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Cracks trigger slide fear, flight of villagers

Kalimpong, Aug. 10: A section of families at Lower Poshyore and the adjacent Tashiding have left their homes and are living in temporary tents in a nearby village after cracks appeared on the land in some parts of their area, triggering fears of landslides in the event of heavy rains.

Over 100 villagers, including women and children, have been living at the makeshift tents they have put up on forestland at 2nd Mile along Reshi Road since Friday evening.

“We decided to move out of our villages on our own after we noticed cracks on land in our area. There is a real sense of fear that the land has become unstable and landslide could occur any time, especially if there is heavy rain,” said Amar Rai, a resident of Lower Poshyore.

While Lower Poshyore is in Kalimpong panchayat, Tashiding itself is a panchayat.

Some people go back to their villages during daytime to provide fodder to cows and goats and tend their farmland.

“We have received no help from from the administration. Some panchayat officials came to make enquiries and scolded us for leaving our houses when no landslide had taken place,” said Rajen Giri, another villager.

The two villages where cracks appeared are around 8km from Kalimpong town. Thirty-nine families from both the places have shifted to the temporary tents, 4km away. There are still a handful of families, which continue to live in Lower Poshyore and Tashiding.

Most of the residents of the two villages are either small time farmers or do odd jobs in the area and Kalimpong town.Bimalendu Das, the block development officer of Kalimpong Block I under which the two villages fall, said no relief material had been distributed as there had been no landslide in the area. “If the villagers approach us, we can try and put them in temporary relief centres like primary schools. However, finding space to accommodate so many of them will take time,” he said.

Told that the villagers had not left their homes because of the fear of landslide, Das said the basis of their apprehension would have to be verified.

Praful Rao, the president of Save The Hills, the KalImpong-based NGO which works on landslide issues, said he had toured the two villages yesterday and there were signs of subsidence everywhere.

“The landslide problem of Poshyore and Chivvo (a village above Poshyore) are known to most people. The two villages are located on a hillock overlooking the Teesta and many jhoras that flow through the area have been causing erosion,” he said.

Till such time that areas are declared totally safe, the villagers don’t want to move back. “We would want the administration to resettle us on a safe land elsewhere,” said Rai.