Rehabilitation for Victims of the Himalayan Tsunami Remains Slow

Dec 30th, 2013 | By | Category: Disaster and Emergency, Flood, News

The Himalayan Tsunami, as it has been described, brought with it massive loss of lives, property, crops and infrastructure.

The state believes its development clock heads been set back by many years.

SFX: Village voices

KRISHNAN: For five months, Gauri Lal, a small farmer has been looking for work. He lost his house and his half acre of farmland which was washed away during the flash floods in this pretty state of Uttarakhand.

Agricultural land of small and marginal farmers like Gauri Lal in 156 villages across the hill state were destroyed by the June calamity. There already has been a migration of marginal farmers in the last couple of months amid dwindling returns. But given the circumstances it might trigger a further exodus.

GAURI LAL: IN LANGUAGE WITH VOICEOVER: I got little or no compensation from the government. They gave me just Rs 15,000 which I refused. When I have lost everything, what do I do? The government has not been helpful.

State authorities have just about scratched the surface of the problem. The task of reconstruction is uphill.

SFX: Mules with bells strung across their necks

Many remote hamlets have been rendered inaccessible as a result of the cloud burst.

Ghudiya Devi, 29, lives in Deoli-Banigram village of Rudraprayag district. This rural community has now earned the tag of the ‘village of widows’. As many as 34 women lost their husbands here in the rapidly flowing silt laden rivers that turn into a ravaging force of destruction.

DEVI: GAURI LAL: IN LANGUAGE WITH TRANSLATION: He has gone I don’t know where he has gone. He used to work as mule operator in the temple town of Kedarnath. I lost my brother-in-law also.

KRISHNAN: All the women share the same fate. Besides living in abject poverty, they now look after their children and in some cases aged in-laws.

The losses are enormous. With many highways damaged, bridges and roads washed away, electricity and phone networks down, several ravaged places continue to be in a bad way.

Jaya Iyer, a conservationist who has worked in Uttarakhand explains.

IYER: Administratively and politically there has been complete denial. There has been a complete block out of the reality that has happened. There is no response to what is happening today. In many places, villages are falling off, there are big landslides happening, roads, fields, schools continue to be eroded because it is not a flash flood in which water came and washed away things, it was actually mountains crumbling.

KRISHNAN: The state has distributed millions of rupees by cheque to families where deaths or injuries occurred and to those who lost houses or commercial establishments. But it also knows that there is much more to do.

Being a popular pilgrimage site because of its holy temples, the tragedy has shaken many.

Rakesh Tiwari is the sub-divisional magistrate of Ukhimath, one of the state’s worst-hit areas.

TIWARI: IN LANGUAGE WITH ENGLISH VOICEOVER: We used to have 15,000 pilgrims visiting the state but this is not possible now because people are scared now. It will take some time. The authorities are working and this is a beautiful state. It will limp back to normalcy.

KRISHNAN: Some believe the current destruction and human misery is largely man-made. Rampant and even unauthorized building activities on the river flood plains in the Himalayas have allowed the disaster potential of high intensity rainfall in the state to increase manifold.

Ms Iyer again.

IYER: We have not learnt any lessons and around the points we can learn – a very serious look at the geographical conditions of the mountains, the seismic conditions all across the four temples, the tunnels in the fragile mountains, we need to seriously consider the way we build roads, the way we understand connectivity, the mechanized connectivity which is not suitable for those geographical areas.

KRISHNAN: The floods have caused such damage that the state is not expected to fully recover from the impact for at least a few years, if not more. Unplanned development in the hills could lead to further damage.

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