Fund shortage likely to hit post-quake school reconstruction drive

Rs 30bn needed to finish rebuilding all damaged schools within next fiscal

Kavrepalanchok, November 26

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) will not be able to rebuild all the public schools damaged or destroyed by devastating 2015 earthquakes within the deadline if the government fails to release around Rs 30 billion within next fiscal year, a senior NRA official has said.

The statement comes at a time when the NRA, a government agency which is leading the post-earthquake reconstruction drive, is facing a funding gap of around $295 million (Rs 33.9 billion as per today’s exchange rate) to rebuild schools that were damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes.

Nepal was hit by magnitude 7.6 earthquake on April 25, 2015.

The quake was followed by numerous aftershocks, including the powerful magnitude 7.3 on May 12, 2015. These quakes took the lives of around 9,000 people, injured over 22,300 and destroyed around 500,000 private houses and 2,656 government buildings. It also destroyed or damaged around 30,000 classrooms of 7,923 public schools, compelling students to attend classes in temporary shelters.

The Central Level Project Implementation Unit (Education) of the NRA has since been rebuilding 7,553 of the 7,923 damaged school buildings, as 370 schools were later merged due to less number of students.

The NRA has so far rebuilt 25,128 classrooms of 5,063 public schools, according to NRA’s website. Reconstruction works are under way in 1,819 school buildings, where 12,659 classrooms are being rebuilt. However, reconstruction of 3,011 classrooms of 671 schools has not begun yet, shows NRA’s website.

“Our initial focus was on schools of 14 districts that were badly hit by the quakes. We have completed all the works in these districts,” Dilip Shekhar Shrestha, deputy director of the CLPIU (Education), told journalists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka attending the Capacity Building Regional Press Tour organised by Manila-based multilateral lender, Asian Development Bank.

The earthquakes affected 31 districts across the country, of which 14 were badly hit, while 17 were moderately affected. “School reconstruction is lagging behind in these 17 districts that were less affected by the earthquakes,” Shrestha said.

Some of the districts where school reconstruction works are yet to gather pace are Khotang, Sankhuwasabha and Tanahun, with Khotang meeting only around 50 per cent of the school reconstruction target so far, according to Shrestha.

Works are likely to be further delayed in these schools if government fails to bridge funding gap on time. This will prompt students to continue attending classes in temporary learning centres.

The NRA had sought a budget of $1.2 billion for public school reconstruction.

Of this, $300 million was provided by the government and another $605 million by the ADB, bilateral donors and domestic and international non-governmental organisations. This had left a funding gap of $295 million, which needs to be raised by the government.

“We have requested a budget of Rs 10 billion (for this fiscal) but have not received it so far. Next year, we need Rs 20 billion. If we get these funds we will be able to complete all the works within the reconstruction deadline, which is expiring in the next 15 months,” Shrestha said.