Kashmir Earthquake Relief Project

LAND DEVASTATED...
In the early hours on October 8th 2005 thousands of people in regions in Pakistan and India awoke to the horror of the massive earthquake that struck without a warning. Muzaffarabad in Pakistan and Kupwara and Budgam districts in India on the Indo-Pakistan border were severely affected. As news of the earthquake, transmitted through Pakistan airwaves first reached people, the extent of the damage and destruction and equally important became apparent on a wide scale..

While the facts and figures were pouring in, it was evident that relief operations at some level had begun with the Indian Army posted in the rocky terrain being quick to reach the affected people. However, it was also clear that Relief operations would be hampered by the terrain, weather conditions and the damage caused to roads and overall movement. According to the initial reports, the major casualties were cattle but the immediate task was to search and save people who had been struck and injured by the disaster. The government machinery had started moving but the overriding question was whether it could reach remote or inaccessible a areas in time.

The Survey

Charkha responded to this situation in a quick and spontaneous way. The sole objective was to organize some relief to reach people who need it for survival. This sentiment was echoed by Charkha’s Kashmir coordinator, Hamraz . The Charkha Kashmir Relief Programme was borne out of this shared sentiment and the desire to take action. This coordination between Hamraz and Charkha became the basis of the entire operation in the upper regions of Kashmir. While Charkha office in Delhi sent out an Appeal to a wide circle of friends and supporters, Hamraz and his team of five people, moving more on instinct than by plan, set off to the affected sites to assess the situation.

 

Being locals, this team had the advantage of knowing the terrain and connecting with the people immediately. Hamraz’s NGO ‘Naya Kashmir Hamraz Social Service Club’ based in Badran Magam in Budgam district has been involved with self help groups for community development and promotion of socially relevant messages through traditional performing arts. Their journey which took them to several of the affected areas over four days was tough and circuitous. The route covered Tangdhar tehsil in Kupwara district and Beerwa and Khag tehsils in Budgam district.

The journey in Kupwara took the team through a number of villages including Halmatpura Dadchak, Panjwa Veelgaon and Kralpura where the land and its people lay ravaged. Scenes of death, destruction, lack of food and other basic amenities marked the entire journey. People abandoning their destroyed buildings, were living out in the open in the bitter cold with sometimes nothing more to eat than some ears of corn which was roasted on wood.

 

The sense of fear and anxiety was palpable with relief work not being adequate. In this situation, there were some points of hope and humanity. People were grateful for the efforts of Abdul Majid Khanday, Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara. Yet this seemed to be a drop in the ocean. Hamraz and his team were given food and shelter by people who talked candidly to the team which recorded the interactions on a video camera. A special mention needs to be made of Abdul Ahadwani a wireless operator of the Police Department, stationed at Tangdhar where Hamraz and his team got a respite from the cold and hunger. At ‘Sadhna Top’ which remains below freezing point nearly throughout the year at the height of 14714 feet above sea level, the tremors had caused the water in the mountain streams to change colours and was unfit for drinking leaving the local population with no option than to quench their thirst with this concoction. After crossing village Chamkot, the journey culminated at Dragad the last village, beyond which there was no human habitation.

The second leg of the journey took the team to Budgam district where they passed through a number of villages including Kahnhama, Watmagam, Hanjibugh, Makhma Badran, Palpura, Magam, Hingh, Gumboora, Surish, Hanjiwara. Charkha office had been in touch with Hamraz throughout the process . The video footage of the the journey in Kupwara and Budgam was combined to create a full record of the trip and was sent to Char kha.

This completed the ‘Survey’ phase which was the basis of organizing Charkha’s action plan for reaching relief to the quake struck people. Based on what they saw and heard by directly interacting with people in the affected areas, the team evolved a process for the Relief work.

The Survey phase led to a planned intervention which would ensure speedy distribution of essential items according to people’s needs. The work had to be done amongst many odds. It was imperative that items reach the affected people in the shortest time possible in view of the deteriorating weather patterns and the conditions of roads . The possibility of tremors and after shocks needed to be factored in and the logistics of purchase, transport, distribution and delivery had to be planned accordingly.
Local women facing a grim scenario
Project Coordinator Hamraz during Survey of affected regions

Based on the Survey findings, 104 families in Kupwara district was identified as the ones most needing this Relief. A list of essential commodities was made into a Relief Kit including Rice, Dal(lentils), Tarpaulin, Thermocol sheets, Tea, Cooking Oil, Pressure Cooker, Blankets bales of cloth, utensils and Woollen clothing (Phirans). The quantities were estimated to be sufficient for a family of four for a period of four months.

In Budgam district the needs were different. Here the people did not require food and other items of daily use. Their need was tin sheets and thermocol sheets to build temporary shelters in the freezing temperatures of a typical Kashmir winter. 42 families were identified , some were from Baramullah district.


                                                              
 

 
 
 

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