After the earthquake

After the earthquake

It’s been a year now and do you see any changes since the earthquake? If you go to the rural areas, nothing much has changed. So let me give you my insights on the 2 episodes of  +Al Jazeera English  +101 East, Al Jazeera about the earthquake as reported by Mr. +Chan Tau Chou.

Jigme ‘The Hero’ Sherpa

The way to make a difference is by taking responsibility and this is exactly what Jigme Sherpa, a school teacher, also a Teach For Nepal Fellow, did to make sure that the villagers of Sindhupalchowk had a roof to sleep under and did not have to starve to death.

The April 25, 2015 earthquake left the central and western regions of Nepal devastated. People didn’t just lose homes; they also lost their family, friends and much hope. In such dire circumstances, we needed heroes who would help us rise from the rubble, those who would stand strong to selflessly serve those in need and Jigme Sherpa took responsibility of keeping the people of his village safe. Whatever he has done to make sure people do not have hungry bellies and hope to carry on after such devastation is nothing less than phenomenal.

Jigme had friends like the family who helped him in his expedition and was able to bring relief materials to the people of Sindhupalchowk. Doesn’t it bring a smile to our face when you see the effort of an ordinary person bring such big impacts to lives of other ordinary men like us?

There are more people that have not received as much credit or recognition for serving their countrymen at times when they needed the most, but we know that we have many heroes like him among us. At times like these, we need people to step up and there are many of us who did, whose efforts mattered, whose efforts saved lives and we are all thankful for that.

Also, let us not forget the efforts of Radio Nepal, Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force for their contribution at the time of the earthquake. They were the real heroes too.

The painful waiting

When villages looked like a war zone and circumstances turned it into deserts, trucks of supplies in government vehicles fizzed passed the villagers very own eyes, but no government bodies arrived to help. If it wasn’t for the enthusiastic individual groups of youth, NGO’s and INGO’s, there would have been more post-earthquake casualties. What was going on?

We have been saying this for many years and the only conclusion we can come up with is that the government is not stable and still not ready to make an impact. There is nothing they can be proud of and take pride of with confidence. $4.1 billion in donations and the devastated villages still look the same, if any different with more people suffering from the aftermath and traumas of the earthquake. By the way this winter, people shivered to death. Situations are still dire and people still need assistance.

It has been a year already and do we see any change? Not really. Nepalis live in wretched conditions a year after the earthquake. Last time I went out of the valley, the rubble looked untouched. It looks okayish inside the valley beside the heritage site, but it’s probably only because we got used to seeing it every day. People are still constructing big buildings and it’s not appealing, but rather scary. Above all, everything that was constructed after the earthquake were temporary, temporary schools; temporary shelter; temporary health posts;  temporary toilets. There's no way they were meant to last and has anything been done to repair, rebuild or restore the conditions?

The Rebuilding 

Looking at The World Heritage Sites inside the valley makes me miserable. There it goes, some of my precious childhood memories and I have no idea what they’re going to do about it. Perhaps I’m being pessimistic, but I don’t see how they’ll revive the vibrant beauty of the fallen temples and palaces. If they do reconstruct, I hope they engineer it well enough to withstand major earthquakes and at the same resurrect the beauty of the structures so that it reflects our rich ancestral history.

The government says that the new buildings being built must follow earthquake safety standards and most Nepalese who are building houses on their own have absolutely no idea what those standards are. So if it’s a long-term thing, we know that we need to decentralise from Kathmandu because this city is a concrete jungle with way too many compact houses. The city wasn’t planned properly in the first place and the capital seems most vulnerable if an earthquake was to strike again.

Seriously speaking, I’m still paranoid about another great disaster to follow, especially knowing something is going terribly wrong all around the world. We need to rebuild, but I don’t think we should risk making any more tall buildings or buildings without the best engineering and materials. I see absolutely no change in people's mentality. We’re back to where we started, all lazy and ignorant.

Money, it’s killing people

The only thing I know is how much the unofficial blockade has made us suffer. It was just another opportunity for unethical people to earn money illegally. I bet they’re glad about it.

You could give all your excuses about how the blockade caused all the delay, but the only conclusion is that the government has been inefficient. It could have been so much better. Everything was so poorly planned, from housing to utilities. Dr. Govinda KC says he has his master plan of free medical education, but all I have to say is it’s a loss to the country if money is the reason we don’t have more doctors. Isn’t education a basic need? Isn’t everyone supposed to have the rights to study? If we want our country to progress anytime sooner, the government needs to give youths the opportunities to start on their own.

Like Plato said, all politicians need to be philosophers. Change does not come from the government, it comes from the people. Give the funds and support to those who want to and can develop the country. I don’t care who rebuilds our country because I’ve certainly stopped trusting politicians. Haven’t we all? 

How frustrated are the doctors

It’s a race against time and as Dr. Govinda KC says, victims would have to compromise their limbs. We’ve got big problems with everything being centralised. There are still people who need medical assistance and health camps might have been free in the beginning, but now medical bills are hard to bear for people like Uddhav Paudel who is just one of the victims who lost pretty much everything. Many people are still homeless and I hope they're staying strong because it is very painful to live a life after the loss of loved ones.

One thing is for certain that politicians really prefer expensive cars. I wonder how many lives would have been saved if we had invested in the medical sector of our country before the earthquake or continued to provide free medical assistance after the earthquake. As for now, the health conditions of rural earthquake hit areas are pathetic with doctors still operating in temporary health camps. We are tired of complaining. We’re so frustrated of bitching about how the government hasn’t done anything and I'm tired of hearing no good stories but the phrase “chaldai cha”  from the resilient people who have suffered so much and have been provided little or no assistance. Tossing a $100 doesn't solves everything.

I’ve seen Sindhupalchowk and it’s horrible. I don’t see any positive changes and I bet the people still living in temporary shelters have little hope of any positive changes to come to their life. Don’t make people commit suicide even after they’ve survived after so much suffering. Give them hope, let there be light, and give them a reason to live. Be a government we can trust.

How do we the youths fix the country?

The big question is, where is the involvement of youths in making the rules of the country? Where is the involvement of youths at all?

The people involved in politics are too damn old. We youths might be rolling all day and partying all night, but we have a dream to make our country great once again. The answer lies in the next generation. Don’t let smartphones kill the next batch of countries leaders. Give us a clear sign that says that youth can get involved, because we are more than willing to repair the damage.

Well, I don’t watch the news because it’s the same worthless blabbering about who broke a chair in the parliament or hearing the word “sahamati huna pugena” and the same no conclusion by the end of the day. So dear government, if you cannot do it on your own, we’re always here to help. We might be immature, but we are the future of the country and the burden of rebuilding the country is piling onto us anyway. How long do we have to wait so that we can be involved? The next election in 5 years maybe?

Before it gets worse, know that many of us have been studying but have not been able to contribute as much as we are willing to develop the country. We want to reach out to all those who need help because bringing a smile to someone's face is priceless.

We know that we are one of the most resilient people on this planet, but we don’t need to suffer like this anymore. 2072 must be the worst year in Nepal’s recent history, but it was not all about the earthquake, it was also about how the hunger for power and dependence on an unheeding government has cost our country dearly.

I don’t want another civil war or get involved too much in politics. I just know that no matter how many ministers there are, youths still have their part to play. Right now, our country needs us more than ever.

Writer: Abish Shakya
Follow me on Twitter: @abishakya

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