KATHMANDU: It has been two months that the destructive earthquake hit the nation, still the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office (KMC) has not demolished vulnerable structures. As per data at KMC, in Kathmandu alone 5,410 buildings were fully or partially damaged which have to be demolished. Another 18,945 houses were partly damaged and need retrofitting before use. Till date, 2,700 house owners have applied for demolishing their houses but KMC does not have any data on how many houses have been demolished. With the monsoon here, these partially and fully damaged houses pose a high risk to local communities. The government still does not have modern technology to demolish reinforcement concrete cement (RCC) structures more than three floors. While city dwellers are hoping for government’s assistance, KMC stated that house owners are solely responsible for demolishing works.
While city dwellers await government assistance, KMC holds house owners responsible for demolishment“It is the responsibility of the respective house owners to demolish their damaged property built by flouting policies and by-laws,” said Dr Uttar Regmi, Chief of Physical Development Construction Department at KMC. Agreeing that the community is at threat, he said, “Clearing the way is the need of community so they should demolish by themselves to be safe.” According to him, KMC sends recommendation letters to the District Administration Office for demolition of the most vulnerable structures in public places. However, due to lack of coordination, there is no record of how many recommended structures have been pulled down till date. As per KMC, the application for demolishing houses has dipped as compared to the first month after the quake. An officer at KMC demanding anonymity, said, “Not even one per cent of the total 2,700 applications have been demolished till date,” adding that people dropped applications in order to get relief from the funds that the government promised to provide. An officer further said, “Transportation problem, controversy among neighbours about demolition, labour crisis and lack of funds are major challenges that such house owners face.” Regmi said, “It will take six months more to have the exact data on how many structures have actually been damaged.” According to him, as many as 50,000 houses in KMC were built by flouting the law and the number of fully damaged could even exceed that limit. “Lack of implementation, proper monitoring and weak enforcement were mistakes that the government made in the past which should not be repeated,” he said, stressing on the need to implement laws strictly. Stating that KMC alone cannot be held accountable for the destruction, he pointed that every party ignored the rules and safety norms. While the government took stand on demolishing houses is the responsibility of individual house owners, professionals pointed out that it is impossible to demolish RCC frame structure with individual effort. “It is not possible to demolish RCC frame structures manually with individual effort. The government should import modern technology to demolish many damaged structures in areas like Goganbu, Sitapaila, and Nayabazaar,” said Bijaya K Shrestha, Consultant of Urban Disaster Incentive at ADB. He is of the opinion that the government should take the initiative on damaged properties promptly to reduce risk to citizens as disaster is beyond individual capacity. Shrestha further said, “If residential buildings under the World Heritage Sites have been demolished there is a clause where the government should rebuild even such private property.” Citing that the government is responsible for the destruction, Shrestha said, “KMC had all the rights to exercise its power when it comes to building by-laws and codes. Why then they turn a blind eye to those illegal structures? Now, they can’t just blame laymen for the illegal skyrocketing structures.” According to him, the government should introduce practical policies and building codes in the reconstruction plans. Otherwise, he warned that there will be even more corruption and illegal structures than before. As per the recently published Post Disaster Needs Assesment report by the National Planning Commission, Rs 350.54 billion worth of private housing and human settlements were affected with Rs 303.63 billion damages and Rs 46.90 billion losses.