Nepal | May 30, 2020

Experts stress need for safer reconstruction in urban areas

Himalayan News Service
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Kathmandu, September 20

Experts have urged for proper implementation of ‘Settlement Development, Urban Development and Building Construction Basic Bylaws 2016’ and technical capacity enhancement of the municipalities to ensure safer reconstruction in urban areas.

Speaking in a programme titled ‘Rebuilding Safer Urban Spaces’, which was jointly organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and The Asia Foundation, Kishore Thapa, former secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development and expert member of the steering committee at the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), pointed out the need of strictly enforcing the aforementioned bylaws, which was one of the major changes imposed as one of the first rebuilding exercises. However, its success will depend on conviction of citizens that these rules are for their own benefit and capacity of the local governments in strictly implementing these regulations, he added.

In addition, Thapa called attention towards reviewing existing housing policies, operational guidelines and responsible agencies to ensure safer living spaces. He further added that integral part of reconstruction in the urban spaces, especially in the Valley, pertains to reviving cultural heritage and traditional settlements with minimum aesthetic and structural intervention. Similarly, he called attention to lack of open space that affected the initial relief and recovery works in immediate aftermath of the quakes.

Also speaking in the programme, Surya Bhakta Sangachchen, technical adviser to the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) and former director general of the Department of Urban Planning and Building Reconstruction, stressed on stakeholder engagement — between central government, community and local level — in order to achieve harmonious and acceptable rebuilding. He cited the example of Boudhanath Stupa that involved local participation with the support of government entities. Sangachchen also pointed out the possibility of house pooling to be undertaken in core city areas in Kathmandu and Lalitpur, such as Kilagal and Pilachhen, to provide a blueprint for the reconstruction.

Bhesh Narayan Dahal, director general of Department of Archaeology, pointed out the government’s efforts towards preservation and reconstruction of cultural heritage sites and emphasised priority given to preserving national heritage as far as possible in the reconstruction process.

Prof Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, former dean of Institute of Engineering, said that in adopting modern technology, traditional and indigenous knowledge should not be discarded. He said that traditional and indigenous knowledge has been proven time and again after withstanding various disasters and thus emphasised on footprint conservation.

A version of this article appears in print on September 21, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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