You can hear the whirr of the treadle-driven sewing machine as you approach the makeshift tarpaulin structure now home to tailor Ganga Ram Bardewa and his family. It must have been even noisier before the flood took his second machine and the other tools of his trade. “I need tables, chairs, scissors, irons, and other tools for my tailoring work because these were all lost in the flood,” he said.
“It’s hard to feed my family now.” His wife Man Maya works at the sewing machine, while trying to manage the two youngest of the couple’s five children. “The clothes ordered by my customers are gone too. I had to let my customers down because of the flood.”
Ganga Ram said nobody has directly asked about their clothes. “They ask me various questions, but they don’t mention the clothes.”
Neighbours donate clothes
Meanwhile spread on the grass between the family’s temporary home – for which the Nepal Red Cross Society provided the tarpaulin – and the bare ground of their former house, are an array of colourful garments donated by neighbours.
The village lies beyond destroyed rice paddies and farms where local people are doing their best to dry out the grains that have been spoiled by floodwater..
Prof Ghanshyam Lal Das, economist and Vice-Chancellor, at Purbanchai University in Biratnagar said the destruction on the Terai plains, bordering India, could lead to hunger across Nepal. “The crop of rice is badly affected,” he said.
Key agricultural industries will also be very badly affected. The loss of raw materials creates a knock-on effect on employment and livelihoods, the professor said.
Beyond agriculture, the floods will have an impact on all areas of commerce. Sruti Devi sits beneath her temporary shelter of bamboo on the bank of the river Singhya which has churned up an array of wrecked homes on the outskirts of the city of Biratnagar.
She used to run a small neighbourhood shop, while her husband made a living from fishing.
“It was a lovely shop, selling tobacco, sweets, chocolate, noodles, tea and snacks,” she said. Running the shop bought in the equivalent of $4 USD profit a day.
The disaster has left her traumatised and suffering from multiple ailments which make it impossible to focus on work.
Strength after disaster
The monsoon floods, coming as Nepal still battles to recover from a 2015 earthquake, compound the problems for one of the world’s poorest countries.
And yet, there are clear signs of personal and community resilience. Even as the rain continues to pour in the District of Jhapa, several men and women are fishing in a stream, swollen with flood water, close to the ruined paddy fields.
They raise their nets out of the water in rhythm with each other and dump the fish in containers placed nearby.
One of the fishermen holds up the catch in a plastic bag. It doesn’t look spectacular, but it will feed a few people or sell for a few dollars until something else comes along.