Saturday, September 20, 2014

The trauma continues for Bey survivors



The North district of Sikkim, the area closest to the epicentre of the 18 September 2011 earthquake took the brunt of the temblor and even though it is the most thinly populated of all districts, North Sikkim posted the highest casualty of 42 dead. The earthquake claimed a total of 62 lives in Sikkim. Most of the damage and casualties were centred around the corridor of Chungthang, Saffo, Lachen, Lachung, Mangan and Dzongu in North district. Official figures attest that 80% of the houses in the district suffered damage of varying degrees and many families were displaced.
Bey village, falling under Sakyong-Pentong GPU in Upper Dzongu North Sikkim, was clearly the worst affected villages in the 18 September Earthquake. The tremors threw down a massive landslide into the village on that Sunday evening, burying a cluster of five houses and killing seven people. The village remained cut-off for months and surviving residents were evacuated. The slope has stabilized now, three years since the earthquake, but the people here are yet to recover from the trauma even as the village tries to make a fresh beginning from new addresses. The village has been relocated.
Bey is the last village on the way to Tholung Monastery and there is no habitation beyond this village until the monastery. Bey had 18 houses, the village divided in two by the Tholung Chu running through it. One part of the village consisting of five houses was swept away by the landslide triggered by the 18 September earthquake. The rest of the villagers have been evacuated and around 120 people, comprising of senior citizens, women and children, were initially shifted to a relief camp set up at Lingzya and at 4th Mile Mantam.
When they were first evacuated, the journey to the relief camp at Mantam took them two days due to destruction along the road. Later, some of the families have moved out, taking shelter with their relatives at Passingdang, Lingzya and other villages in Dzongu. Out of the 13 houses which survived the killer landslide, two houses collapsed to the earthquake and three houses were imperiled and in danger of coming apart while several other houses took multiple damages and were in the swathe of the active landslide right above. The villagers also lost standing crops of millet, paddy, cardamom etc. which were nearing harvest at the time. Also in the list of damages were 7 fish ponds and several vermi-compost structures.
On 19 and 20 September 2011, the villagers set their cattle and other livestock free since they did not have enough fodder or feed for them. Some male members of the affected families kept making quick visits from the relief camp to their abandoned homes. They did so at least once every couple of days. The road to Bey Village took two years to clear due to the many difficult and dangerous slides which have ambushed it.
Later, 14 houses from 4th Mile Mantam were also announced for relocation to a safer location. This number along with the displaced from Bey have had to grapple with the challenge of complicated logistics and also the trauma of coming to terms with memories of having lived in the last location for generations and moving to new settlements.
Be that as it may, out of the 19 affected families of Bey village, houses for seven families have completed under the Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses [REDRH] scheme and were inaugurated on the third anniversary of the killer quake, 18 September 2014. These seven houses have been constructed on the right bank of Tholung Chu, the side spared by the slide but damaged by the quake.
The delay in construction was reportedly due to difficulties in transporting raw materials as the road link between Lingzya and Bey was disrupted at several places and was restored only earlier this year in March by the Roads & Bridges Department.
The seven families of Tshering Lepcha, Sangcho Lepcha, Gya Lepcha, Goruk Lepcha, Dupzang Lepcha Aprilmit Lepcha and Tshering Lepcha moved into their new homes on Thursday following the inauguration by their area MLA Deputy Speaker Sonam Gyatso Lepcha.
The beneficiaries thanked the Deputy Speaker, the State government and the department for the provision of REDRH houses which have been constructed at the cost of Rs. 4.89 lakh each.
Meanwhile, the rest of the affected families who have been provided land for their new homes at Chandey near Mangan are still awaiting completion of construction by the RMDD. And there is also the situation of six more affected families from Bey who have still not been able to begin construction. This group has been allotted plots at the back of the Chandey settlement and the land there is obstructed by huge boulders which make construction difficult. The sanctioned amount of Rs. 4.89 lakhs will not even be enough to cover even the clearing of the plots for the foundations, they share.
Now, the Department has assured to provide them land at Pentok, but here again there are hiccups in inter-departmental coordination with the proposed plot belonging to UD&HD and the transfer getting tied up in red tape.
The six affected families who houses have still not been initiated are of Rikden Lepcha, Kiki Zangmit Lepcha, Karma Lepcha, Ongchu Lepcha, Nedup Lepcha s/o late. Topden Lepcha and Samten Lepcha.  Only three houses are under construction at Chandey at present.

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