Untrained masons rebuilding quake-damaged houses

Ramechhap, January 17

Kul Bahadur Budha, who hails from Achham, is busy constructing houses in Khaniyapati of Ramechhap these days even though he is not a trained mason.

There are hundreds of untrained masons like Budha who are building houses in Ramechhap. This has raised a serious question over their ability to build earthquake resilient houses.

To meet the government’s deadline for completing DPC before mid-January, locals of the district hired untrained masons from districts such as Rolpa, Surkhet, Kalikot and Dailekh.  For want of trained masons in the district, locals hired untrained masons from different districts yet there are many households that have failed to meet the deadline and they are awaiting the government’s decision of deadline extension.

“To receive the second tranche of the housing grant, I had to complete DPC of my house by mid-January so I had to bring a mason from another district,” said a local, adding that the government policy of hiring only trained masons would not work as there were very few trained masons in the district.

According to Engineer Sureshraj Giri, who is responsible for inspecting newly built houses, a lot of houses have failed to meet the criteria set by the government for building earthquake resilient houses. “As most of the masons in the district are untrained, the houses don’t conform with the government’s set criteria,” he said.

Earlier, the government, in coordination with various non-government organisations, organised mason training to produce skilled manpower who could build quake-resistant structures, but very few people received such training. There is high demand for masons in the district but the number of masons is very less due to which locals are compelled to bring masons from other districts even though they are not trained.

According to National Reconstruction Authority, District Coordination Committee Ramechhap Chief Rishiraj Acharya, there are 43,000 earthquake victims and only 4,000 trained masons in the district. “Shortage of skilled manpower and people’s tendency to work in the eleventh hour has slowed down the pace of reconstruction work,” he said.

Of the total 45,000 victims, 42,000 have signed the contract for house reconstruction. While 8,000 houses have already been built, 25,000 houses are under construction. As many as 15,000 households have received the second instalment of the housing grant, but only 4,000 households have received the third instalment of the grant in the district.