Villagers who use the market to sell their products say they are finding it difficult to sell their products elsewhere 

Housing: The evacuees of the Saprang bazaar flood who have been occupying the Sunday vegetable shed, have just one more day to vacate the market.

Almost three weeks after the July 19 flood washed away Sarpang bazaar requiring them to be evacuated to the vegetable market, they are now required to move again.

The evacuees, comprising of 20 shopkeepers, are worried as they have not been able to find alternative homes.

Living in the vegetable sheds without electricity and proper drinking water supply has not been easy.

The evacuees have managed with candles and kerosene lamps. They also obtained drinking water from a nearby spring when the water provided by the dzongkhag administration ran out.

At least eight shopkeepers have also stored their belongings at a Food Corporation of Bhutan warehouse in Helay.

While a few shopkeepers have already have found a flat for rent nearby, many are still looking for a place to move in to. Some have gone as far as Gelephu to find accommodation but to no avail.

One of the victims, Choden Drukpa, had owned 1.6 acres of land at the old bazaar and had lived there for ages. Now that it has been washed away she has nowhere else to go. She has found a two-bedroom flat above the vegetable shed for Nu 4,000 a month. “I’ll be here for the timebeing until we’ve a new town,” she said.

For shopkeeper, Chogyal Wangdi, he has neither found accommodation nor the means to go back to his village in Trashigang. For the last 20 years he ran a shop in the bazaar. “We just have one more day and I have no idea where will I take my nine-member family,” he said. “We’re thankful that we were given a place to live during the disaster.”

While finding a house in Sarpang taar or Helay is difficult, people are not able to move out of Sarpang because their children attend schools in the area. There is also no place for them to build temporary makeshift huts. Chogyal Wangdi has three school-attending children living with him.

For Leki Sherpa, she has the option to go back to her village in Muga, which is about a three-hour drive from Sarpang but she cannot. She has been living in Sarpang for the last three decades so that her children can attend school. She now has three grandchildren living with her and attending the Sarpang lower secondary school.

For the last five years she was also attending to her husband who is ill; taking him to the hospital and looking after him at home. “I’ll have to withdraw my grandchildren from school if I don’t find a place to live here. Renting a flat is beyond my means,” she said. “I’ve not been able to think of anything as of yet.”

Other shopkeepers are worried about repaying bank loans that they availed to expand their shops. Goods are yet to be sold and they have moved into their relative’s or friend’s places nearby.

For instance, Ratna Bahadur Gurung has to repay the Bhutan Development Bank Ltd Nu 150,000. It was just a few days after availing the loan, that the flood washed his shop away. “Where do I sell the goods, the wholesaler will not accept it back,” he said. “The shop was my only source of income.”

However, shopkeepers and evacuees are grateful to the dzongkhag administration, Royal Bhutan Army, Royal Bhutan Police, Desuups and other volunteers who helped them evacuate on time and, therefore, saved their lives and belongings.

More so, the victims are grateful that the dzongkhag administration gave them a place to live during the disaster. But they are worried if they will be able to move out by the deadline.

“It isn’t healthy living here with children as well as adults falling ill. We’ve to move out one day but where do we go,” one of the evacuees said. “I’m worried if our lives will ever be normal again.”

It is following complaints from villagers and other residents of Sarpang that the evacuees have been asked to vacate the vegetable sheds. The town tshogpa, Karma Tshering, said the evacuees were told to find places to move to, one week after the flood.

He added that there were complaints from vegetable vendors, who are mostly villagers, that they were finding it difficult to sell their products away from the vegetable sheds.  “The place of meeting of vegetable vendors and vegetable buyers, mostly civil servants is disconnected,” he said. “Moreover how long can they continue to live in the vegetable shed.”

Meanwhile, it has been learnt that the dzongkhag administration has not been informed of the decision.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Sarpang