With the onset of monsoon across the country, mountains and hills, rattled by the April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks, have become more prone to landslides. Conditions of areas surrounding Tatopani, is growing worse day by day as the cracked mountains continue to give into the incessant monsoon rainfall.
The road stretch between Chaku to Liping Bazaar is full of landslides and very risky to drive through. The road that connects China and Nepal has been the backbone of trade between both nations, but transportation through it, still remains an impossible endeavor to take.
The area has been epicenter to many aftershocks and this has weakened its geological structure and integrity. It was seriously damaged with the April 26 and May 12 aftershocks. Faults had appeared on boulders, land stretches were split and a number of dry landslides were trigged during the aftershocks and in the aftermath. Though, these had subsided with the decreasing frequency of the aftershocks lately, continuous rainfall in the cracked area, have made it more prone to landslides.
Sludge like landslides has been flowing down the Tatopani, Kodari and Liping Bazaar. The debris brought along by the landslides has accumulated along the road in many places. Mud and clay is deposited in homes and the river is floating against its course, at some places even on the road itself. The houses that were spared by the quake now face serious threats from the landslides.
Over 3000 Larcha and Liping residents of the area were evacuated following the May 12 aftershock and were relocated in make shift tents in Kathmandu. The latest landslide fear has seriously dashed off their hope to get back home.
Government offices and officials have been relocated and their presence in the area is next to zero. The revenue collection customs counter at Tatopani, now operates from Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA). Security personals and their bases have been moved. Nepal Police and Armed Police Force have been migrated to Chaukidanda in search of safe location. The Immigration Office that carried out all the tasks of administration in the region has been shifted to Dhulikhel. The animal and agriculture quarantine center has been abandoned.
The Miteri Bridge that connects both the nations has been padlocked. The busy commercial town of Khasa Bazaar remains empty and closed since the past three months. Billions worth Nepali traders’ assets are in danger. 430 consignment containers are stuck on the Chinese side. Efforts of Nepali businessmen to clear the landslides and start the transportation have failed to bear fruit due to the fresh landslides, almost every day “With the commerce going down in Tatopani, Nepali traders have started facing hardships,” Arjun Sapkota, a Khasa based trader said while elaborating on the impact of quake and the most recent landslides on the business.
Tatopani is the major economic transit between both the countries. Annually above 20 trillion rupees worth trade is carried out through this corridor that earns around 5 trillion rupees in revenue for the nation. The trade is important for Nepalese with poor family finances as the merchandise is specially targeted at this particular class of people. Due to their relative cheaper prices and easy availability, the Chinese goods play an important role in sustaining the livelihood of a major portion of the Nepali population.
Damage assessment report of the area by government has listed it as high risk zone. Along with the earlier mentioned settlements, residents of Yamarsi and Dugunu have also abandoned their settlements in search for safer location. The entire area has been deserted. “The national economic hub has fallen”, said Bishnu Shrestha, Customs Officer of Tatopani, who now works from the TIA office.
Considering the magnanimity of the quake in this region, and the ongoing damages from the landslide, the future of the area and its locals remains uncertain. “The region is on the verge of becoming a thing of past. Hope that doesn’t happen,” Bed Bahadur Shrestha, a local said. As of now, no one can answer the fate of this area.