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Dozens of villages under threat of landslide

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Sankhuwasabha, May 12, 2016: Over a dozen villages in Sankhuwasabha district have remained under threat of landslide and floods for years. Although the villages around Bhotkhola and Arunkhola are at high risks, concerned authorities have yet to make any efforts to mitigate the threats.

Landslides and floods have been causing huge loss of properties and lives in the district every year. But the locals are compelled to stay in these villages, putting their lives at risk due to lack of alternatives.

The affected villagers have accused the local government bodies of ignoring their problems and only distributing relief materials such as tarpaulins and rice.

Last year, the District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC) had recommended to the Home Ministry to relocate more than a dozen villages. A total of 326 households were identified as vulnerable based on a technical team’s findings and were supposed to be relocated, according to the DDRC.

But even after one year has already elapsed, the government has taken no steps to relocate the households.

Padam Tamang, one of the irate locals, said that no efforts except for the construction of gabion walls at the river embankments have been made so far.

Some of those vulnerable households themselves have migrated to safer locations.

Meanwhile, Chief District Officer (CDO) Ganga Bahadur Chhetri, who is also the chairperson of the DDRC, informed that the Home Ministry has not made any decision in response to the DDRC’s recommendation for the relocation of vulnerable settlements in the district.

However, Lack of land required for the relocation is a key problem, according to the CDO Chhetri.

“First, there is no land. Next, the move may backfire because some people usually return to their native places even after relocation,” he said. “Effective relocation is only possible through proper plans made after comprehensive discussion.”

Thirty-two households of Pawakhola, that were relocated in Simma of Pathibhara last May, had returned to their old village only after a few weeks.

Landslides have already started prior to monsoon this year. Nearly a month ago, landslide affected houses belonging to six families. It had also damaged cash crops and plants worth three million rupees.

No preparedness has been made for the disaster management and risk reduction. The preparedness efforts will be discussed in the next meeting of the DDRC, CDO Chhetri informed.

Meanwhile, Bangdabi Bhote, a local political leader, blamed the DDRC for lack of concrete and long-term planning for disaster management.