13 years after snowstorm, Waltengo residents await reconstruction of houses

Incomplete houses at Waltengo Nard, Kulgam. —Excelsior/Sajad Dar
Incomplete houses at Waltengo Nard, Kulgam. —Excelsior/Sajad Dar

Suhail Bhat
Srinagar, Jan 14: More than 13 years after snowstorm devastated Waltengo Nard, a tribal hamlet, in South Kashmir’s Kulgam District, the residents who were hit by the disaster are awaiting reconstruction of their damaged houses.
In 2005, a snowstorm shrouded the entire Waltengo Nard hamlet, leaving 158 entombed in their homes and several others injured. More than 200 houses were swept away by the storm and at least, 1000 residents were displaced.
However, the Government’s preparations for and response to the natural disaster was woefully inadequate as they could neither predict the disaster nor reconstruct the damaged houses during stipulated time.
Mohammad Shafi Cheechi, 45, lamented that Government promised them construction of 128 houses within one year but they failed to deliver.  “Thirteen years have passed and the Government has only managed to built half the number of houses here, leaving a vast population homeless,” he said, adding for last 13 years the residents are roaming like nomads. He said that 54 houses are yet to be constructed and these families are desperately waiting for it.
Rashid Ahmad, a resident of Nard, said that the storm snatched his home and he has been living in a rented accommodation since then. “I lost my house and cattle in the storm. I work very hard to make my ends meet. In order to pay for the rent I have to put in extra effort. Government has failed to deliver on their promises,” he added.
Deputy Commissioner Kulgam, Talat Parvez, when contacted said there were some financial issues in the project for the current financial year and the matter has already been  taken up with the Department of the Finance. “It halted the construction of 12 hutments. But the issue has been already addressed and we have directed the Rural Development Department to resume the work,” he said.
He said 68 houses are complete and 12 are under construction while 44 houses are yet to be constructed. “The locals demand that they should be relocated to a new place and that delayed the completion of the project. The new place has already been identified and the process of land acquisition has also started. Nearly five kanals of land has been identified at the desired place of locals,” he said.


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