Lockdown affects reconstruction activities

Kathmandu, April 9

Due to the nationwide lockdown imposed by the government, works related to reconstruction of structures damaged or destroyed by the 2015 earthquake have been affected across the country.

Reconstruction activities of schools, private houses, cultural heritage sites, health institutions, public buildings, educational buildings and security buildings have been badly affected since March 23 when the lockdown started.

Gopal Prasad Aryal, acting secretary at the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), said reconstruction works had been completely halted due to the coronavirus pandemic and there has been no progress in this regard in any district.

“It is a bad time for NRA as we had already completed two-thirds of reconstruction activities,” Aryal said, adding that the authority is now in a wait-and-watch mode. “We had, in fact, started discussions related to policies and programmes for next fiscal.

Now we will have to wait for the lockdown to end and restart works as soon as possible,” he stated.

As per the act related to the NRA, it was set up with a five-year tenure which was supposed to end in December this year.

“However, the tenure could be extended for at least one year due to the COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown,” informed Aryal. He added that the authority is planning to forward a proposal to extend its tenure to the Advisory Council which is chaired by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

Meanwhile, Aryal said that NRA will provide two options to the council.

“One would be to extend the tenure of NRA and the other would be to hand over the existing reconstruction works to the respective federal, provincial and local governments,” he mentioned.

A meeting of the council on January 11 headed by PM Oli had concluded that reconstruction works were on the right track, while directing the NRA to carry out its duties and responsibilities in a speedy manner.

The prime minister had strongly urged the NRA then to complete the outstanding works as soon as possible by resolving all related problems.

Aryal further claimed that the progress made so far had created the foundation for a resilient Nepal.

He informed that 63 per cent of reconstruction work of private housing was over, 24 per cent was under way and 13 per cent had yet to start. Similarly, 88 per cent reconstruction work of public buildings was over while 12 per cent was under construction.

As per NRA’s latest data, 56 per cent of health institutions had been reconstructed and 12 per cent was under construction, while the remaining 32 per cent was under survey.

Likewise, reconstruction of 45 per cent of cultural heritage sites was over, while 17 per cent was under construction phase and remaining 38 per cent was in the survey phase.

Meanwhile, 71 per cent of educational institutions had been reconstructed and 24 per cent was under construction and remaining five per cent at the survey phase. Similarly, 90 per cent of security buildings had been reconstructed and 10 per cent under construction phase.

Meanwhile, NRA recently conducted a survey again based on grievances filed by the earthquake-affected.

“Hence, the recent data is being compiled and verified at the moment and once that is over, we will have a clear picture of the reconstruction works,” said Aryal.

The NRA has said that it needs an additional Rs 429 billion to complete all reconstruction works. It had been earlier estimated that a total of Rs 938 billion would be required for the five-year reconstruction and rehabilitation plan. Of this amount, Rs 186 billion was spent by fiscal year 2017-18, and the revised projected expenditure for this fiscal year is Rs 123 billion.

Likewise, NRA expects around Rs 200 billion to be mobilised through the government’s regular budget programme, along with private and non-government organisations.

Hence, there will be a shortfall of Rs 429 billion to complete the overall reconstruction works.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 10, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.