SUNSARI AND BANKE, 25 July (IRIN) - Flood victims in two of Nepal's flood-prone districts, Sunsari and Banke, located in the far eastern and western regions of the country, accuse both the government and international relief agencies of neglecting their plight.
In Sunsari district's Mahendranagar village, nearly 700 km east of the capital Kathmandu, dozens of families have lost their homes and farmlands due to recent flooding in the second week of July from the Saptakosi River, after it eroded nearly 2 km of land. Almost 200,000 sq metres of agricultural land has been completely wiped out, residents told IRIN.
"We lost everything. My family is still hoping to get support but we have waited for too long," Menuka Rai, a 35-year-old mother of six young children said, who lost nearly 697 sq metres of her farm, a house and five months worth of food grains. Her neighbour, 65-year-old Lila Maya Rai's story was much the same.
She lost her home and almost 300 sq metres of her land two weeks ago. Both families are now living in makeshift huts on their neighbour's land near the forest but it too is in danger of being washed away as land erosion in the area continues.
According to the Kosi Flood Victims Group, a community-based committee, nearly 300 families are at risk of losing their lands and houses to flooding. Every year, hundreds of families - particularly in the three village development committees (VDCs) of Mahendranagar, Prakashpur and Bharaul - are affected by floods when monsoon rains begin in July and end in September.
The group says that nearly 5,000 families were affected over the past few years in the three VDCs.
"All I have is the legal papers for my land, but where is my land?" asked 55-year-old Dhanbahadur Poudel, who saw his 745 sq metres of land washed away. Now his eight family members are living in very difficult circumstances without any income, food or shelter.
The victims are now blaming the authorities for not acting on time to take preventive measures despite their knowledge that the Saptakosi River had been rising and diverting towards their villages.
"With the current rate of increase in the water flow, our villages will be in more danger of destruction by mid-August," explained Amar Bahadur Karki of the group.
The government's Department of Water Inducted Disaster Prevention (DWIDP) has started to install steel wire meshes over the land, but villagers are skeptical that it will be enough to prevent further disaster.
Local experts say that the government needs at least 5,000 steel wire meshes to prevent further erosion. But the division office of DWIDP said that it had been able to supply only 1,400 meshes.
"If we had all the supplies during the winters as we had demanded, there wouldn't have been such a big problem," added Karki, who explained that once the water from the Saptakosi shifts about 300 metres east, a two metre high river will flow down and destroy several villages of the district in less than a month.
So far, local residents are facing the problem alone and complain of little outside support. "The government is being quite callous and negligent towards the situation. At risk are the people and our lands," Ashok Thapa from the group said.
Despite visits and inspection by government engineers, there has been no implementation of disaster control measures, the villagers said. "We have no choice but to wait for the flood to destroy our villages. No one seems too bothered," said Thapa. "Everyone's waiting for the disaster to take place and then maybe they might take steps," he added.
In the Banke district, about 700 km west of Kathmandu, over 50 houses and farms were destroyed in the VCDS of Betahani, Gangapu, Matehiya, Fatehpur and Kanchanpur. Moreover, local villagers believe the disaster will be much worse this year, with concerns that nearly 1,000 families could be at risk.
During the second week of July, even after dozens of houses were destroyed and families displaced, local residents complain no relief from any organisation was forthcoming. Despite the meeting held by the District Relief Committee, there was no offer of compensation for homeless flood victims. But the security unit and administration officials said that the problem was not big enough to alarm relief organisations.
Meanwhile, locals explain that the indifference on part of the government officials has also led to ignorance by the NGOs and international relief organisations, but the victims who are homeless are desperate for help.
"Please find a way to convince the government to send us relief materials," said one of the homeless victims. "Isn't this the time when the government should be helping us?" he asked.
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