Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nepal Earthquake Support - Report on a Visit to Sundara Devi VDC



THE VILLAGES OF KAAULE AND BHANGERI  

At the very outset, I would like to thank all the donors who have opened their hearts and  contributed for the South Col Relief Fund for these two villages in Nuwakot district.   All our donors are individuals and we have been able to raise US $20,000 till  date. This is an incredible performance beyond my wildest imagination and the funds are being put to good use as you will see in the course of this post. 

LOCATION AND ROUTE
The red box below indicates the district of Nuwakot which is the area where these two villages are located. Kathmandu lies immediately south east of the red box.

The two adjacent villages of Kaaule and Bhangeri are located in the Sundara Devi VDC of Nuwakot district around 85 km from the capital Kathmandu. The road goes to a point around 7 km from the village from where there is a dirt track which is suitable for a Toyota Land Cruiser or similar four wheel drive vehicle. The two villages are up on the hill at an altitude of around 1800 metres with an excellent view into the valley below and the river. We went up in the Land Cruiser and came down on foot to a school from where we were ferried on a motor bike to a place called Battar near Trisuli Bazar. From here,  we were able to get a micro bus to Kathmandu. The journey took around five to six hours on an average both ways. The dirt track will in all probability become unusable for vehicles during the monsoon and then there would a problem of ferrying supplies up to the villages.

The maps below give the location of the region. Nuwakot district is circled in blue in the map  below which gives the most affected areas of the earthquake.  


Sundara Devi VDC is marked in red in the map below which shows the VDC’s of Nuwakot district (click the map below to enlarge).



AT THE VILLAGE


We reached the village around noon on May 22nd 2015 and found the villagers waiting for us near the old school building which had been damaged in the quake. We waited for the rest of the villagers to come and soon the crowd was about four hundred strong. 


 We were introduced by Santaman Tamang and the villagers presented us with khadas and garlands amidst a lot of cheering - it was quite embarrassing and something we were totally unprepared for. Then followed a round of speeches by the important people in the villages explaining the plans to rehabilitate the villages and our contribution and effort. Finally I spoke to the villagers in Hindi, as they would not be able to understand English – I mentioned quite clearly that our contribution was from individual donors not from an NGO or corporates and we would continue to help them to build their village as best as we could. After I completed my speech, Sharan also spoke in Hindi and mentioned that he would be working on a design using local materials at a  low cost to ensure that the permanent housing that would be built would be earthquake proof to the extent possible so that  the devastation and loss of life and property would be much less if another disaster was to take place. 













 This was followed by distribution of galvanised iron sheets (9 feet in length and around 30 inches in width) to some of the villagers from the funds provided by South Col.





PLANS FOR UTILISATION OF FUNDS RAISED BY SOUTH COL

In my first meeting with Santaman in Kathmandu on May 1st 2015, which was soon after the first earthquake, he had mentioned that the villages needed blankets, tarpaulin sheets and rice to provide immediate relief. Our first appeal had mentioned these items and we had also drawn up a budget for the same. 

However after May 1st 2015, Santaman was able to get some relief from for these items and so in consultation with the villagers, they decided to use the South Col funds to buy galvanised iron sheets which are zinc coated for housing. This was because the tarpaulins which they were using were not likely to last very long especially with the monsoons around the corner. These iron sheets would be used initially as temporary shelters to be built by the villagers themselves. Once the monsoon was over and the construction of the permanent housing starts, the same sheets could be used for the roofing of the permanent houses. This is the present plan for the village using the funds provided by South Col and has been explained to the villagers.

FUNDS NEEDED FOR ROOFING FOR AROUND 200 HOUSES IN TWO ADJACENT VILLAGES KAAULE AND BHANGERI

It has been estimated that each house will need two bundles of sheets (each bundle has 8 sheets of around 9 ft by 30 inches) so they will get 16 sheets each.

The cost of one bundle of 9 sheets is around NPR 6,500 or INR 4,063 or USD 65.

The target quantity needed is 200 houses x 2 bundles = 400 bundles x NPR 6500 = NPR 26 lacs or INR 16.25 lacs or USD 26,000.

South Col has so far raised INR 12.50 lacs or NPR 20 lacs or USD 20,000. There are some contributions in the pipeline which would be around USD 2,000 awaited from UK, USA, Australia, India etc. 

From the remittances made by us we received one bill for NPRS 9.03 lacs (USD 9030) for the first lot of sheets. On delivery of this first lot,  an order will be placed for the second lot and supplied accordingly. There is also a shortage of sheets in Nepal due to the high demand at present. There are apparently a few factories that make these sheets and all are working at full capacity. The Government of Nepal has asked these factories not to export these sheets to India at present but to deliver the full capacity to Nepal until this crisis is over. We will receive the subsequent bills once the sheets are supplied.

Hence, with the total South Col contribution at present,  we would be able to do around 170 houses or so. Santaman expects some further support from other donors around the world and so the immediate need for providing shelter through the monsoon months will be met. The framework to support the sheets would be made with the existing materials which are presently lying in the village. 

However, other than the housing for the villagers, the school for the children is also damaged and will need repairs. Presently the school benches are out in the field and school is taking place outdoors. This will not be possible once the rains start in mid June 2015.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

At present the villages have not received any support from the government though a fixed amount for every family has been promised. However, this amount is small and will not last long. It is my gut feeling that private donors and NGOs working on the ground will have to help villages like Kaaule, Bhangeri and so many others all across Nepal. 

TOUR OF THE TWO VILLAGES

After distributing some of the zinc sheets to the villagers, we took our sirdar Shyam Tamang and made a tour of the two villages. The photographs below will give an idea of the villages but we found that all the houses had sustained damage and most were on the ground.






 The houses were mainly built with mud and stone and these must have crumpled like a pack of cards. The villagers were mostly in shelters covered by tarpaulin – some of the broken houses were being used to store their belongings wrapped up in large cloth bundles. The cattle sheds with their tin roofs seemed to have suffered less damage and many of the buffaloes goats and chickens were still in the sheds. 




Some of the villagers had started working on re-building walls and repairing the damage to the extent possible. It was heart breaking to see the monastery at Bhangeri in total ruins with the statues of Buddha and Padmasambhava lying amidst the rubble. 




PLANS FOR PERMANENT HOUSING

Architect Ashish Sharan Lal who accompanied me on this visit has made a review of the existing materials available on site as well as the indigenous materials available in and  around the villages. He has also measured a house which was destroyed with the intention of creating a suitable prototype plan which could be possible in this village. Sharan will give an update on this once he is ready with his plans.




























=================
Sujoy Das
May 28th 2015


7 comments:

  1. Hi Sujoy, it is truly heartening to read your report as it demonstrates what individuals' goodwill when put together can achieve. I am glad that I could be a very small part of the effort that South Col has put into motion. I am sure that the hardy and resilient folk of Sundara and other villages of Nuwakot will pull through these difficult times with the help of people from around the world. Kudos for your architect friend Ashish for drawing up plans to build sustainable dwellings with local materials and congratulations to you for demonstrating complete transparency concerning how the aid funds are being used.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Aloke for your support - we hope that we will be able to do something for these unfortunate people

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  2. Great job. It may seem that it is a drop in the Ocean but drops of water that make an Ocean. If we all chip in, may be we could help the distressed people of Nepal. Hassan

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very nice report Sujoy. Glad to see that the money is being put to such good use :) Just to clarify the galvanised iron sheets will be used to construct the entire house (including the walls ?) and later on just as roofing for the permanent structures ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not sure if the sides of the temporary shelters will use the G I sheets but the roof for sure. We have asked them not to use nails or screws into the sheets so that these can be reused later on after the monsoon for the permanent homes.

      Delete
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