Displaced site in Selang, Sindhupalchowk

One of the displaced sites in Selang of Sindhupalchowk district. Oxfam in Nepal and partners are working with the National Reconstruction Authority to either resettle the internally displaced people or assist them to safely return to their places of origin. Photo by: Arun Maharjan/Oxfam

Days in the camps now numbered

“I apologize for the delay but I ensure you that our work will kick off now,” said Govinda Pokharel, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) when visiting Selang of Sindhupalchowk district. His words have given hope to 140 families who have been taking refuge in three areas—Kaafledanda, Baanskharka, and Kharigaun—of Selang after their homes and properties were destroyed by the earthquake in the nearby villages.

It is estimated that more than 117,700 people were displaced by the 2015 earthquakes in 14 districts. In Sindhupalchowk district alone, more than 3500 people lost their lives and about 90% of the total houses were damaged either completely or partially. Sindhupalchowk is one of the seven earthquake affected districts where Oxfam began responding since 2015. Initially, Oxfam provided materials and skills to set up temporary and improved temporary shelters in addition to other life-saving materials.  Over the last two years, Oxfam and its partners have helped people revive their lost businesses, constructed water systems, provided livelihood opportunities, trained masons to build earthquake-resilient infrastructures and did numerous other works to support the survivors. More recently, a project called “Durable Solutions” has been launched specifically targeting the internally displaced people in eight districts, including Sindhupalchowk.

 “The earthquake uprooted my house,” recalled Bhimsen Thapa who abandoned his home and property in Khasre and moved his seven-member family to Selang, without returning back. “My house is still in the same condition when the earthquake damaged it, and the land is left barren.” He has instead started growing potatoes in the forest area nearby his temporary accommodation in Selang.

Gyalbu Sherpa, 68, from Sindhurche has a similar story to tell. “There is a cliff above my house and there’s a cliff below; it’s dangerous,” he shares. Although his family has managed to rebuild the house, they are now told that their place of origin is not safe to live. “We have been suggested to stay here instead,” he adds.

Women have a more difficult situation. Lati Nepali, 55, originally from Deurali says, “Big rocks fell on our house, and our farm land was torn apart. We left our place about 10 days after the earthquake.” Lati has two sons and one daughter who work as daily wage labourers in Kathmandu. “We don’t have enough money. Sons have to take care of their own families,” she says. Lati’s husband makes some money when he gets sewing orders. Lati and her husband also take care of their seven-year-old grand-daughter whose mother works in Kathmandu, and whose father left the family years ago.

There are 174 families like Lati’s, Bhimsen’s, and Gyalbu’s living in temporary settlements in Selang who wish to live without fear in permanent houses. Of them, 140 households are living in the forest area, and the government has assured that these families will be resettled, relocated, or supported to return to their places of origin, after ensuring the places are safe enough and they have the necessary documents to inhabit again.

Durable Solutions for the IDPs

Oxfam will be supporting 14,000 people (6, 826 women; 6, 768 men; 479 people living with disabilities) who have been living in 79 different locations as internally displaced people (IDPs). The government has conducted geohazard surveys in 647 settlements in 16 districts and categorized the places in three ways—Category 1: House was damaged but assessed to be safe to return by the NRA. The earthquake survivors would get a shelter grant worth NPR 300,000 to rebuild their houses. If need be, Oxfam and partners would help them in acquiring their necessary documents which could have been lost in the earthquake.  Category 2: With some mitigation activities, the place of origin can be made safe for the families to go back. Category 3: The place of origin is not safe at all to inhabit, and no development activities will take place there for at least next five years. The families can claim extra NPR 200,000 (in addition to the NPR 300,000 grant) to buy land or they can be resettled in the government-proposed sites.

As of July 31, 2017:

  • 28 households have been found under Category 1
  • 211 households under Category 2, and
  • 868 households under Category 3

For these people and thousands others, the consortium of four organizations People in Need (PIN), Community Self Reliance Center (CSRC), Lumanti, and Oxfam in Nepal (as the lead organisation) has drafted Procedures for Relocation and Rehabilitation of Hazard Prone Settlements which has been endorsed by the NRA. The consortium has also contributed in preparing a Resettlement Plan considering land terrains and climatic features. Once endorsed by the NRA, the work on resettling the displaced people will commence immediately. The proposed integrated resettlement will ensure that the now-displaced people will get safer and permanent houses with health facilities, water infrastructures, children’s park, and public space. In Selang alone, Oxfam will build about 50 houses by the end of 2017; different INGOs working in Sindhupalchowk are expected to build the rest.

After hearing about the plans and the works that have already been started, Sobale Tamang, originally from Selunga, feels that the days for his nine-member family in temporary accommodation are now numbered.