RASHMI OBEROI | 18 AUGUST, 2018
A Cry For Help
A call that reverberates through the hills
Transcended beauty. The clear blue skies beyond… Quaint villages… And complete silence… The idyllic natural beauty of the hills beckon us all at some point or the other.
Kuling, a tiny village situated in the foothills of the Garhwal Mountains of the mighty Himalayas is en route a popular trekking road to Roopkund. The high altitude lake attracts visitors by the hundreds. Kuling stands out because of the beautifully sculpted terraces by the local villagers in the flanks of the rolling hills. The colourful crops being grown add to the splendour and charm.
In all this magnificence, there are unfortunately problems due to the remoteness of the location. Issues related to health and sanitation stand out but nature can be far more lethal at times. Natural calamities can cause destruction through loss of life or property leaving economic damage in its wake. The severity often depends on the affected population’s resilience or the ability to recover due to the infrastructure available. This poses a huge challenge.
Now, the small village of Kuling with a mere population of 300 people is on the verge of disappearance. Last month, a cloudburst hit the area, triggering flash floods, flattening houses and washing away bridges. The villagers live in fear and trepidation as they have been given no outside assistance at all. The heavy monsoon rain wreaked havoc, cutting off the villagers from other towns.
A large swathe of agriculture land has been washed away at Kuling village, and the earth has caved in dangerously at some locations. With houses collapsing or developing wide cracks in them, a spell of rain heightens the anxiety of the villagers. The situation is grim due to the land caving in and people losing their main source of income.
The huge cloudburst in the Chamoli district caused a massive landslide that hit Kuling the worst. The landslide took away the only bridge that connected the villagers of Kuling to the main village of the area, Lohajung, and the rest of the world. The roads were broken and blocked by huge boulders. The roads are in such a bad condition that it has turned into rivers.
The villagers of Kuling, fear their lives every single day. A lot of the villagers have lost their fields. Their houses have developed cracks which have led them to move up near the road and live in tents. Others houses have got flooded, pushing them to resort to emergency solutions, like sharing their room with their neighbours or relatives. At such times, the government must take immediate steps to help. Makeshift bridges have been made by the locals themselves to move to and fro as the stock of basic necessities have started to dwindle.
During this period the schools were still running. However, on 20th of July the principle wrote a letter to close down the school. In the letter he explained that due to the landslide that had occurred on the 15th of July, it had become increasingly difficult for the students to reach the school. The emergence of huge cracks on the way and the landslide slowly taking away the land near the school made it extremely dangerous to continue the proceedings of school.
The kids are quite afraid of the situation of their villages, their houses and their school, “The storm has taken away the bridge. Every night, we are sacred to sleep as water is slowly entering our houses. The cracks have reached 3 people’s houses, and is slowly moving upwards. The fields are breaking off every day,” explains one kid from the Junior Government School of Kuling in fear.
As usual, there has been no help from outside and media coverage on this incident is very sporadic since this village is remotely located. Action is required urgently, as the basic food products are running out. Families are now starting to contemplate a move to other villages. Even though the villagers had made a temporary wooden bridge to reach their village, they are still struggling for their day to day existence. There is a severe food and water shortage. The village elders confirmed that they had never seen such a landslide in their lifetime before. The government apparently has started to react albeit slowly but it is not enough.
A group of youngsters, as part of the Green Trails Initiative of Indiahikes, have been working in Kuling during the past few months. They have been teaching environmental studies in the school and developing a project around waste management. Due to this, they have been in the thick of the situation and aware of the circumstances first-hand. They realised that they needed to take immediate action. And so the cry for help… a call that reverberates through the hills. You can reach out to the team through Instagram #greentrails.
“It is not just the village that is in danger but the people who live there as well.”