Rod and Deb went to Tawal for three days (25-28 October) shortly after arriving. We wanted to get an updated assessment of their situation following Rod’s visit in June. The five hour jeep part of the trip was terrible as the road is ungraded and barely useable.

The photos could not prepare Deb for the extent of the destruction. We could not help breaking down at the sight of the school and health clinic being demolished as what was left is unsafe for children to be around. The tents and bamboo temporary classrooms are okay for monsoon but will be hopeless in the winter. Our small welcoming party were very kind and we think they felt just as bad as we did – we wish we could express what we feel in words.

All the people from Tawal, and some people from other villagers who feel unsafe, are living in three different locations now as no-one can be sure that they are safe from landslides. Many large rocks as big as cars came down in the monsoon so people are wary. The temporary settlements resemble refugee camps (but of course not the experience).The roofing iron is being used in ingenious ways – roofs, walls, combined with other materials, especially bamboo matting. The 60 kg of rice is just running out now for those with small families but the crops of millet are now ready for harvest. It was sad to see memorial gravesites (ashes buried) on the side of the path to Richet for people who died, for example, a mother and her two children was just one such site.

We spent time catching up with people, including some who lost loved ones (eg Mika and mother whose head injury is much improved but still grieving for parents and small daughter) and meeting with the HRDC and walked three and a half hours to Richet to assess the school situation there. Main points/issues from our visit include:

• Risk assessment is the top priority for everyone as landslide danger is not known.
• Tawal school and health clinic look to be in danger and highly likely will need to be relocated
• HRDC now have a copy of the earthquake resistant rebuilding guidelines developed by Rara and Marie.
• Richet school needs engineering or architect assessment before decision could be made on rebuild or repair. Keeping it in the rebuild category for now (subsequently confirmed by architect that rebuilding will be needed but at least some stonework and other materials from previous school will be able to be reused, reducing the cost of the rebuild).
• Richet villagers are living in two locations a long way from one another – half went to a camp near the main town of Dhading Besi due to landslide danger (5 hours drive and 4 hours walk away). 40 of 95 families that normally live in Richet remained in the village during the monsoon.
• People of all ages continue to make bamboo baskets to get some income.
• A number of villages are involved in World Food program ‘Food for Work’ program where they receive rice and dhal in exchange for labour eg trail repair and construction of a helipad at Tawal. Once signed up all villagers must participate.
• Health clinic workers are operating out of church which has been partially repaired.
• Despite the hardship everyone seems to be supporting one another and feeling that things will improve in time, if only a geotechnical assessment can be made.
• Rod, Kanchha and other HRDC members met with Chief District Officer in Dhading to enquire about likelihood of government assessment of Ri area – told ‘new Rules and Regulations will be coming within the month’ and ‘if the people are staying in the area, then it is probably safe’. Not very encouraging. His office colleagues laughed at his quip, but not villagers’ representatives who had travelled down to meet with him.
• Kanchha came back to Kathmandu with us to meet Sabin architect and meet with an engineering firm who may be available to do a geo-technical assessment of the area. Took back a video on rebuilding techniques and a donated computer plus internet ‘dongle’ so he can now show villagers some of the principles of earthquake resistant building.
• We met with all but three of the Tawal school FEAT students – they were home for Dashain to help their families.
• We have arranged to meet with French NGO in RI area to see about possible partnership (fingers and toes crossed)

Rod, Ross, and Sabin have been meeting with Dept of Education officials to discuss and implement process of making MOUs for rebuilding all the NAFA supported schools. It’s quite complex and it looks like the costs are going to be substantially higher than we are used to e.g over $10,000 per classroom compared to $5,000-$6,000 per classroom in the past.

Rod, Deb, Kalpana Kaphle and Raul (Smile Back to Me, Spain) are heading back to Tawal 23 November for 6 days. A second report will follow.
Deb and Rod
21 November 2015