Saturday, March 14, 2009

From The Telegraph on14Mar2009 (Sindebung coverage)

Landslide fear stalks hill village
Kalimpong, March 13: Seventeen families in Sindebong have been displaced by landslides in the past three years and are yet to be rehabilitated. Fifteen more families fear they may suffer the same fate.
The displacements have taken place mostly in Bhameygaon in the Sindebong gram panchayat: result of landslides that started in the nineties. “The disaster may happen every year as there is hardly any effort to check the calamity. Not only that, a major part of Kalimpong town is likely to be affected by the slides,” said Praful Rao, the president of Save The Hills, an NGO working on landslides.
Bhameygaon is only 5km from Kalimpong town.
Dilip Bhujel, who had once lived in Bhameygaon, claimed that a Geological Survey of India study in 2006 had said the landslides, if unchecked, would wreck havoc across 524 hectares hitting right up to Dr Graham’s Homes atop the hill. “Ten villages fall in the gram panchayat area. This means 788 families are at risk. Since then, we have been spending sleepless nights,” said Bhujel, who shifted to Gairigaon, 1.5km from the landslide-hit zone, out of fear.
Gopal Chhetri, who lost his house and 0.1 acre of land in the landslide of 2007, has been staying with his family under a shed on property owned by another villager. “We are yet to receive any help from the government. I somehow make ends meet by working as a day labourer. Now even my neighbour wants me to look for another place,” said the 57-year-old. His neighbour, Tek Bahadur Thapa, too, lost an equal area of land the same year.
Save The Hills is making a documentary to highlight the landslides in Sindebong. “Lack of drainage, coupled with a large number of jhoras (small streams) criss-crossing the area, is the cause of landslides. These jhoras have neither been widened nor strengthened,” said Rao.
Officials of the Kalimpong block I — Sindebong gram panchayat falls under it — said they were too tied up with election-related work to look up the records of the relief provided to the affected villagers. “We will let you know the statistics later,” one of them said.
Having failed to move the authorities, the villagers are now hoping for divine intervention. “Three years ago, we set up a devi (goddess) mandir near the landslide-hit zone in the hope that she will protect us from the danger,” said Bhujel.
Comment by Praful Rao
STH members visited Sindebung (our third visit) in pursuance of our annual program - to make a video on the landslide hazards in this area. Many affected people were interviewed and the landslide areas filmed. On completion the video will be sent to the National/ State Disaster Management Authorities as well local govt officials in charge of Disaster Management.

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