Three years on, post-quake recovery limping
Kathmandu, April 24
The devastation caused by the massive earthquake of April 25, 2015 had also provided an opportunity for Nepal to ‘build back better' with collaborative efforts from the local and international communities.
As the country is gearing up to mark the third year since the devastation struck, National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) - government body formed to look after post-quake recovery - presented the progress report so far.
While the government had planned to wrap up all reconstruction activities within five years of setting up the NRA, the NRA Chief Executive Officer Yubaraj Bhusal today claimed to have made ‘significant progress' with ‘almost 50 per cent of the post-earthquake reconstruction completed till date'.
Yet, the tepid progress in post-quake recovery is clearly evident by thousands of physical infrastructure that were levelled by the tremors still waiting to be rebuilt and majority of households affected by the calamity yet to receive the government-announced housing grant.
Even NRA's own statistics point at the contradiction between Bhusal's statement and ground reality.
Of the total 709,180 beneficiaries, who had signed the agreement for government's housing grant, NRA's data show that only 90,059 households have completed rebuilding their house and received the total grant amount of Rs 300,000. Only 696,193 identified beneficiaries have taken the first tranche (Rs 50,000), while 329,244 beneficiaries have received the third instalment (Rs 100,000) of the housing grant. NRA has already clarified that the quake victims are unlikely to get the additional Rs 100,000 in housing grant that was announced by the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government earlier.
As identified by the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report of the government, the 2015 earthquake had affected 379 government buildings. However, reconstruction of only six government buildings has been completed so far while NRA has said that reconstruction of 120 are under way. This means construction of 253 government buildings has not even started.
Similarly, 753 cultural heritage sites across the country were damaged by the quake, including the iconic Dharahara in the Capital.
Arjun Kumar Karki, secretary at NRA, informed that the government will lay the foundation stone of Dharahara within this fiscal and expedite the reconstruction process across the country. “We have set a target to complete the post-quake reconstruction process within the next fiscal year (mid-July, 2019).”
However, looking at the progress till now, NRA's target seems a bit far-fetched. So far, reconstruction of only 100 such heritage sites have been completed, while reconstruction process of 329 quake-affected heritage sites is ongoing.
The progress witnessed in other sectors is also dismal. Of the total 7,553 affected public schools across the country, NRA statistics show that reconstruction of 3,500 has been completed and 1,692 public schools are being rebuilt. The earthquake had affected 1,197 health institutions, of which reconstruction of 586 has been completed, with 94 being rebuilt.
Despite the unsatisfactory progress report, NRA Spokesperson Yam Lal Bhoosal was quick to point out multiple factors like ‘procedural hurdles, lack of technical manpower and other resources' for affecting the entire reconstruction drive. “However, with the formation of the local governments, the reconstruction drive will definitely gather momentum in the coming days.”