Four months after the devastating earthquake of 25 April, 2015 Thame Valley locals have been rapidly constructing shelters through the monsoon before the onset of autumn. Most families are making rough, one-story, one-room saam homes out of salvaged rock, timber, and other materials.
Reconstruction of even the most basic shelter is hampered by a multitude of constraints. The Thame Valley is suffering from an acute shortage of skilled labor. The demands of reconstructing so many homes, including their own, quickly overwhelmed the few local skilled masons and craftsmen from the Thame region. People are now relying on construction crews hired from other areas. However, the skill level and quality of the work varies considerably. These builders also have little knowledge of earthquake-safe construction methods, and are rebuilding with exactly the same techniques as before.
As always, any additional building materials must be carried for hours up the Thame Valley from the nearest market in Namche Bazaar. The supply of essential items like corrugated iron and timber planks is unpredictable, and prices have inflated since the earthquake because of high demand throughout Nepal’s affected areas and the lack of road access to the Khumbu region. For a bag of cement to arrive in Thame, it must first be flown from Kathmandu to Lukla or Syangboche, then carried by pack animals up the valley. At this point it can cost ten times the price in Kathmandu.
Heavy rains and constant fog during the summer monsoon season has made construction – attempted under the cover of tarpaulins - extremely difficult, but families have no option other than try to rebuild a livable structure as quickly as possible. In Thame Valley’s high-altitude climate, the bitter winter cold and winds will set in by November. Many households will also be facing the difficulty of storing their food supplies and housing livestock over the winter, as the small, one-story saam shelters they are building do not have the traditional lower floor space where potatoes and animals are usually kept.
Community-level structures like the school, community centers and hostels, monastery, stupas/chortens, and bridges are still awaiting repair and reconstruction. Parts of the local Thame School have been patched for use as a Temporary Learning Centre, but it requires a complete rebuild and a new dormitory. Likewise the community centers used for festivals, training and other gatherings have been destroyed, and the monks’ hostel has been rendered unusable. The only bridge to one of the worst-affected villages, Yullajung, is fundamentally unstable and perched over whitewater.
The Thame Sherpa Heritage Fund is now working to design and rebuild community-level structures, and provide improved earthquake-safe construction knowledge in the Thame Valley. We need your support! To contribute to our efforts, please visit www.ThameSherpaFund.org.