Kathmandu— On April 25, 2019, we marked fourth anniversary of great earthquake that hit the Himalayan nation on April 25, 2015 which claimed 8790 lives and injured nearly 22,300.
Four years has elapsed since the disaster struck but reconstruction of private and public buildings are yet to be completed. Still, thousands are living in makeshift camps though the government authorities claim of making progress in reconstruction. The epicenter of the devastating earthquake was in Barpak of Gorkha district. The quake of 7.8 magnitude had badly affected 14 districts and partially affected 18 other districts.
Organizing a press conference on April 23, Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA), a body mandated to carry out reconstruction of the damaged buildings, said 8, 24,985 families are eligible for government grant to build their houses. Out of them, 382,277 houses have been built till the last week of April this year, according to NRA. The data provided by NRA shows that there are a couple of reasons behind the slow pace of reconstruction.
Firstly, the frequent change in government leadership resulted in change of NRA’s leadership, creating policy inconsistencies and bureaucratic confusions. The second reason is the delay in providing the installments of housing grants, pledged by the government, for the quake affected family. Additionally, the quake survivors were forced to seek loans as the grant of Rs 300,000 provided by the government was not sufficient even to erect a small house. Government extended the grants by setting certain standards to be met to become eligible for that. However, the grant amount isn’t enough to build houses meeting the standards. Government had announced to provide soft loans at minimum interest rate but it was not implemented and many poor people could not afford to take loan from financial institutions.
Most of the quake affected people are constructing houses slowly due to lack of fund. Thus, it took a long time for the reconstruction of houses. For example, when they get Rs 1,00,000, they purchase few things and wait for the grant money to buy other necessary materials. This is the bitter reality faced by poor people in remote area. People who have completed the construction of houses are facing the burden of loan in their head.
The third reason was shortage of skilled labors in the remote areas. As most of youths in village area are abroad for employment, older people are facing difficulties to build their houses. Because of the shortfall of manpower, the construction of private houses is delayed. As a result, even the people with good financial background in village are unable to build their houses.
In the initial years, NRA faced a lot of difficulties related to human resources in the remote areas which delayed the process of collection and verification of earthquake related data.
These are the some of the reasons behind the delay in the construction of private houses. With the current pace of progress, NRA is unlikely to meet its deadline that has been mandated to complete the construction of houses within the five years.
Though reconstruction process is very slow, the great earthquake was an opportunity for the people to build earthquake-resistant house by removing their mud and stone houses. Even in the remote areas, people have built concrete houses which are helpful from health perspectives also. Now, they are secured from heat, storm and other natural disasters as well as other health related issues.
Along with construction of private houses, identification of risky human settlement in terms of natural disasters has also started through geological survey. A study conducted by NRA has identified 261 human settlements that need to be transferred to safer locations, while 351 human settlements should adopt security measures. The government is providing Rs 2, 00,000 to those families who want to transfer their houses and around 1200 people have taken such grants.
As per the target set by NRA, 70 percent of the educational institutions will be reconstructed within 2018/19, 90 percent in 2019/20. The NRA aims to complete 100 percent of the reconstruction by the first four months of fiscal year 2020/21.
Likewise, 65 percent of the health institutions will be reconstructed by the end of current fiscal year, 80 percent by fiscal year 2019/20, and complete 100 percent of reconstruction within the first four months of 2020/22, according to official data provided by NRA.
In the reconstruction of heritages of archeological importance in 11 most affected districts, NRA has claimed of achieving 59 percent progress in the total of 753 monuments needed to be rebuilt. Out of them, 224 (30 percent) have already been reconstructed while 221 (29 percent) are currently under construction.
“Reconstruction of archeological heritage sites is the most complex and time consuming as issues like architecture, use of traditional construction material, their emotional attachment with the daily lives of the local communities and ensuring their ownership need to be considered,” said NRA Chief Executive Sushil Gyawali.
As Nepal is in the process of reconstruction, Gyawali said the biggest challenge in the reconstruction and rehabilitation is the management of resources. “A total of Rs. 938 billion was estimated for the five-year reconstruction and rehabilitation plan. Of which, Rs. 186 billion has been spent by FY 2017/18, and the revised projected expenditure for this fiscal year is Rs. 123 billion,” said Gyawali. NRA expects that about Rs. 200 billion will be mobilized through the government’s regular budget program, private and NGO sector.
“This shows that we will need an additional Rs. 429 billion to complete the overall reconstruction works. So, the status of reconstruction will depend on our proper financial management,” he said. To collect the fund, NRA plans to hold consultations with both government and donor agencies.
Seeking the support from donor agencies and countries, Nepal organized a donor conference in 2015. Donor agencies and countries had pledged $4.4 billion assistance–$2.2 in grant and $2.2 in loan– for the recovery bid of Nepal.