Authors: BBC Media Action Nepal's Stakeholder Liaison, Pratibha Tuladhar, originally posted October 12 2017 - On International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction we explore how Sajha Sawal - our TV current affairs show in Nepal – is helping communities displaced by the 2015 earthquakes get the support they need to rebuild safer homes in safer locations. No easy feat.
"My eyes are burning" says Mishri Lama as she prepares dinner in the temporary shelter that has been her family’s home since she was displaced by the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015.
Today they have a guest: Govinda Raj Pokharel, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nepal’s National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). "So much smoke. Is it the same every day?" he asks as he squats on the floor to share a meal with his hosts. "It’s the same every day because there is no window," says Mishri’s husband, Kaile Tamang Lama.
The Lama family live in one of the hillside villages of Selang in Sindupalchowk - one of the districts that was, and still is, most affected by the disaster.
Over a modest dinner of boiled maize flour and lentil soup the conversation turns to the difficulty the family – and their neighbours – face in rebuilding safe homes on their own land.
"We are scared of landslides from above the village. It will definitely fall down if there is another earthquake," says Kaile Lama.
After hearing their story, Pokharel promised to inspect the land himself the following day. He was visiting Selang with BBC Media Action to witness the hardships faced by communities who lost their homes in the earthquake. Pokharel spends the night in the Lama’s makeshift home experiencing firsthand the conditions faced by families like the Lamas.
Sajha Sawal visited Selang right after the earthquake in 2015 with the then Forest Minster who vowed that households would be moved to a less hazard-prone location. The team returned two years later to see what had changed and give people the opportunity to hold those leading the reconstruction efforts to account – and urge them to deliver on their promises.
After seeing the precarious hillside and listening to the residents’ concerns Pokharal said: "People are scared to live here. Naked eye observation shows the cliff might fall down in case of an earthquake. We should not keep our people in such places."
Promises of new land
Pressed by presenter Bidhya Chapagain to provide action as well as more assurances he pledged to find new land where the community could rebuild safely.
And meeting the commitment made on the show, Pokharel returned to Selang in June and helped identify 65 households that needed to be resettled to a safer location.
A more stable area of Selang has been identified by geologists where the displaced families are being provided help by different organizations to rebuild, making it the first resettlement plan initiated by the government.
Steps in the right direction – but still a way to go
The government also identified 700 families in settlements in Rasuwa, Dolakha, Gorkha and Ramechhap districts in need of resettlement. And even though it has been deemed unsafe by the government geologists, the villagers of Selang have still been returning to their farmlands on the brittle hillsides to plant crops.
"We had dry landslides three days ago, that nearly swept away some villagers," Ramamaya Lopchan told BBC Sajha Sawal over the phone this week.
"We have been told by the government not to build on our land we have as it is unsafe. Winter is almost here and we are still living in our temporary shelters. My children keep falling sick in this temporary shelter and hospitals are days of walk."
"We are now waiting for the government resettlement to begin so that we can build our homes in safer locations,"she added.
For Nepali communities, the challenges around rebuilding resilient and safe homes remain so our work through Sajha Sawal to help them ‘build back better’ and hold the government accountable is vital.
Image credit: BBC Media Action
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