Nepal | August 12, 2020

Two years on, few cheer, many groan as Nepal quake reconstruction limps on

REUTERS
Share Now:

Abandoned houses, damaged during the 2015 earthquake, stand in Bhaktapur, Nepal April 21, 2017. Photo: Reuters

GIRANCHAUR, NEPAL: Giranchaur is the picture perfect village.

Children play on slides and swings in a small park which sits adjacent to rows of neatly built concrete houses with blue corrugated-iron roofs, complete with solar panels.

Elderly residents tend to vegetables in tiny kitchen gardens, watering their plants from the piped clean water supply. Yellow and pink Buddhist prayer flags flutter in the cool breeze outside the community hall-cum-monastery.

But newly constructed Giranchaur village is the exception rather than the rule two years after a massive earthquake struck impoverished Nepal — killing nearly 9,000 people and disrupting the lives of more than eight million people.

As the Himalayan nation – famed as the home of Mount Everest and the birthplace of Lord Buddha – marks the second anniversary of the quake on Tuesday, sluggish recovery has meant that less than a fifth of destroyed homes have been reconstructed.

“Earthquake reconstruction is a multi-year effort and should remain a high priority for many years to come. It can take time to get it right, and significant bottlenecks in reconstruction remain,” said Tristram D. Perry from the US Embassy in Kathmandu, which has provided over $170 million for rebuilding.

“For all those in transitional shelters and who lack safe structures for education and health services, quick progress is important.”

THE DAY THE EARTH SHOOK

Flanked by India on one side and China on the other, Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries.

One in four people live on less than $1.90 a day, one-third of children under five are underweight, and 40 percent of girls are married below 18. Foreign aid makes up around one-third of the country’s national budget.

So when the ground shook around noon on Saturday April 25 2015 – toppling buildings in the capital Kathmandu and flattening mud-and-brick homes in remote villages – the destruction was widespread.

Residential and government buildings, heritage sites, schools and health posts were left in ruins, rural roads bridges, water supply systems were snapped, agricultural land, trekking routes and hydropower plants were devastated.

In some areas, entire settlements, including popular tourist destinations like Langtang Valley, were swept away by landslides and avalanches triggered by the 7.8 magnitude quake.

Two years on, the recovery is limping. Less than 100,000 of the 525,000 required houses have been rebuilt or are under construction, according to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), tasked with overseeing rebuilding.

But many flouting building codes introduced after the disaster, and exposing residents to fresh risks, says the NRA.

As a result, many of the eight million people hit by the disaster continue to live in temporary shelters in tarpaulin tents or bamboo huts in villages and towns across country.

International donors, who have pledged over $4 billion towards the estimated $9 billion required, blame the slow pace of reconstruction on numerous factors.

Political infighting, bureaucracy, poor management of funds, as well as a lack of building materials such as concrete, wood and steel, and few trained masons, carpenters and engineers have all played a major role, they said.

They also blame a six-month blockade where trucks carrying everything from petrol and medicines to building materials such as cement and steel, were blocked from entering the land-locked nation from India in the aftermath of the disaster.

“The pace could be expedited if more trained engineers and artisans were to be pressed into service,” said Kamran Akbar, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the World Bank, which has pledged $500 million for reconstruction.

“Delays have also occurred on account of seasonal factors and the time it has taken to restore supply chains following the trade disruption last year.”

A TALE OF TWO QUAKE ZONES

The 350 residents of Giranchaur, 40 km (25 miles) east of Kathmandu, realise they are luckier than most – thanks to a local charity.

“Quick reconstruction became possible because of the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation,” said community leader Ram Bahadur Tamang referring to the charity founded by a popular Nepali television comedian couple.

“If we were to wait for the government we would still be in plastic tents. We are fortunate to get their support,” Tamang added as he sat on the verandah of a newly built house. Comedian Sita Ram Kattel, better known as Dhurmus, and wife Kunjana Ghimire or Suntali, collected more than half a million dollars in individual donations and built 65 separate houses.

Each house is earthquake resilient, has four rooms, a toilet, grain storage, water supply, drainage, solar panels for lights and roof-top television antenna.

The families here also run a “home stay” tourism promotion scheme where tourists stay with families and pay them directly for food, boarding and other services — generating additional income for the villagers who depend on subsistence farming. There are three children’s parks in the village as well as gardens, public toilets and a parking lot, in a model promoted as an example of what is possible in the quake-prone nation.

But not all quake survivors are as lucky.

Many are heavily reliant on government housing grants which are given out in tranches based on the construction of their homes meeting seismically-safe building standards.

In the town of Melamchi, just 20 minutes drive from Giranchaur, Pushkar Dhungana struggles to get the foundation of his new house certified as per the new building codes, so he can get funds from the government to build the next level.

“It is hard to find trained workers. The one I employed earlier went to Qatar for work. Finding a replacement is difficult,” said Dhungana.

Others have no idea of how to apply for government funds.

“I heard government is giving money to rebuild. But no one has come to me with any offer of help,” said Nati Kaji Maharjan sitting in hut by the side of a dusty trail near Melamchi.

While government officials admit initial bottlenecks, they say they are now on target to complete reconstruction by 2020, but say they need another $3 billion in donor aid.

NRA chief Govind Raj Pokharel said with the additional funds, the government wanted to encourage other villages to come together to replicate the Giranchaur model settlement. “We’ll provide roads, drinking water, electricity and financial support to promote integrated approach to rebuild,” said Pokharel.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Hotels, restaurants to offer take away services only, 50pc staff to operate BFIs

KATHMANDU: With the steady surge in the number of coronavirus cases across the nation, the Cabinet meeting held on Monday has decided to re-impose restrictions on various service providing units. In the same, Hotels and Restaurants can no longer host guests and can only offer take away services w Read More...

Feast of football awaits but no party time in Lisbon

LISBON: It is arguably the biggest sports event of this COVID-infected year -- eight of Europe's top teams in a knockout tournament over 12 days in the Portuguese capital, with the Champions League winner to be crowned at the final on Aug. 23. But while millions will tune in around the globe, Read More...

Europa League, Shakhtar Donetsk

Four-goal Shakhtar set up Europa semi against Inter

GELSENKIRCHEN: Shakhtar Donetsk booked a clash with Inter Milan in the Europa League semi-finals after goals from Brazilians Junior Moraes, Taison, Alan Patrick and Dodo gave them a 4-1 win over FC Basel in a one-sided last-eight clash on Tuesday. The Ukrainian champions will take on In Read More...

Woman, daughter held in Gongabu murder case

Kathmandu, August 11 Nepal Police today made public the woman, who was arrested on the charge of murdering a man in Gongabu. The headless body of Krishna Bahadur Bohora, 45, of Rolpa was found inside a suitcase, around 100meters away from her rented room at Ganesthan, Gongabu on Sunday. Pol Read More...

COVID-19 likely to persist until India gets rid of it: Health Minister

Kathmandu, August 11 Minister of Health and Population Bhanubhakta Dhakal has said the risk of COVID-19 will remain in Nepal until the pandemic is totally contained in India. Addressing the 61st Anniversary Programme of Paropakar Maternity and Gynaecology Hospital here today, he argued that as Read More...

Bajura village cut off from rest of Nepal

BAJURA, AUGUST 11 Ajaytodki village in Ward 2 of Gaumul Rural Municipality in Bajura has been cut-off from the rest of the country for the past two days after the swollen Budhiganga River swept away a bailey bridge at Jadanga along the Sanfe-Martadi road. The sweeping away of the bridge has disco Read More...

Informal, salaried workers hit hard by COVID-19 in Kathmandu valley: Study

Kathmandu, August 11 Nearly 29 per cent of the respondents interviewed by Kathmandu Metropolitan City in a survey on ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Livelihood’ said their families were stressed due to the uncertain future facing them in the metropolis. Families living in rented rooms or houses sai Read More...

Bharatpur Hospital

Human resource crunch hits COVID lab

CHITWAN, AUGUST 11 Bharatpur COVID-19 laboratory built in April in a short period of time, is struggling to perform. Shortage of human resources has marred the laboratory’s service delivery. The lab established under Bharatpur Hospital has not made any visible progress compared to its initia Read More...