May 22, 2015.
Today, a puja was held today in memory of the people of the Langtang Valley who were lost during the April 25th earthquake and the avalanche that buried the village of Langtang. The event was held outside of the Yellow Gompa camp, at Mustang Gompa in Swayambunath, where hundreds of people gathered to honor the souls of the deceased. It was an intense but beautiful day.
Reflecting the intense mix of sorrow and urgency that characterizes life around the camp, an open meeting of the Langtang Disaster Management and Reconstruction Committee – the elected leadership of the displaced Langtang community – was held immediately following the meeting. This meeting discussed several important issues, the three major issues being:
1. The creation of their own Langtang Valley Disaster Relief Fund (fund established, website pending) which will give them important autonomy and agency in determining the dimensions of reconstruction… Rasuwa Relief and other groups have enthusiastically agreed to support this effort and help encourage direct donations to Langtang via this fund.
2. Current plans for the improvement of the camp at the Yellow Gompa which include the construction of large overarching bamboo ‘greenhouse’ structures that will provide both better monsoon shelter and covered community space – construction to commence on Sunday, thanks to the initiative of Amit @ Sustainable Steps Nepal.
3. VERY IMPORTANT – A meeting with Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to be held tomorrow morning at 8am, which will give the leadership of the Langtang community an opportunity to voice their current needs and to directly communicate their desire to resettle themselves in the Langtang Valley post-monsoon. At today’s meeting, a preliminary plan was discussed that would involve multiple stages of a) further recovery and excavation in the near-term, b) periodic short visits during the monsoon, to conduct scientific risk assessments, c) the resettlement of some of the population to work toward reconstruction, perhaps making use of temporary structures, and d) full resettlement for all of the community members who wish to return.
Regarding resettlement, the question of agency is a major one in the current political climate, but we at Rasuwa Relief fully support the right for the Langtang community to make their own decision.
May 21, 2015.
Timure, Khaidi and Ghattekhola have faced some significant damages. The centre of Timure has been completely destroyed. Where there were old/beautiful houses, chortens and small cobbled alleyways now has only piled rocks.
Landslides caused by the earthquake have only created more fear amongst the people who constantly look up to see if there are more boulders falling down. Most of the families have already moved up to Khaidi where the danger of landslides is not as eminent but come monsoon a significant number will be moving higher up to Syaubari, living in tents/tarpaulins. According to some, this will be the hardest monsoon they will be facing in a long long time. The same fate awaits the people in Ghattekhola and Khaidi.
Rasuwagadhi looks post-apocalyptic; heavy machinery, industrial noise, high winds, dust all around, dry slopes, raging river, scraps of metal and clothes all over. As indicated by Rabi Thapa, “They are planning to stabilise the main slide at the border with a buffer zone above it, which means they will not be excavating the mass of rock and human/material remains in its entirely, as the customs and clearance agents might prefer. A high-level security meeting took place yesterday to decide on future road clearing activities. There is talk of moving the customs house to Timure, due to the risk posed by landslides..”
May 20, 2015.
An 8.5 ton shipment including rice, oil, salt, tarps and solar chargers reached over 350 households in Briddim, Timure, and Syaphru VDCs. The first lot in Syaphru was ably distributed under the leadership of Akio ‘Prachanda’ Asahara, who claimed ‘Malai ta yaha ko biralo ko naam pani thahacha’. He proved it in his super-efficient, precisely documented distribution of relief materials among the wards of the villages surrounding Syaphru and Briddim. Aregato!
Thanks to the unreliable brakes of one of our trucks, however, we rolled into Syaphru so late it was dark by the time we headed to Timure along the road recently cleared by China’s road repair detachment. Understandably, our driver freaked out when he saw one of the landslides past Ling Ling (the same one we walked over last week) was still ‘active’ – spitting rocks onto the road. We beat a reluctant, hasty retreat to Syaphru and its own active landslide and organised another truck for 8 the next morning.
Come morning, guruji was nowhere to be seen. His services had been hijacked by another relief operation led by lamas from Kathmandu to Timure, and it was noon by the time he returned (after a tree was removed from the road by the Nepal Army). We got to Timure early afternoon and negotiated slightly suspect expanding and contracting lists of households commandeered by local elites before distributing our goods to the good people of Timure by 5, by which time another, larger truck from another Lama sangh had arrived. The local hydro project had also provided relief the day before.
By noon the next day, as we readied ourselves to leave following a visit to observe the impressive, highly risky Chinese effort to clear the landslide that buried an estimated 25-30, another truck led by Bibeksheel Nepal had come and gone. As we lunched on dust in the back of a tipper on our way back to Dhunche, we passed several other convoys headed at least to Syaphru, and more on our way to Kathmandu, including from Action Aid, Goal, and a truck stuck on the road, all the way from Birgunj.
Both in Timure and Dhunche, police and army clearly indicated that privately organised relief was excessive, uncoordinated and liable to lead to dependency. In the case of Timure VDC at least, we have to agree. We strongly recommend curtailing food aid here. Each household on the list has in the first couple of days received several tarps and several sacks of rice (and counting). Battalion Commander in Dhunche Lt Col Laxman Thapa has requested that all such initiatives let the CDO/LDO know that such and such aid has been delivered, even if they prefer to distribute themselves, so the state can better coordinate efforts to needy areas. If we do not go on record, we are not on anyone’s records except that of our own, and that will inevitably lead to duplication. Good intentions need to be backed up by better coordination. Lesson learned, we hope. The landslips are still active, so clearing will be required up to Syaphru every now and again. They are planning to stabilise the main slide at the border with a buffer zone above it, which means they will not be excavating the mass of rock and human/material remains in its entirely, as the customs and clearance agents might prefer. A high-level security meeting took place yesterday to decide on future road clearing activities. There is talk of moving the customs house to Timure, due to the risk posed by landslides.