M A I N   N E W S

Choglamsar rising from the rubble
Despite little aid, life has moved on and only a few survivors now talk about the tragedy
Jupinderjit Singh writes from Choglamsar

July 19
Eleven months after it bore the hardest impact of the last year’s cloudburst tragedy, Choglamsar presents a blend of destruction, reconstruction and new construction.

The confluence point of two turbulent streams of mud and water, one from Leh town, situated uphill, and the second from Saboo village, situated nearly 30 km away, Choglamsar presented a sorry picture of mud, rocks and ravaged houses after the cloudburst took place on August 5-6 night.

Picking up the threads

Tsering Dolkar and her daughter StensinTsering Dolkar and her husband Labzang Tsering’s fortunes were washed away by the cloudburst last year. They owned a large house of 10 rooms and 11 shops. Today, they live in a two-room house along with their two children. And only three of their 11 shops have been reconstructed. Dolkar says they carried out the reconstruction with their savings.

Tsering Dolkar and her daughter Stensin

Today, remnants of the destruction remain, but a considerable amount of reconstruction has also taken place. Many new houses and shops are also being built.

But there are many persons who have no money to repair their shops and these remain as nature’s fury left them on that ill-fated night - broken, with twisted shutters and full of mud.

As one enters the village, one can see the thick wall of mud that had reduced the four-lane stretch of the Leh-Manali Road to one lane. In these 11 months, the stretch has been cleared at most places.

An illegal colony, right at the entrance of the village that suffered the brunt, is being dismantled gradually by the survivors. As the colony was constructed without approval on the bed of a seasonal rivulet, the Leh administration has asked the ones who survived to move to Solar Colony. And they are taking along whatever they could salvage - wooden planks, stones, wooden beams and windows.

People here have got the promised compensation, but they need more. The persons, whose house was damaged, got Rs 2.42 lakh. Shop owners got Rs 1 lakh per shop. But those who were operating from rented shops did not get anything for the stock that had been kept in the shop.

Sonam Choral, who runs a grocery store in the main market, said, “As I had taken the shop on rent, I did not get a single penny. We reconstructed it on our own. The only good part is that the rent was not hiked this year. No one can pay more.”

In the opposite lane, a long row of shops lies abandoned. “No one will take these on rent. The mud has been cleared, but rainwater can enter anytime. A little amount of water did a few days ago.”

The streams of muddy water swept away the fortunes of Tsering Dolkar and her husband Labzang Tsering. They owned a large house of 10 rooms and 11 shops in a row.

Today, they live in a two-room house along with their two children. And only three of their 11 shops has been reconstructed. “We did it with our savings,” Dolkar said.

Solar Colony, where the cloudburst-hit families were kept in tents and later provided pre-fabricated one-room houses by a private company, is a picture of hope. Almost all residents are adding rooms, built in traditional Ladakhi style (using large stones and mud), to the pre-fabricated ones.

Another major problem is that there are less than 10 bathrooms and toilets for over 750 residents. Long queues can be seen outside these. “The alternative is to relieve ourselves in the open.”

Deputy Commissioner Tersing Angshok said the administration was aware of the problem, “We have asked for money from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.”





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