The locals had heaved a collective sigh of relief after the completion of an integrated settlement for those who had lost their houses to a series of devastating landslides in 2017, at Phalelung Rural Municipality-3, in Panchthar district of eastern Nepal. But even after the houses were supposedly completed, they were not handed over to landslide victims who are still putting up at their relatives’.
Lila Rai of Bungsingdanda, Phalelung-3 had a month-old infant in her lap when the landslide swept her house away. Her husband had already died abroad while trying to earn a living for his family. Rai, who was left homeless by the landslide, is now struggling to raise her five children. Without a house to call their own, Rai and her children have been living in a relative’s house for the past three years. “I had leased a relative’s house. I paid the lease for the first year but haven’t been able to give anything in the past two years,” laments Rai.
The local government had planned and built an integrated settlement comprising 15 independent houses. Since the houses remain unoccupied and uncared for, weeds, creepers and climbers have started covering them.
The landslide, which lasted for four days in August 2017, had destroyed dozens of houses in Bungsingdanda, Kholaghari, Manglebung and Bikte. The landslide victims were temporarily relocated at a local school. Arrangements were also made for some families to stay in temporary shelters. As a long-term solution, the provincial and local governments then decided to build an integrated settlement for those whose houses were completely destroyed.
"It's been two years since the houses were built, or that is what we are told. But we are still not allowed into them," says Rai. The settlement was built with a budget of Rs 5 million from the provincial government and Rs 1.7 million from the rural municipality. The roofs of each three-room house, including kitchen, is covered with corrugated iron sheets. The floor is plastered with concrete.
The rural municipality blames faulty project estimates for the delayed hand-over. Ward chairman of Phalelung-3, Bir Bikram Thamsuhang, informs that project estimates had failed to factor in facilities like toilets and drinking water.
"These have been shortcomings as the work was done in haste with the goal of making the houses available to landslide victims at the earliest," informs Thamsuhang. The rural municipality built toilets at an additional Rs. 200,000. Yet the houses are still without electricity and drinking water, further delaying the hand-over.