Two months ago, Dhan Bahadur Gurung, who was living in the integrated settlement for earthquake victims built by the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) in Gupsipakha, Laprak, returned to his old settlement citing water problems at the new one.
The integrated settlement was built for 601 earthquake-displaced families in ward 4 of Dharche Rural Municipality. The site is about a 30-minute walk away from the old settlement of Laprak which was destroyed by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2015.
Gupsipakha was chosen for resettlement of the quake-displaced families after geologists declared the old settlement uninhabitable.
However, according to Dhan Bahadur, only 50 families took up permanent residence at the integrated settlement after the survivors found the new structures wanting in structural integrity.
“Since our old village had become uninhabitable, we moved into the new house,” said Dhan Bahadur. “But during the winter months, it becomes very difficult to live there. We can deal with the cold but it’s difficult to live without water supply.”
The residents of the integrated settlement have to go to Rinjuling settlement, Dharche Rural Municipality-4, to fetch water. “We have to spend two hours standing in a queue for a bucket of water,” said Dhan Bahadur.
The water supply to Gupsipakha has been disrupted since mid-December.
Water is supplied to the integrated settlement from Bhulmechet spring originating in Charachunungi mountain, about 3,760 metres above sea level. The Drinking Water and Sanitation Division Office, Gorkha, in coordination with various social organisations and donor agencies, had initiated the project in 2017. It was completed at a cost of Rs60 million and inaugurated in November 2020.
Iron pipes have been laid covering an area of around 19 km from the Bhumlechet spring to the integrated settlement. Extreme cold weather conditions lead to pipe bursts disrupting water supply, says Suka Bahadur Gurung, chairman of the Bhumlechet Drinking Water and Sanitation Consumers Committee.
“We can’t even repair the pipeline because of extreme cold. Even if we do replace the iron pipes with new ones, they too will burst,” said Suka Bahadur. “We have been told that water pipes have burst in several places like Kalkharka and Syangbara Kharka.”
According to him, the local unit has not released a budget for repair or replacement work for the pipeline. “But even if we had the money to replace the pipes, it would be impossible to do so before April or May,” said Suka Bahadur.
As an alternative to the current water supply project, the committee plans to connect the supply lines to another project located in Tyayatapuk Kharka, about nine kilometres from the settlement. “The Detailed Project Report for that has been prepared but we don’t know when we can begin work,” he said.
For the residents of the integrated settlement, waiting for the new water supply project is not an option, Dhan Bahadur said. “It could take months or even years for the new plan to materialise,” he said. “It’s impossible to live in those circumstances, that’s why we moved back to our old village.”