Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Floods! The Floods!

welcome to the monsoon on the hills outside of kathmandu!

there was massive flooding on the w/end in upper budhanilkantha. i didn't realize what had happened until i took leah to the bus stop on monday morning. although coming out of our gate i did wonder why there was so much debris on the road in front of our home. but, it was only when i began walking up the hill that i realized that something wicked had happened during the night.

the first sign was about 2-3' of the main road that had been washed away just a few hundred feet above our turn-off. the whole side for about 30'++ disappeared when the wall below broke and left a gutter of about 3-4' deep which had been the road before. if it keeps raining in september and october, then more of the main road may slip down that hill toward the temple by the river, as well... even now the lincoln bus doesn't go past our lane due to the damage to the main road.

as i walked uphill alot of villagers were gathered by the temple in the river, where the 'khola' (river) had surrounded the huge bamboo clumps and washed down both sides -- not to mention taking out the dirt road heading north above the bridge along that 'stream'.

but it was only when i got to the top of the road, by the vipassana center, at the far end of keno's land that i saw the devastation that had happened that night.

actually that river is really usually just a stream, as you know. however, there must have been a serious landslide above or a new underground river broke through up on shivapuri ridge. there was debris 20' on both sides of the stream bed. in fact, the stream had risen higher than 8' up on the beautiful large bamboo by the stream, leaving debris well above my head!

then, i walked down what had previously been a trail, but now was just a river gorge w/ no sign of the trail that we had always walked in the past. to may amazement, there were huge 6' boulders in the stream that hadn't been there before.

as i walked down, mouth slightly agape at the power of this once gentle stream, i saw that 40' of keno's lovely 10' high brick wall was gone. the stream that had become a river had moved inside his land somehow in the night. then, needing a route back downhill, broke through his well-constructed wall -- leaving no sign of the thousands of bricks anywhere in sight! just destruction. the new local water tap that had been built by the stream was smashed and broken. part of the cement base was overturned and in the expanded river bed. that new cement house that the water entrepeneurs had erected by the 'khola' lost its room closest to the river with debris piled as high as the structure itself. the water simply poured down with an amazing, relentless power.

then, as i walked down to binod choudhary's a-frame home in the upper budhanilkantha village, i realized why steve and penny told me (when i called them a few minutes earlier to ask if they'd seen the destruction...) that they hadn't been able to make it up through the debris in the village. what had been the paved road through the village and behind tashi's to the ridge above where swami is planning to build some homes, was completely gone. nada. nothing. goneski.

where there were modest stretches of the road left, the water course was three feet below with the muddy river swirling in delight as if to say that it was never going to give up this newfound urgent path down the hill. ever. never. no.

as i approached, i saw that 20' of binod's large wall along the road was gone. stretches of his sharp-edged metal gilding on the top of his wall was a couple hundred feet further down the stream smashed and crumpled from the power of the water, boulders and debris. quite impressive, as long as it wasn't your wall and iron protective railing. nearby there were individual family water pipes twisted and turned into free-form pretzels with slews of electrical cable tossed amid the piles of wood and tree trunks that had come down in the landslide and torrent through the night.

groups of people were standing around in a daze just looking at the damage done. sadly, one 15 year old tamang girl up the hillside had died that night when her house collapsed and they couldn't get her to the hospital in time. fortunately few other homes had collapsed. although a few vehicles that were parked on the road had sunk in the muck and been smashed by debris and looked unlikely to start without a major overhaul -- if ever.

clearly, this local road isn't going to be repaired easily or only by the community themselves. today, the kind-hearted local guruji who lives on the main road with the peepul tree in his yard told me that they estimated that it would take 3 crore (30 million rupees/$500,000) to fix all of the damage. not exactly spare change for the folks up here.

fortunately, the torrent of water (think of the arno river behind the enigmatic smile of ms. mona lisa) turned back into the earlier main river bed just by the monastery and followed the curve of the land below an around lisa choegyal's home, thus avoiding any serious damage down our way. part of the river did go past the gompa (monastery) and then took a left and then a right straight up to gunnar's front gate, where a few feet of debris was piled -- but that was the only modest evidence of the serious damage done above in the village.

as we have said before: never under-estimate the power of the himalaya, particularly the monsoon waters that pour off these massive hills...

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