, 26 houses were completely damaged and 56 houses were partially damaged in his municipality due to the landslides.

However, even though the municipality has provided concessional grants, only three of the beneficiaries have built houses so far.

He informs many other survivors have left the area as there was no timely relocation. Some have migrated to the Terai region, some to Kathmandu, and some have not even come in contact. Even those who have taken refuge in their relatives’ houses are thinking of leaving the village. 

Grants from the center received, but not from the province

A house damaged by a flood in Dhorpatan, Baglung, in September 2020.

The Gandaki province has spent Rs 13.1 million in the name of disaster management this fiscal year, till mid-November 2020. Further, on January 21, 2021, the provincial cabinet decided to request the government of Nepal to provide the necessary funds for the reconstruction and maintenance of the damage caused by the disasters.

The provincial government had demanded Rs 2.17 billion from the federal government for the reconstruction and maintenance of physical infrastructure damaged by the floods and landslides. 

Prakash Dhungana, an officer of the provincial Ministry of Internal Affairs, says, “The provincial government has already received the grant but has not distributed it to the districts as some process is still remaining. Again, we have demanded data from all the municipalities. Only then will the money be distributed from here.”

However, after receiving the grant from the federal government, the Myagdi district has started the reconstruction work without the grant from the provincial government. Subash Sharma Poudel, Information Officer at District Administration Office, informs that some of the houses are being built with the help of Myagdeli Pravasi Nepali Sangh, an organisation of non-resident Nepalis originally from the district.

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Magar is an Onlinekhabar correspondent, reporting from Pokhara.

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