Natural disasters prompt mass exodus from Nepal’s villages

According to the District Disaster Management Committee in Baglung, 28 wards of 10 local units are at high risk of different kinds of disasters, such as landslides and floods, among other things.


This picture taken earlier this month shows an empty house in Jaimini Municipality, as people have left due to frequent landslides. PHOTO: THE KATHMANDU POST

October 31, 2023

KATHMANDU – On September 2, 2020, landslides in wards 7, 8, and 9 of Dhorpatan Municipality displaced 126 families. Twenty-two people were killed while 17 are still missing. In the wake of the disaster, the National Reconstruction Authority decided to provide the victims housing grant for the reconstruction of their homes.

Among the displaced, at least 100 displaced families were provided with the first installment of Rs50,000 to rebuild their homes. The NRA provides Rs300,000 in total per victim in three installments. The first installment includes Rs50,000, second Rs150,000 and the final is Rs100,000. However, to qualify for succeeding tranches after receiving the first installment, the displaced must lay the foundation and start construction. In Dhorpatan, only 18 families out of the 100 qualified for the second tranche of the reconstruction budget. According to the local unit, most of the displaced families migrated out of the village instead of rebuilding their homes.

The Monsoon-induced Disaster Risk Reduction and Rescue Committee under the District Administration Office of Baglung has requested that the local government help them collect the money. According to the municipality, most of those who took money are still living in small sheds in Dhorpatan and Bobang areas. With several victims moving out of the affected areas, it is difficult to track their whereabouts, according to the committee.

In the monsoon of 2007, a landslide swept away 12 houses and killed 35 people in Gwalichaur in ward 5 of Badigad Rural Municipality. Haridatta Acharya, a local of Gwalichaur, said that after the incident, several people who were at risk left the village, and along with them, 20 families who were not at risk also left the village.

“Even though the NRA started providing money for reconstruction, that could not stop many people from leaving the village. Currently, the village is almost empty. Since there are fewer people in the village, the government also stopped investing in development infrastructure and services in the village,” said Acharya.

In August 2021, a landslide in Tunibot settlement in ward 1 of Jaimini Municipality destroyed half a dozen houses and killed two people. Following the landslide, the locals of Tunibot started leaving the village gradually.

According to Bishnu Acharya, ward chair of Jaimini-1, since the landslide in 2021, altogether 45 families have left Tunibot. Now the village looks almost deserted, says Acharya.

“The NRA also assured the victims to help rebuild their houses, but people still left. Tunibot now looks like an abandoned settlement in the middle of a forest. The municipal authorities also tried to convince the locals to stay back, but not many wanted to,” said Acharya.

Three years ago, Kaule settlement in ward 5 of Kathekhola Rural Municipality caved in. Around 14 families were relocated by the NRA into an integrated settlement. Along with the people of Kaule, most of the families in the surrounding settlements began leaving their villages and migrated to Chitwan.

According to the District Disaster Management Committee in Baglung, 28 wards of 10 local units are at high risk of different kinds of disasters, such as landslides and floods, among other things.

Harihar Sharma, the deputy mayor of Jaimini Municipality, said that due to the risk of disaster, people have started migrating from their native villages and efforts from the local government and other government agencies have fallen short in convincing them to stay back.

“Ten years ago, the population of the municipality was 32,046 and it decreased to 24,628 in 2021. Currently, we have no data on how many people left after 2021, but we think around 500 to 1,000 more migrated from the municipality,” said Sharma.

With an objective to control migration, the Jaimini Municipality formulated a policy of honouring people who initiate commercial agriculture farms and provide them agricultural subsidies. But there weren’t many takers, says Sharma.

Natural disasters including floods and landslides strike several settlements in the district each year.

According to Sunita Shrestha, chief at Urban Development and Building Construction Project in Baglung, the disasters occur each year due to the lack of technical study of the disaster-prone areas.

The displaced people often complain that they cannot return to their villages as they are still at risk of disasters. “We would not migrate from the village if the authorities concerned assured us to control the landslides. The villagers were compelled to leave the village due to the lack of commitment from the authorities for our safety,” said Balaram Sharma of ward 1 of Jaimini who migrated to Chitwan a few years ago.

The data available at the District Police Office shows that 20 to 40 people die and dozens of families are displaced due to floods and landslides every year in Baglung. As many as 40 people perished in water-induced disasters last year.

Professor Ram Prasad Upadhyay suggests that the local units should implement human settlement development standards to check displacements, especially those caused by natural disasters. “The local bodies should set guidelines for determining what areas are suitable for settlement and what areas for growing crops. Even some public buildings are at high risk of landslides due to the lack of such standards,” said Upadhyay.

The health posts at Sigana and Tityang in Baglung Municipality are at high risk due to land subsidence in the areas. “Community buildings built by spending millions of rupees are on the verge of collapse. Several families in the surrounding areas feel insecure when they see a community building at risk,” said Chham Bahadur Thapa, ward chairman of Baglung-8. “The rural settlements gradually become empty as people in hordes migrate to the district headquarters and Tarai.”

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