The National Authority for Reconstruction (NAR) has formally commenced its work by inspecting traditional houses in Pilachhein of Lalitpur district that were damaged or destroyed by the quakes.
Govind Raj Pokharel, who was appointed as the chief executive officer of NAR 10 days ago, visited the historical settlement of Newars, located at about a 10-minute-walk distance from Patan Durbar Square today.
“With the on-site inspection of settlement in Patan, we have set the wheels of urban reconstruction work in motion. We will now identify a rural settlement so that reconstruction work in other districts could also begin,” Pokharel told The Himalayan Times.
Pokharel, who is also the vice chairman of National Planning Commission (NPC), had inspected the houses in Lalitpur right after NAR held its first meeting today. NAR’s first meeting took place exactly four months after the 7.8-magnitude temblor hit the country, which caused widespread destruction in various districts, including those in Kathmandu Valley.
Today’s meeting, held in the presence of Prime Minister and NAR Chairperson Sushil Koirala, has finally identified 31 districts that were hit by quakes and where rehabilitation and reconstruction works need to be executed. Of these districts, 14 have been identified as ‘highly affected’, 11 as ‘affected’ and six as ‘moderately affected’.
Based on this classification, NAR will now formulate rehabilitation and reconstruction plans by referring to the report on Post Disaster Needs Assessment prepared by the National Planning Commission, and set priorities accordingly.
Although NAR has finally begun its operation, reconstruction and rehabilitation works are not expected to pick up immediately as the Authority is yet to depute core staff members, including deputy CEO, and finalise eight different bylaws to steer NAR in an organised manner.
Also, it needs to set up a proper office, although it has finally found space inside Singhadurbar complex — a prefab house located in between the Ministry of Finance and former PM’s Office — to begin its work.
But while these gaps are being filled, NAR will be overseeing implementation of its pilot reconstruction project in Pilachhein.
NAR says 75 houses need to be rebuilt in this settlement in Lalitpur. But locals have made the work of NAR a lot easier, as they, in collaboration with CE Services, Maya Foundation and CE Engineering Solution, have already prepared a reconstruction plan.
The plan, which is yet to be approved by NAR, has laid the option of building quake-resilient houses of up to five storeys, bearing traditional look and exhibiting artefacts of the past.
These houses, which could be used for commercial-cum-residential purpose, can house cafés, souvenir shops, guest houses, home-stay facilities and serviced apartments in the first two storeys, while the rest could be used for residential purpose, says the plan. As per initial estimates, cost of rebuilding per square feet of space would stand at around Rs 3,200.
To fund the project, Dr Sanduk Ruit, an ophthalmologist, has pledged to donate Rs 40 million, according to Pokharel. The government has also announced to extend a grant of Rs 200,000 to every family whose house was destroyed by the quake.
“With these efforts and contribution, we hope the pilot project at Pilachhein can be established as a model urban renewal project. If things go as planned, this project will also set an example on how reconstruction works can be carried out in public private partnership … So, we see the possibility of emulating the work we’ll be doing here in other quake-affected historical settlements in Kathmandu Valley if local communities agree,” Pokharel said, adding, “Others who have innovative ideas and plans on rehabilitation and reconstruction can share those with NAR.”
A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.