Many earthquake victims will spend another harsh winter in temporary shelters
With the temperature dropping day by day, the problems for earthquake victims are escalating. It seems like those whose homes were badly damaged or completely destroyed during the April devastating earthquake last year, will be spending another winter in the cold.
Suffering victims and double grant
A resident of Dhading VDC, 70 year old Shiva Prasad Adhikari’s house was completely destroyed and he has been living in a tent for more than year. He claims that his name was in the list published by the government for financial assistance, but due to some problems relating to land ownership papers his grant is still pending.
He blames the experts who have been appointed by the government for not having an accurate database of the real victims. “Some people are getting zero support, whereas in some cases two people of the same household have been declared eligible for the grant,” he says. Adhikari’s case is just one of the many cases of families who have not received the grant. Instead of looking into and trying to solve the issue, the VDC has been giving lame excuses and the run around to almost 20,000 people like Shiva Prasad.
According to Dhana Bahadur Ghale, lawmaker elected from Dhading Constituency - 1, the government announced the first installment of Rs 50,000 to be dispersed among earthquake victims. “However 51,900 house owners in Dhading have not received their grant due to delay in procedures, and lack of banks available in the northern part of Dhading,” he said. Similarly, lawmaker Guru Prasad Burlakoti elected from Dhading Constituency - 2 reveals that 533,000 families are eligible for the grants, yet till Tihar, only 4,25,642 families received the first installment of the grant. He said, “Those responsible for earthquake victim rehabilitation cite lack of land ownership documents for delays. Some house’s owners died in the earthquake while others have lost their papers in the destruction. The authorities do not seem very helpful and so many victims will spend a second harsh winter in temporary shelters.”
Meen Ghale of Tipling on the other hand informs that though 88,544 houses were destroyed in the earthquake, only 70,000 houses have been marked eligible for the earthquake victim grants. “Victims have lodged complaints about this but there is no official response. Also those who received the grant have already spent it which ensures very low possibilities of houses being built by this winter,” he shared.
Bhanu Parajuli, Programme Manager at Rural Reconstruction Nepal, says that the recovery process has definitely been slow. “We work with the rural community of Ramechap, Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk. Last year the government talked about a grant to earthquake victims for reconstructing their homes. However, till date they have only received the first instalment of Rs 50,000” he said. Parajuli blames instability within the governing body to be the cause for the delay. “The Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA) needs to consider the demographics whilst making policies. Also with so many authorities and constant changes, the policies keep altering and there are more delays,” he said. Parajuli suggests that the governing body try to work in harmony with local bodies. “If they coordinate with local bodies and utilise available manpower it would be easier to generate data and keep track,” he claimed.
Govind Raj Pokharel, Former Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission of Nepal stresses that reconstruction is tough row to hoe for the government. “One can’t expect to rebuild all the houses in two years. The logistics do not go parallel with reality,” he said. Pokharel however accepts that NRA has been ineffective in their approach to post- earthquake recovery. He further said, “The authorities are working but unfortunately despite their efforts, we still see lack of coordination and innovative ideas. NRA has been very slow with their progress in reconstruction and recovery.” Pokharel states that at the current pace, it is impossible to build roofs over every head by this winter. “If they do not come up with more realistic solutions, the reconstruction work will be delayed further and people might not have shelter even by next monsoon,” he exclaimed.
Citing that the NRA needs to adopt a different business model for reconstruction, Pokharel stressed, “Involvement of the private sector, coordinating ministries, clear instructions, guidelines, human resources, logistics; need to work simultaneously in many sectors. It is important to consider our demography, rural setup and people’s aspirations. There should be massive emphasis on integrated settlements; it could be clusters of 15 out of 20 houses to 100 out of 150, wherever possible as it reducec cost massively on social infrastructure like road, electricity, drinking water et cetera.”
Ram Prasad Thapaliya Spokesperson, NRA
“If they do not come up with more realistic solutions, the reconstruction work will be delayed even further and people might not have shelter even by next monsoon”
Govind Raj PokharelFormer Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission of Nepal
Shiva Hari Sharma Project Director, CLPIU at MoUD
The government has been trying…
Shiva Hari Sharma, Project Director of the Central Level Project Implementation Unit at the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), emphasises that the government has been providing full-fledged technical support. Sharma said, “Five months earlier we sent the first installment of the grant along with technical certainty. We have deployed 1,346 engineers, 650 sub-engineers and 575 assistant engineers to different villages and provided 15 to 20 days training to them.”
According to him, MoUD has developed model houses in affected area. Earthquake victims constructing houses must follow the protocol developed by the ministry as they have earthquake-resistant design that encourage maximum use of local materials; stones, sand, wood et cetera. According to Sharma, the construction costs of these model houses ranges from Rs 200,000 to Rs 3,000,000.
Still the governing body stands accused for not doing enough and for unnecessary delays that are causing immense hardships and suffering their job effectively. In its defence, Ram Prasad Thapaliya, Spokesperson at NRA said, “To ensure every victim gets the grant, we have conducted detailed household owner survey using scientific approach.”
The government has started to provide Rs 200,000 to construct houses and if the construction cost crosses that amount, victims are expected to bear additional cost. The government also plans to offer subsidised loans of Rs 2,500,000 to earthquake victims residing in urban areas and Rs 1,500,000 to victims in rural areas for constructing houses. The first part of the installment of Rs 50,000 has been deployed so that victims can start construction. According to Thapaliya, grant agreement for 450,000 beneficiaries have been dispersed. “Till date we have already deposited the money in bank accounts of 43,000 people. Now action needs to be taken by people for the first phase of construction,” he said. According to him, NRA has already mobilised almost Rs 84 billion from a total of Rs 140 billion allocated for the reconstruction. A budget of almost Rs 45 billion has been allocated for housing grants and Rs 26 billion has been already distributed.
When asked about delays in the process and why people should spend another winter in temporary shelters, Thapaliya admits that proper identification of beneficiaries is still a big challenge. “The most time consuming is the survey. Also the establishment of the NRA itself was delayed which delayed the recovery process. NRA is sorting out these issues and trying to move forward with the utilisation and empowerment of people’s participation,” he said.