Locals come together to rebuild Pilachhen in Lalitpur

Kathmandu, January 14

Locals of Pilachhen in Lalitpur are ready to set the wheels of reconstruction works in motion soon as a part of citizen-led initiative to rebuild a historical settlement devastated by earthquakes of April and May.

At least 82 out of 110 private residential houses in Pilachhen, located in the vicinity of Patan Durbar Square, were severely damaged by quakes. Residents of most of these houses, many of whom belong to low-income group, are still spending their nights in temporary shelters.

But things are likely to change, as reconstruction works are beginning here in full swing from Saturday.

The reconstruction works, however, are not being executed by the government. Instead, around 10,000 locals and volunteers are taking the lead to rebuild the settlement. Support is also being extended by Maya Foundation and CE Engineering, which are helping raise funds or prepare architectural designs.

Then there are people like Dr Sanduk Ruit, whose Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, is making a contribution of Rs 40 million to help locals rebuild their houses. Today, Choice Humanitarian Nepal also pledged to chip in Rs five million for the purpose.

People like Ruit, a world-renowned ophthalmologist, and organisations like Choice Nepal are interested in this project because of the unity and keen interest shown by locals to build back better. They also believe this project can be a model urban renewal project and replicated in other parts of the country.

“It’s difficult to create a model here. But once it is created, it can be replicated fast. Pilachhen project should be that model,” Ruit said, adding, “We should look for more of such projects in which locals take the ownership, and initiative to rebuild the settlements on their own.”

The cost of building each quake-resilient house in Pilachhen is expected to range from $49,000 to $65,000. In total, house reconstruction cost is expected to hover around $4.09 million. In addition, around $0.55 million is needed to develop the neighbourhood.

Almost, 60 per cent of the funds required for reconstruction have been raised through community contribution and grants. The rest, according to locals, would be obtained from banks.

With these funds, locals are planning to build five-storey houses, including ground floor. They will bear traditional look and exhibit artefacts of the past.

These houses can include cafés, souvenir shops, guest house, home-stay facilities and serviced apartments in the first three storeys, while the rest could be used for residential purpose.

The community will also have collective septic tank, and rainwater harvesting and energy backup facilities.

The project is also being supported by Govind Raj Pokhrel, former vice chairman of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Swarnim Wagle, former NPC member and economist, and Leela Mani Poudyal, former chief secretary.