Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Nepalese earthquake, which resulted in the death of over 8,000 people and widespread destruction in affected areas.
One year on from the magnitude 7.8 quake, and life has been changed beyond recognition for those who have lost family members, homes and livelihoods due to the disaster. Impatience and unhappiness is growing towards the government, however there is also a sense of resignation amongst the Nepalese who have come to expect very little from the powers that be.
“My community wants to know when we can rebuild,” Mira Bajracharya told us in her grocery shop in Shankhu. “When the earthquake happened, I was in my shop. I walked out and buildings were collapsing around me. I still think a bigger earthquake is going to happen. I don’t know what can be done, but I’m afraid.So many people have lost houses here – there is a road where they used to be. Five people died in the house next door to me. It’s hard to get used to.”
The rebuilding of destroyed homes is causing massive worry for those impacted by the earthquake. Over half a million homes were destroyed but a handful have been repaired. Very few of the victims have received compensation to construct, while foreign aid remains in the hands of the government.
Monsoon season is coming up now, with shelters made from corrugated iron and wood having to withstand torrential rain from June to August. They weren’t created for this purpose, but it appears that these makeshift structures may withstand many more monsoons to come.
We ask Mira what it was like to live in the shelter during the winter: “Don’t talk to me about it,” was her response. “All I want is a new home that I can feel safe in.
“But I still worry that a bigger earthquake is coming, even worse than the last one.”
Another major earthquake in Nepal could spell huge disaster, especially with many homes not capable of withstanding tremors – unless you can afford to build to certain specifications.
Governance and corruption is a huge issue here, not to mention child trafficking which has surged since the earthquake. A recent investigation discovered that some Nepalese children were being sold in the UK, while we also heard stories of child labourers being plucked from their hard-pressed families to work in Kathmandu.
Then there was the unofficial blockade imposed by India in September 2015, in protest of the Nepal’s new constitution which was believed to discriminate against those of Indian descent living in the country. Fuel imports came to a halt from September to December, causing a major shortage and driving the black market trade. Though the blockade has ended, the Nepalese are terrified of it happening again and with some spending hours queuing to buy back-up fuel. Indeed, amid rubble that still hasn’t been cleared in Kathmandu, it was a sad sight to behold.
During our visit to Nepal, we were in awe of the country’s beauty and its people, who have been so badly let down. What they need is decisive action and a strong government working in the interest of its people, which frustratingly seems beyond the realms of possibility here. Unfortunately, we can only wait in hope that on the next anniversary of the quake, there will see some improvement.
Aisling Hussey is a journalist with the Irish Farmers Journal. She was funded through the winter 2015 round of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to travel to Nepal to explore the effects of last year’s devastating earthquake on the country’s farming industry. Her first article was published in the IFJ in March 2016 and her second in April 2016. Aisling also produced a podcast and video while on assignment.