Quake evacuees settle in to new life in Shigatse

Before last year's Nepal earthquake, Phurbu Butri and her husband ran a guesthouse with a restaurant in Dram, the Tibet autonomous region's biggest border crossing.

Now they run a shop in a mall in Shigatse, Tibet's second largest city, about 800 kilometers from home, and live in a settlement along with 505 households relocated from areas severely damaged after the magnitude-8.1 earthquake hit on April 25, 2015.

The family lived in a tent at first, then moved into a house, which they find safer, cleaner and more comfortable. The government provided each family with household appliances, and basic necessities, such as bedding, pots and pans.

"Before we were moved to the new houses, we lived in temporary houses and tents for several months, and the location was very dusty," said Phurbu's husband, Phurba. "They have provided us free water, Wi-Fi access, and free public transportation."

The community is equipped with services such as public toilets, ATMs, banks, restaurants, shops, a post office and a hospital, he said.

Data indicate the city government has spent 11.31 billion yuan ($1.75 billion) for reconstruction work in quake-affected areas. The work includes 15,957 residential houses and 163 village public sites.

The government has provided free bus service from the new suburb to the city. It takes about 20 minutes for Phurbu, 49, to reach the shop in the Dram Shopping Mall, which was built exclusively for the evacuees and provided business opportunities for 146 households.

They mostly sell imported products and Nepalese handicrafts, and products such as Indian rice, Nepali skin care products, which have gained popularity in Tibet.

"We do not need to pay rent, and stocking goods is more convenient since the Gyirong Port started full operation several months ago," Phurba said.

In the last eight months, they been making an average monthly income of about 3,000 yuan, but expects a boom with the arrival of the tourism season. Shigatse received 3.2 million tourists last year, generating revenue of 2.8 billion yuan.

Besides the present business, the family has secured a shop in a newly built tourism service center in Shigatse. It also doesn't require rent for several years.

Phurba's younger daughter, Gesang Choedron, goes to a primary school in Shigatse. She boards at school and returns home over the weekend, her accommodations and food covered by the government.

A fellow villager, Nyima Dorje, also has begun to make a new living in the settlement. Nyima Dorje has been working on a construction site for two months for a daily wage of 150 yuan, while his wife Ngakwang Drolma gets 2,400 yuan monthly by working at a hotel.

A Nepali Sherpa, Ngakwang Drolma, 22, was brought up in Dram. She had big worries about relocating to a strange city, but has gotten used to the place over time.

"With a job, I have something to do, and I no longer worry much," she said.

As a poverty alleviation project, the Shigatse Poverty Alleviation Office also will invest 1.55 million yuan ($240,000) to build a Sherpa style holiday village, a project that is expected to provide 12 jobs.

"As it is a Sherpa style leisure center, I think it will attract many people, and especially tourists," Phurba said.