Villagers live in cow sheds, tents even as severe winters approach
“We live like calves inside these cow sheds,” Manish Kumar, a resident of Chandrapuri village said while pointing towards the cow sheds in the village that are now inhabited by the villagers.
Around 72 kilometres (km) from Kedarnath, the village, which is in Rudraprayag district, was hit by flash-floods on June 16 and 17. Fifty-seven houses in the village got destroyed from the gush that entered the valley and within a few hours the space earlier occupied by residential buildings got bulldozed over by the Mandakini River.
More than six months after the disaster, many villagers reside in cow sheds and few others in tents.
Landless labourers and daily wage workers reside in the village where severe winters now approach.
While Kundan Lal, another resident of the village, prepares fire for the night, he is joined by seven other family members, all of whom live in two tents. The family has rotated between five villages post-disaster.
Though the district administration paid them money for rent but the bridge over the Mandakini River that passes beside the village got swept away during the disaster. Mr Lal said, “We had to live in tents as there were not enough houses in the village.”
Of the 3,100 buildings that were completely destroyed across the State in the mid-June deluge, 2,410 buildings are in rural areas.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna had earlier announced that the disaster-affected would be shifted to individual residences before winters set in but not much work regarding housing can be spotted in any of the disaster-hit areas across the State.
Survey of land which is geologically safe to construct buildings is going on in Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Pithoragarh, and Bageshwar districts, which were hit by the disaster.
While the State government is still working on housing issues, in Chandrapuri some private organisations are providing the villagers capital for the villagers to be able to construct houses.
Fifteen km from Chandrapuri towards Kedarnath is Simi village. In the village, land is sinking as a result of the mid-June disaster.
Parvati Devi, a resident of Simi village whose hotel got completely destroyed due to land sinking said, “Land started sinking after the June 16-17 deluge. The Mandakini River kept eroding the river banks and after four days my hotel crumbled down completely.”
At present, 16 buildings in the village have completely collapsed as a result of land sinking due to continuous erosion by the river.
Ironically, in the village, a partially destroyed house, a tin shed, and a tent can be spotted at the same premise. To add to the irony, all these are placed on a land which is sinking and will sooner or later be destroyed in landslips.
The housing policy formulated to cater to the rehabilitation work in the State incorporates the construction of 3,100 buildings which were completely destroyed in the disaster.
Under the policy the people whose houses got completely destroyed have been given an option to choose between prefabricated houses or ‘owner-driven’ constructed houses.
The people can either opt for prefabricated houses or build their houses themselves for which the government will provide them Rs 5 lakh per house.
Of the 3,100 houses, around 2,500 will be constructed under the State government’s supervision. The rest will be built either by some non-government organisations or some corporate sector firms.
More than 2,000 people have opted for owner driven construction. The number of people who have opted for prefabricated houses is around 130.
The 2,500 houses being constructed under State government’s supervision are being funded by the World Bank (WB). The Secretary of Public Works Department (PWD), Amit Singh Negi, said that as a WB requirement the owner driven houses should be constructed in safe zones.
Work on owner driven construction has not begun more than six months after the disaster.
Mr Negi said, “The owner-driven construction sites are in remote areas. Geologists have been inspecting the sites for almost a month now. The housing policy has been approved. We will start sending the money for people to construct their houses as soon as the geologists send their reports.”
According to Mr Negi the formalities will be completed by January 2014 after which people can start constructing their houses.