I spent most of my time in Chamanga trekking up and down what is now the Camino Principal of Nuevo Chamanga (the main road of New Chamanga). Positioned at the top end of the town I was given a small but fascinating insight into the various ways the community have responded and are still adapting to the situation they now finds themselves in.
The April 2016 earthquake has exacerbated pre-exisiting issues and created new problems in the town. In some ways disaster has been a catalyst for change and development, although there is still a long way to go on the road to recovery.
Following the earthquake, which shattered much of the exisiting waterfront town, around 50% of Chamanga’s residents relocated to the higher ground of Nuevo Chamanga, inland and away from the waters edge. Some have moved to the state run Campamento Chamanga, a gated village of around 100+ tents, some housing families of up to 7 (with barely enough space for two double beds and only makeshift flooring).
On the opposite side of the road another group have relocated of their own accord, choosing to join/create an informal settlement, Nuevo Jerusalem. Their independence from state management affords them more flexibility and consequently fosters a strong entrepreneurial spirit and tight community bond.
In the past 10 months, post-quake, the urban boundaries of Chamanga have extended by around a 1km. The increase in residential activity in Nuevo Chamanga and the relocation of the main bus station to the top end of the town has brought with it a range of local stores and pop-up shops, as locals shop-owners follow the migration of people in order to maintain their livelihoods.
These few examples only scratch the surface of the diversity and dynamics of recovery and development activities (both formal and informal) at this end of town. I left overwhelmed, challenged and inspired by what I saw and 10 days was nowhere near enough time to digest the complexity of the recovery process ahead (particularly given the language barriers). There is still much to be done, but perhaps small changes can affect big problems – if nothing else, hopefully our time spent in Chamanga will help sustain or support some of the energy already present within the community.
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