Letter from colleague in the second earthquake in Nepal

After the Nepal earthquake, my colleague Rajeev Goyal sent a letter describing the devastation in his country and the urgent need for tarpaulins. Following yesterday’s second quake, Rajeev sent through this note to colleagues at ITC describing the situation and need for money to provide food and shelter.

13th May 2015, Nepal

Dear Colleagues

Yesterday, we experienced another massive earthquake that was 7.3 in magnitude, with the epicenter 80 KM northeast of Kathmandu. The village of Charikot in Dolakha district to the north of Kathmandu experienced heavy loss of life. Many buildings which were already cracked have now collapsed in the valley. Our team was on an overnight mission distributing tarps in Birta Deurali and Kartike Deurali villages (see attached pictures from yesterday), 5 hours east of Kathmandu, close to the epicenter, when it occurred. We are all fine, but worried for all the people who lost their homes last night. The building where we were having a community meeting shook violently before cracking down the middle as we all ran out. Across the way, in Ramechap district we witnessed a huge landslide which impacted a community by the riverbed, burying homes and livestock. Last night we awoke multiple times due to heavy aftershocks and even now the ground is trembling.

Delivering tarpaulins to earthquake affected villages in Nepal

Delivering tarpaulins to earthquake affected villages in Nepal

The following video which I took the day after the first earthquake now has 100,000 views on facebook. Young female leaders like Sharada Tamang are emerging by the day in rural Nepal to challenge the slow pace and inefficacy of the relief effort:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzwjU-UfLwA

This 2nd earthquake has exacerbated challenges for the relief effort, but not altered our strategy, which remains to distribute as fast as possible high-grade (170 gsm) double-ply waterproof tarps before the monsoon sets in to help prevent outbreak of waterborne diseases. Even beyond the homes that have crumbled, those with large cracks deemed uninhabitable are basically just as unfortunate because they will all have to be demolished. Yet those whose home did not completely crumble, we are finding, are being neglected in the relief effort. Thus, we are on a blitz to deliver 10,000 tarps to the 28,000 families in Kavre who either lost their house entirely or had their homes damaged to the point where they cannot be inhabited. In the long-term our team is exploring setting up a training academy in Nepal to teach environmental, earthquake-proof housing construction methods to youth which would involve bamboo, wood and rammed earth technology. This will be absolutely critical as many rural populations will otherwise rebuild their homes exactly as before. The intervention has to be quick and strategic so a part of our team led by Priyanka is already keeping one eye on the long-term strategy.

In a few weeks it will be the monsoon, where the real after-effects of this earthquake will be suffered, particularly by the Dalit and Tamang communities who we are finding are being neglected in the distribution of aid. These communities are also being left out of relief committees at the local level so we have been forming our own women-led relief teams. Many of the mountains where we are working are composed of red clay, and become incredibly dangerous sludge with the rains, which will make ground transport nearly impossible to the rural regions. We are therefore on this blitz to beat the monsoon using a fleet of vehicles and also now helicopters with support from the Nepal government and private companies such as Yeti Airlines. Each day we have 5- trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles on standby, but getting tarps has been difficult. Today, we have a large supply of 3,200 tarps arriving from Delhi and expect one more for 4,000 tomorrow from Allahabad. We have already distributed over 3,000 tarps, shovels, sledgehammers, hard hats, gum boots, and also food and medicine in over 40 villages. You can track our progress on our new website (please also add me on Facebook as well if you’d like more frequent updates): www.kavreearthquake.org

We have raised $400,000 so far and already spent about half of it. Any tarps which come in are immediately sent out so that we are not warehousing them. We go directly to the communities ourselves and put the tarps in people’s hands, as we have found the VDCs are hanging onto them and not distributing them due to fear of conflicts.  The tarp is critical because in many cases 50-60 people are under a single tarp. In some cases, people are sleeping in their cow shed or chicken coop enhancing risk of disease.

We are all volunteers committed at least till the end of June for the acute relief, and every dollar is being accounted for and tracked. We have brought on a human rights lawyer and an accountant to make sure we are following all domestic procedures and laws even during this complex time. In the end we will produce a report as to what we achieved. Many of you have asked how to contribute and I’d like to strongly recommend the Phul Maya Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) registered charity with an all-volunteer board based in Vermont which has been implementing education and sustainability projects in eastern Nepal for more than 10 years. Our board recently voted to fully support the relief effort and longer term reconstruction:

Phulmaya Foundation
PO BOX 1169
MONTPELIER VT 05601-1169

United States VSECU (Vermont State Employees Credit Union), Montpelier, Vermont

Account Number: 100563683
ABA Routing Number: 211691185

I have also attached here an appeal we sent out on May 2nd, for global assistance. Thank you so much to those who wrote such kind supportive notes.

Finally those of us who have been working for a long time in Nepal see the earthquake as the opportunity to kindle a new generation of fiery young leaders in the country. It is also the opportunity to regenerate rural Nepal with environmentally sustainable, innovative approaches to rural planning. We hope to grasp this opportunity now.

Thanks for your concern.

Rajeev

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