Voices from Dhungentar

Dhungentar locals share their post-earthquake adversities, fears, hopes for the future, and experiences with ICIMOD’s earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation project.

“I asked for a solar lamp. They said they couldn’t give me one because my house isn’t within the project area. I have land in that area, and I’ve leased it to Dalits. You know, I can see Dhungentar from here. I can see their houses being built. I see them being given things. I’ve visited their homes. They were chosen because they’re Dalits, weren’t they? Well, the same earthquake hit us too. And we’re poor too. But I have to make my house on my own. With help from the government, of course. But the people from the project could give us some things too—we’re living right next door. Maybe a water drum. Or just a solar lamp.” 

- Laxmi Prasad Paderu, Chainpur (which falls outside the project area)

“I remember the 1990 (1934 AD) earthquake. It seemed like the earth spun towards the sky. It made everything dance. And it took everything with it—there was nothing left. The recent earthquake wasn’t as bad. But my house was flattened again. I had to struggle once again to build a new house. My youngest son helped me because he lives with me, but the rest don’t even visit me … I don’t know. That’s life. People go away, things are taken away. And it hurts. It pains me when I look at the new house. I had to sell my buffalo for it. I cry every time I see that the grass has grown wild in my field. I’m still living in my shed because I can’t move into the new house till I perform a puja. It’s ok though. I’m nearing 100, I think. I’m not scared of earthquakes. I’ve been through enough. I’ll be gone soon anyway.”

- Kanchhi Maya Tamang, Karamfedi

"My sewing machine was damaged during the earthquake. I got by the past few years tying a stick to prop it up, but last month the wheel stopped working. I need to take it to its hospital! I can’t really afford its repair. I didn’t have anything to build my life after the earthquake. People around me started rebuilding, but I just felt hopeless. The people from the project kept telling me to build my house. But I didn’t feel I could do anything. They persisted. After I recently received compensation for my old, damaged house that was demolished for road expansion, I used it to buy new land. Then I requested the project to help build a new home. It will be good to have a new roof over my head. But I don’t know what I’ll do about my machine. I’m hoping something turns up."
- Hari Pariyar, Archale

“We weren’t prepared for the earthquake. The project built my house. I couldn’t put much money into it. I didn’t help in the construction either because I was working as a mason in Battar. I get better pay there. We agreed to rebuild our house using the blocks offered by the project because we couldn’t afford an RCC house and we don’t have enough land. But the blocks seem to be solid, even though they were produced right here in the village. They use a lot of rods, so the house must be strong. The construction work is complete, but I don’t have money right now to add the doors and windows. Wood is expensive! And Dashain is coming. Even if I work on the doors and windows myself, I’ll only be able to get them when I get the third grant instalment.”

- Bharat Sunar, Archale

"I was one of the first ones to build my shelter in Archale. But Archale was so inaccessible then; it was so difficult to get here, let alone bring in construction materials. During monsoon, the path was very slippery and we couldn’t cross the stream. On bad days, my husband couldn’t get to work and our children couldn’t go to school. We struggled to complete our house. But it was necessary. It was much, much easier for people who made their shelters after the trail from Archale to Dhand was constructed. It’s even better now with the bridge over the stream. It’s very, very easy now. I can’t believe we used to struggle to get to places."
- Santa Sunar, Archale

“Before the Aamasamuha (Mothers’ Group), there was no formal women’s group for anything. We have common problems but we’ve never organised to tackle them together. I’ve been attending the Aamasamuha meetings regularly because we try to work on things that help us all. We’ve been regularly cleaning the village. We’ve helped out in construction activities. We even contribute 100 rupees to a savings fund every month. We’ve come together in a way women haven’t done before. That really makes me happy. I hope it continues. I really do. But then the men have been allowing us to do this because the project has helped us organise. I’m not sure how things will continue after the project is complete. We want to continue, but there’s bound to be resistance. For example, we’ve been discussing how we can deal with alcoholism and gambling in the village. But men will be resistant to that idea. And naturally they’ll be opposed to our group.”
- Mamata Sunar, Mathillo Dhand

“When the project approached us for working as social mobilisers, we were uncertain about what we’d be able to do. But we were sure we wanted to contribute. We had been seeing houses being rebuilt and different development activities being conducted. As young locals affected by the earthquake, we wanted to be useful in whatever way. We help with procurement. We maintain records and inventories. We knock on doors and collect and give information. We’re part of this community, so we know the people. They know us. It’s easier to help and ask for help that way. We attended and helped organise trainings and learned how to participate in meetings. We began to speak up for the village. We’ve learned so much, and we hope we’ve done some good.”

- (Left–right) Bhawani B.K., Apsara B.K., Sarmila Sunar, and Samikshya B.K.

"I didn’t even know how to use a shovel when I went for the block production training. They said we should learn how to make these blocks and that we would get them for free to build our houses. So I went. We were mostly women there as the men were away working. In 20 days, I slowly learned about the process and about all the materials needed. Then for around two months, we made those blocks every day. It became quite easy after a point. We made up to 500–600 blocks a day. I was one of the faster ones there. The blocks you see in my house—I probably made them! Having been involved in the process, I think they’re quite strong. But who knows how strong the next earthquake will be!"
- Sunita Mijar, Ratamate

"I used to be away constantly for construction work. But after the earthquake struck and my little daughter was diagnosed with a heart condition, I wanted to work closer to home. I got the opportunity to work on the plastic tunnelling installed in the project’s model house. I was quite impressed with what you could do with it, so I was readying bamboos to construct my own. Then, as luck would have it, the project approached me. They said they’d help me in creating a modern farm in my land. But they also warned me that I would need to work hard. And so I did. You have to slog if you want something to be good, don’t you? We started with a plastic tunnel, we kept adding new systems, and now we’ve got something the whole village can learn from. They come to me for advice now! And I tell them what I’ve learned: you need to care for each sapling like you would your children—like everything depended on it. And you need to learn from learned people and work hard. Anything will grow then."
- Hira Lal Sunar, Mathillo Dhand

“I built this watermill around 20 years ago for an alternative source of income. It worked pretty well, but I didn’t use it regularly while I was working as a mason. When the earthquake struck, my house and the mill both collapsed. It went a bit downhill for me from there. I’m not on the best of terms with my son and his family, and my wife lives with them. It was hard rebuilding my house, even with help from the project. I’ve stopped masonry and the little land I have is not really suitable for farming right now. But we’ve made improvements to the watermill, and I may finally have something to depend on. It grinds grain much faster now. Villagers come to me with barley, wheat, maize, and I get a portion of the final product. The watermill will help for at least six months or so every year. For the rest of the year, I’ll figure something out.” 
- Ram Bahadur Mijar, Ratamate 

"The old, rickety shed we used for work was bound to collapse. We later built a makeshift shed, but it will give in too. So we are improving the shed now. It will be sturdier and neater. We’ll add machines and tools too. It will be better. You know, our forefathers used to fan flames using animal skin. We used to use a manual machine. Now we have an electric machine! Things are relatively easier these days, but it’s still a difficult craft. It’s hard labour, among flames and metal, throughout the year. My father taught me metal work, and his father taught him, but our children did not want to continue. They say it’s too hard. My son works in Kathmandu as a goldsmith. It’s ok … He does well there. If he decides to continue the tradition when he comes back, things will definitely be easier than it used to be for us and our fathers."
- Gopi Lal Sunar, Mathillo Dhand

“So many locals approach me these days to recharge their mobile phone account or pay their monthly TV charges. People used to go all the way to Battar for these services; it takes almost 2 hours if you walk. I provide e-Sewa services here as a vendor, and they’re all happy they can get work done here. Oh it’s quite easy to do: you have an account that you have to log into, just like Facebook. Then you recharge whatever you need. Of course, the internet connection here is very unreliable, so that affects business. But hopefully things improve with time. I’m not sure if people know about all the things you can do online to make things easier. With time the village will become more used to this. We can slowly introduce online payments for water, electricity, travel … Then everyone can use this service, and that will be good business for me too!” 
- Samikshya B.K. (pictured with an e-Sewa employee), Archale