By GYANU ADHIKARI:
Five-hundred Nepalis returned home on Saturday, after being rescued from the flood-hit Uttarakhand region, with tales of havoc and survival. The number of those missing, though, is still on the rise. On Saturday, the Nepalese Embassy in Delhi registered hundreds of names of individuals reported missing by their families, according to Kantipur Daily.
“Some were swept away. Others died of altitude-sickness and cold. We walked through the jungle with nothing to eat for days, surviving on the few airdropped biscuit packets we found,” said Bhagiram Budhathoki of Salyan district, speaking to the BBC. “Whatever we were left with, the locals robbed us of.” The BBC reported that there were up to 20,000 Nepalis — pilgrims and workers — in Uttarakhand when the floods struck.
The Mahakali divide
The impact of the floods was significant in Nepal too. The Mahakali had ripped through Khalanga on Monday, causing floods and landslides that destroyed hundreds of houses and displaced over two thousand in the country’s western districts, particularly Darchula, reported the local media. Another major river, Karnali, inundated the flatlands of Bardiya and Kailali. The two rivers have, together, claimed at least thirty lives.
The government’s response has struck many survivors as “insulting” — they have been given a few sacks of rice after having lost property worth millions. The Nepal government has enhanced the assistance package to include Rs.35,000 per family and pledged Rs.50 crore for the reconstruction of areas in Darchula.
Locals and politicians, including the Darchula district administrator and members of the Nepali Congress, have accused India of opening the floodgates of the Dhauliganga hydro project in Uttarakhand without having alerted Nepal. The Dhauliganga meets the Mahakali before it reaches Darchula and has a 70-meter-high dam with a full electricity generation capacity of 280 MW.
Nepal’s Foreign Secretary said on Friday that the sensitive issue was duly conveyed to the Indian side and immediately pursued at the diplomatic level. The Indian embassy in Kathmandu, however, sought to clarify on Friday that the question of India releasing the dam water simply did not arise as Dhauliganga was a “small run-of-the-river project based on a small reservoir” that had ceased operating on June 16.
Locals and officials claim the flood has been one of the biggest in decades and has altered Darchula physically and psychologically.
“Every time it rains, we come out of the house,” a local said to the Republica, “We live in a constant fear of floods.”
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