Witnessing Nepal Earthquake and its aftermath

I

I was in Rasuwa on a holiday trekking with two dear comrades when the earth shook that day. I only remember a rumbling noise deep from the earth which was so loud it made the earth under us shake and the hills and mountains around and in front of us started to fall. It looked like they were breaking into pieces. It was deafening. Clouds covered the sky and only cleared two days later. We were a few of the lucky ones that weren’t hurt.

IMG_2499
Somewhere in Rasuwa. On 27th April on our walk back home we only saw destruction
IMG_2470
Somewhere in Rasuwa. On 27th April on our walk back home we only saw destruction
IMG_2537
Syafrubesi, Rasuwa. Entire building structures were topsy turvy. This is a public toilet
IMG_2549
Syafrubesi, Rasuwa. We entered these destroyed homes and tried borrowing blankets and pillows for the night
IMG_2572
Somewhere in Rasuwa
17_revolutionary
A man waiting on the side of the earthquake cracked road in Rasuwa. Half the homes in his village was destroyed
IMG_3494
Chautara, Sindupalchowk. One of the hardest hit places I saw was in Sindhupalchowk. This was in a makeshift hospital. An old couple help each other.
redcross
Chautara, Sindupalchowk. A wounded boy in the makeshift hospital

After 2 nights of waiting we decided to walk back to Kathmandu. It was too depressing and sad around us. There was no food, no shelter and we were merely fanciful holiday makers asking the impoverished and devastated villagers to share what little they had. We didn’t want to impose on their hospitality anymore. So we walked. We passed and stopped by village after devastated village. We walked on top of boulders the size of buildings which had fallen onto the roads. We saw trucks, buses and cars squashed like toys and wondered where the drivers or passengers might be. We heard and saw the drums of village Lamas as they gathered to pray for the dead. We ran past landslides as huge rocks continued to fall above our heads. In the end we finally found a bus in the neighbouring district of Nuwakot which then brought us back to Kathmandu.

IMG_6640
Destruction of Durbar Square in Patan
IMG_6512
Little Buddhist monks being evacuated from their monastary in the mountains

Life since April 25 2015 has been hectic for most of us in Nepal. Once we returned back to Kathmandu the three of us threw ourselves into relief work and doing anything at all to help the situation get better. We paid no attention to government rules or regulations which kept changing every day but rather just worked non stop. Almost everyone I knew in Kathmandu and friends and family abroad were doing their part to help with the relief. My faith in humanity increased. I saw the beauty of what I called back then ‘a resiliant’ Nepali population who could overcome any disaster.

bhaktapur

II

After this year of an absent and failed governance I am now not so positive.

At 6 am one can already hear the sounds of hammering and banging in Barpak; a small hamlet in Gorkha which was the epicenter of last year’s destructive earthquake. It iss already one year and Barpak along with many other such towns and villages are finally starting to build. They are starting to dig, to carry cement, stones and bricks and rebuild their homes. But they do this with no support from the government or from the reconstruction agency.

Panchlal Ghale, a 59-year-old man from Barpak tells me

I already spent my last 3 lakhs which I had saved for years so I could build this little hut. My family can now stay warm at least. Do you think the 2 lakh that we receive will be enough to build a house?
Ghale spent the last 15 years of his life doing menial jobs as a migrant worker in various countries in order to feed his family and educate his children. He says, 
I didn’t manage to make too much money. Just enough to educate my children and then to have a little saving. But now even that little saving is gone
 He now runs a tiny tin shack behind his home as a homestay so he can generate some income. Panchlal Ghale tells me that people in Barpak (like in the rest of the country) have always fended for themselves.
We made our first MHP in 1991 when Gorkha barely had electricity. We had mills that would grind our grains. We dug our own roads. The government has never done anything for us. Why would they start now?

Barpak has been without electricity for a year since the Micro Hydropower which had been supplying electricity since 1991 was destroyed by the earthquake. Lucky for the village that a visionary energy entrepreneur, Bir Bahadur Ghale, is from Barpak. Together with the Gorkhaly Foundation he arranged to have a generator in the village which supplied the village with electricity from 7-9pm as they started re-building the Micro Hydropower plant. When I was there last week the residents told me it will start generating electricity within a week. Manosh Ghale, a women’s rights activist from Barpak said to me “We are excited. We used to have a bakery here. Now the baker can finally make bread.”

IMG_8199
Kathmandu Durbar Square under construction
IMG_6134
Chautara, SIndupalchowk. Remnants of a home that used to be and a home that is

Most other places are not so lucky. Just around the other side of the hill lies Laprak. After the earthquake the entire village was shifted 1000 meters above their original village due to fear of landslides. However, nothing has been built there. Villagers from Laprak sleep in sub zero temperatures under zinc sheets and tarpaulin over their heads. In January I spent a night in Laprak together with a friend who was reporting on a story about the cold and inhumane conditions the villagers had to live in. It snowed that evening and we wore all our clothes to bed where we were under a sleeping bag and a thick blanket. The cold was seeping in from the bare earth under us and drops of dew soon covered our blankets. When we woke up in the morning the blankets were drenched wet from the cold. When I was there last week the situation was not much better. There was a storm that night and we were once again freezing cold huddled in blankets.

People who have been made homeless, who have lost family and friends have also had to endure a windy and wet monsoon and freezing winter sleeping in tents or at best in zinc sheet shelters for this past year. Many of them have lost patience waiting for the government to help. They are tired of sleeping in tin shacks. They are tired of the cold and the wind. They are afraid at the prospect of spending another monsoon outdoors. They are now starting to build on their own, however they can.

 

Have your say

comments

Raiot

Subscribe to Raiot via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Pooja Pant Written by:

Pooja Pant is an imagemaker from Nepal

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *