Squatters fall victim to elephant attacks (Nepal)
Shiva Puri, Kathmandu Post
September 24, 2022
Dhanmaya Pahari, a 65-year-old resident of Lamaha in Chandrapur
Municipality-6, recently took a loan of Rs50,000 to set up a retail shop of
daily essentials targeting Dashain.
Last Wednesday, she went to the Chandranigahapur market and bought
groceries for her shop. Pahari spent the night prepping up her shop, and
set up bamboo fences to keep away intruders and wandering animals.
At around 2 in the morning, she woke up to loud noises outside. When she
looked outside, she saw two elephants raiding her neighbour’s house and
people trying to chase the megafauna away.
Pahari rushed towards the highway to save her life. Most of the villagers
followed her. The elephants were still running amok, destroying the houses,
including Dhanmaya’s, and her yet-to-be-opened shop.
“It took me a while to process everything happening around me. I started
running to save my life, and then I saw a parked gas truck and climbed onto
it,” Pahari recalled. “No one returned to the village that night. Most of
us lost our homes and some have already left the settlement seeking a safer
place. Now I don’t know how I’ll repay my loan.”
The villagers returned to the settlement the next morning. They are now
appealing to the municipality office to relocate them to a safe space. But
their appeals have yet to be heeded, say locals.
That night, personnel from the area police office, Chandranigahapur reached
Lamaha settlement to chase away the elephants. But by then, the pachyderms
had already damaged five houses belonging to Ram Pahari, Laxman Pahari,
Phulmaya Magar, Arjun Pahari and Dhanmaya.
Dhanmaya, who lost her husband two years ago, says she is now left with
little and has nowhere to go. “I have three sons but they live separately,”
she said. “After my husband’s death, the house was all that I owned. I
thought I would earn some money through the shop but now I don’t even have
Today, Lamaha, a squatter settlement of 14 households, is reeling under the
shock of the incident and the confusion in its aftermath. Most of the
residents have moved near the east-west highway.
“The village is virtually empty,” Laxman, who lost his house and crops he
had saved for winter in the incident, said. “Most of the villagers are now
living by the roadside, nowhere to go.”
The residents aren’t indigenous to Lamaha. They migrated here in 1987 after
they were removed from Dangdunge village of Makwanpur. Ever since, they
have been living in the forest near Lamaha River.
Sher Bahadur Pahari, 78, another resident, said they had been living
peacefully for 35 years in the settlement surrounded by a dense forest.
Nothing catastrophic happened. But the incident on Wednesday night has
“We do not know why the elephants are angry. The attack was terrifying,”
Sher Bahadur said. “Many people left their homes due to the fear of
elephants. Women and children are seeking refuge with their relatives in
other settlements. I do not know how long we will be able to survive
without money and food.”
Keshar Bam, an employee of the Timber Corporation of Nepal (TCN), who was
in the settlement when the elephants wreaked havoc, says there were more
than 30 children in the settlement at the time of the incident.
“Everyone was running around to get the children to safety,” Bam said. “No
one knew what or whom the elephants would attack next.”
According to Sanjay Kafle, mayor of Chandranagar, there is no electricity
or water supply in the settlement. Efforts are being made to provide relief
to those affected by the elephant attack, Kafle said.
Kafle added that his office is discussing alternatives for relocating the
victims. “This settlement is vulnerable and deprived of services, so it
should be relocated permanently,” he said. “It will take some time but we
are making efforts.”