Having suffered from last year’s torrential rains, the residents of a village in Tajikistan’s Khatlon region still have not received compensation from the authorities.
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After heavy rains of May 16, 2018, dozens of houses and land plots of the Surkhob village in Khatlon region remained under water. This village is located 200 km south of the capital in Farkhor district.
The authorities of Farkhor district estimated the damage amounted to more than 3.8 million somoni (more than 400 thousand US dollars). With what regards the human losses, a 25-year-old resident of the village died. Despite a year had passed since that event, citizens have not yet received due compensation.
When CABAR.asia correspondent visited Surkhob village for the first time in August 2018, Nasrullo Valizoda, the First Deputy Chairman of Farkhor district promised that the houses will be fully built and provided to people before the next Tajikistan independence anniversary (celebrated on September 9). Valizoda noted that mudflow damaged 168 households in the village of Surkhob. The construction of a new house will require 74 thousand somoni (more than 7.8 thousand US dollars).
In five months, only the walls and partially the roof of the houses were built. Photo: CABAR.asia Despite the fact that the authorities promised the victims to rebuild their homes by early September 2018, during a second visit of CABAR.asia journalists to the village of Surkhob in October of the same year, the construction of houses was still not completed. In five months, only the walls and parts of the roofs were built.
Most of the houses had neither windows nor doors. The residents reported CABAR.asia that due to the lack of support from the local authorities, some people used bank loans to repair houses on their own.
Safaroi Tulaeva, a resident of Surkhob village says the local authorities ordered the Mosque of the 40th Anniversary of Farkhor District (name of the mosque – tr.) to build her a house, but the work was not fully completed.
“I was forced to take a loan of 4000 somoni (more than 420 dollars) in “Humo” MDO and repair the indoors. Not even a single room was built for us to be able to make it through the winter. The husband is disabled and cannot work. Prior to that, the former Farkhor district chairman Sulaimon Valizoda came and, bearing in mind the disability of my husband, promised us support. When the representatives of Arabistan (Saudi Arabia – ed.) Embassy came to see the construction, the authorities demonstrated my house, but no help assistance was provided.
When we call domullo (representative of the Mosque of the 40th Anniversary of Farkhor District – ed.), he says that he left work and the remaining rooms should be completed by the Department of Religion, Regulation of Traditions, Celebrations and Ceremonies of Farhor district Hukumat (local governing body). I was brought three windows, while all other windows are what was left from the previous construction. We were not given any financial support. They brought sand for screed coat, but the walls are already crumbling.”
The people complain that repair crews use salty sand from the hills nearby (construction of houses from this material is impossible) when screedcoating houses’ walls; this leads to cracks in walls appearing after the very first rain.
The Authorities Ordered Mullahs to Use Fitr to Restore Houses
In an interview to CABAR.asia, Khurshed Mirzoev, head of the Department of Religion of Farhor district, noted that the assistance was provided on the basis of a special letter from the Head of the Executive Office of the President and order of the Committee of Religion, Regulation of Traditions, Celebrations and Ceremonies.
– There was a special letter which defined which layer of the population is to receive the alms. Imam-khatibs, chairmen of mahalla committees and activist collected Fitr of Ramadan fasting month (a form of alms paid by Muslims at the end of holy month of Ramadan fasting – ed.) and directed it to imam-khatibs and mosques to restore the houses in Surkhob village, – said Khurshed Mirzoev.
Amonhuja Obidov, the chief imam-khatib of the Central Mosque of Farhor district previously reported CABAR.asia that the funds collected through Fitr were allocated for construction of housing.
– The reason domullo do not build the houses is the absence of funds. People no longer support us and when we speak on this subject during the sermons of Friday prayer, we hear insults. Think about it – how long will people help? Can we ask for anything else? – said Amonhuja Obidov.
Those with damages caused by mudflow complain about the behavior of some domullo obliged to build them houses. According to them, domullo do not answer their phone calls.
Mohpari Naimova, an affected by the mudflow resident of the village, complains about the lack of assistance from the people in charge: “The workers arrived, constructed the foundation for my house and said that if we do not pay them, they will bring a tractor and destroy my house. Those domullo obliged to rebuild our house, did not pay a visit in a long time. We were brought 25 bags of cement, 10 wooden boards, a carload of large and small gravel. We were also given 500 somoni (53 US dollars) to pay for the services of workers engaged in the preparation of cement mortar. Also, the mosque “Darkad” provided us with an assistance in the amount of 1800 somoni (190 us dollars) to purchase tin sheets,” says Mohpari Naimova.However, according to her, it is impossible to rebuild the house with these funds.
Rushanbi Odinaeva. Photo: CABAR.asia Rushanbi Odinaeva, another resident of Surkhob village, says that in accordance with the promises of the people in charge, the Department of Education of Farkhor district had to build her 3 rooms and a corridor. Odinaeva noted that her family had a house of five rooms, which was completely destroyed.– The representatives of Khatlon region and Farkhor district hukumats arrived, saw everything, but they do not provide aid. In the first days after the destruction of our houses, a person from the Department of Education of Farkhor district arrived; he brought planks and rubble. I took credits of 5000 somoni (530 US dollars) form one bank, and 8000 somoni (845 us dollars) from another, and now I build my house myself, – stated Odinaeva.
She is concerned about the quality of work done by the builders, as the foundation they have constructed already has cracks in it.
– They tell us they no longer have the opportunity to help – we either accept what they give us either get nothing. We put up a tent ourselves, we were not even given a tent. We spent all days on the street like dogs, and at night, we had no place to spend the night. All our things were flooded, we did not even have food to eat, – said Odinaeva.
Gazanshoh Safarzoda, the former Head of Department of Education of Farkhor district, admitted he was responsible for building a house for Rushanbi Odinaeva: “Having dismantled Farkhor School No. 4, we brought wooden boards to the home owner. We helped with products, there was a lot of charity aid provided in the first days, but the people became lazy. We did not force anybody, announced the things people needed, everyone went there at own will. It is not fair to charge Hukumat with solving all the problems.”
Deputy Chairman of the District: The Time of Soviet Union Has Passed
CABAR.asia journalists addressed the representatives of the local authorities of the Farkhor district with the question of why the houses of mudflow victims have not yet been built.
Rahmathuja Komilzoda, Deputy Chairman of Farkhor district said in an interview: “The houses will be built, and what has been already rebuilt was done with donations. It is established anywhere that the government should build houses. The government has no budget to build these houses. It is a natural disaster and wherever it occurs, the government of Tajikistan and the Emergency Committee come to the rescue. Now are not the Soviet years for us to be able to build these houses at the expense of state and collective farms”.
The authorities’ representatives say they are not obliged to build houses for mudflow victims. The media reported earlier that the working group of the Committee of Emergency Situations (CSF) under the leadership of the First Committee Chairman Deputy works in the affected region, and the soldiers of CSF military unit were deployed there to eliminate the consequences of the disaster.
According to Sputnik Tajikistan, a working group under the leadership of Rustam Shohiyon, the First Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Emergency Situations, was created to eliminate the consequences of this natural disaster; it now oversees the restoration works.
Idibek Buriev, Deputy Head of the General Directorate of the Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense of Tajikistan, confirmed his department is responsible for the housing construction in Surkhob village. He said he directly oversaw this process in January of this year.
– None of the residents of Surkhob village complains about the process of building their houses and everyone is happy with the work of mosques and the Department of Education of the Farkhor district. I have 14 explanatory reports from the residents of this village, in which they claim they have no complaints. Farkhor district should build houses at its own expense.
Buriev also said that according to the agreement reached, the houses should be built by mosques and the Department of Education of Farkhor district, and the interior decoration will be completed by the residents themselves.
Nevertheless, the residents of Surkhob village say they cannot engage in any construction at their own expense, as the mudflow took almost everything they had. They were able to find only the remains of doors and windows, which they later used to restore their houses.
While the staff of the Committee of Emergency Situations say they have explanatory reports, in which residents deny complaining about the work of the local Hukumat, the residents still express dissatisfaction with the fact that their homes are not yet fully constructed.
– Let alone the construction of one single room, they did nothing else. In January, I went to the Department of Education of the district, where I was told to come in February, but a month later, they asked to come again when it gets warmer. Now they say they will help as soon as they get their salary; meanwhile, we still wait for aid, – said Rushanbi Odinaeva.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.